by Stephen Buel
At the fourth-annual OaklandIndie Awards on Friday night, Peerless Coffee and Tea received the prestigious "pillar" award for its eight decades of service to the community while selling fine coffees and teas. The Vukasin family was honored for civic involvement that has ranged from establishing a Peerless Coffee scholarship to UC Berkeley and helping to bring the Raiders back to Oakland to rebuilding health centers in Colombia and El Salvador following earthquakes there. And Peerless was one of the first businesses in Oakland to be green certified, back in 2001.
Other winners at the Indie Awards ceremony, a program of the OneCalifornia Foundation that is designed to nurture small, independent businesses in Oakland, included the following:
Uptown Body and Fender won the award for "neighborhood dynamo." Giovanna Tanzillo and Lisandro Allende were honored for the way they have made their business an integral part of their surrounding community by providing local organizations the free use of its large 400-person facility for fundraisers and art exhibitions.
Industrial designer Ryan Duke won the "greenie" award for his work taking discarded materials and dying crafts and repurposing them for use as functional objects. Duke uses his design skills to create furniture prototypes and assembly instructions that workers with barriers to employment such as poor language skills or prior incarceration can use to join or rejoin the workforce.
Oaklandish won the "youth empowerment" award for its work as a self-proclaimed civic pride arts project. The organization was honored for initiatives that include its Local Arts-In-Action Grants, Event & Fundraising Sponsorships, and its Oakland Innovators Award Fund. Most of the recipients of the Innovators Awards have been youth groups, including Scraper Bikes, On the Bricks, the Town Park skate park, Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, and the East Bay Asian Youth Center.
The NPR program "Snap Judgment" won the "newbie" award for its new Oakland-grown radio show about the decisions that people make that change everything.
The green cleaning cooperative Natural Home Cleaning Professionals won the "innovator" award. In business since 2003, it provides Latina immigrants with the chance to co-own a business and make a living wage while working in a green environment. Natural Home Cleaning Professionals is part of the Eco-Friendly Cleaning Network, which was formed by the nonprofit group WAGES.
The seven-year-old Joyce Gordon Gallery won the "Oakland Soul" award for its efforts to give an artistic dimension to the social and cultural diversity of the Bay Area.
The shop-local movement known as Plaid Friday, a joint effort of Compound Gallery and the Bay Area Visual Arts Network, won the "ripple effect" award. Plaid Friday is designed to be an independent, local alternative to the big-box "Black Friday" shopping day in November.
Other nominees included the Give Something Back office supply business, the group Artists For Change, the residential solar provider Sungevity, the Uptown Video Workshop youth program, the Layover Bar & Lounge, the interior design firm LAMA Designs, West Oakland's Linden Street Brewery, and the magazine Edible East Bay.