Supporting small local businesses has never been easier — or more fun. Forget about hopping on BART to fulfill your fantasy shopping list — there's absolutely no need. Though East Bay shopping die-hards are still smarting from the loss of such sweet spots as Twenty-Two Shoes in Rockridge and the Elmwood boutique Dish, an array of other boutiques have sprung up to whet our appetites — and empty our wallets.
If you have a strong love of vintage, Pretty Penny (5488 College Ave., Oakland, 510-594-9219, PrettyPennyClothing.com) should be your first stop. But even those who aren't majorly obsessed with the styles of yesteryear will inevitably find something among the scores of reasonably priced and excellently curated selection of dresses, skirts, shirts, shoes, accessories, and more. Don't let the seriously cool staff scare you off, either; they're helpful and friendly, even to those who may not know what hip indie band is playing on the speakers.
If your taste runs more retro-modern than retro, hop to The Rare Bird (3883 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-653-2473, TheRareBird.com). An eclectic new consignment (by appointment only) shop cum knick-knackery that spread its wings in November, the small yet airy space features immaculate used men's and women's attire as well as inventive new designs by local clothing designers, including The 615 Project, and jewelry from the likes of Colleen Mauer Designs, whose wear-with-everything hammered silver and gold rings are hard to leave behind.
A rare, ultra guy-friendly boutique, Convert (1809B Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-649-9759, ConvertStyle.com) is one of the newest additions to Berkeley's Fourth Street shopping scene. Sustainably produced brands for both men and women are the emphasis here, but not at the expense of stellar design. Carrying everything from Oaklandish T-shirts and TOMS Shoes to more fashion-forward labels like Obey and The Podolls, this shop is a welcome destination for trend-savvy twenty- and thirtysomethings with an outsize eco-conscience.
There's no better place for a gift (or a self-gift) of reasonably priced (i.e., that hard-to-find sweet spot ranging from $100-$200) yet precious jewelry than Philippa Roberts (4176 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-0656, PhilippaRoberts.net). The gorgeous little shop features not only Roberts' classically beautiful yet entirely of-the-moment matte silver-and-gold-and-gemstone jewelry but also an array of top local designers. The woman in your life will adore whatever you bring home — and don't miss the jaw-dropping bargain bin by the register. One popular designer the shop often carries, Melissa Joy Manning, has been creating lovely pieces since 1997 but opened a stand-alone shop in December that feels more like an art gallery (of the least snooty variety) in Berkeley's Fourth Street district (1827 Fifth St., Ste. A, 510-647-9409, MelissaJoyManning.com). It's a must-stop if you care as much about exquisitely innovative design as you do about the planet (sustainability is a key part of Manning's business plan). Every celeb you can think of has rocked MJM hardware — but ah, don't let that stop you. Whether you shell out $125 for 14-karat gold and emerald earrings or thousands for the coolest and edgiest engagement ring you've ever seen, you'll feel as good as you look.
Nathan & Co. (4025 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-428-9638, NathanAndCo.com) is the only stop you'll need to make for that last-minute baby shower, wedding, housewarming, or birthday party on your calendar. Stocked to the gills with goodies that are as practical as they are modern and whimsical, there's no way you'll leave without finding something guaranteed to delight. (And while they're there, admit it: You've been dying for an authentic "I Hella [Heart] Oakland" tee all your own — go for it!) If a craftier vibe is your thing when it comes to gifting, head to Ethnic Arts (1314 Tenth St., Berkeley, 510-527-5270, EthnicArts.com). Walking into this North Berkeley mecca is like flying to an overseas bazaar without paying for airfare. From vibrantly colored African bottle-cap instruments, to glossy black Oaxacan pottery, to silver Hmong jewelry, to lush Suzani wall hangings, you'll leave invigorated even if you leave empty-handed.
You could easily stroll by Sagrada (4926 Telegraph Ave. Oakland, 510-653-7196, Sagrada.com), planted humbly in the middle of one of Temescal's busiest blocks, for years without stopping in. But don't dismiss it as a destination only for believers. Its motto may be "Serving People of All Faiths," but faith-full or not, visitors will discover a treasure trove of beautiful gifts and jewelry (religiously themed and otherwise), hundreds of books from the traditional to the progressive, and a strikingly peaceful, deep-breath-inspiring atmosphere that costs nothing (though for a price you can stock up on meditation supplies to recreate it at home — or try, at least.)
Homesteader (5914 College Ave, Oakland, 510-652-9677) is the place to go if you've taken the No More Ikea oath, crave real wood furniture (particularly if you like it painted white with charming colored glass knobs, as is typically the case here) and don't have a money tree in your backyard. Not only is the cozy, shabby-chic-inspired gem packed with an ever-changing assortment of adorable refurbished bedside tables, bookshelves, hutches, and dressers that cost a fraction of what you'd pay elsewhere (and can be delivered nearby for next to nothing), you'll also find a wide array of perfect home things including gorgeous bowls, candles, cards, and, of course, birdhouses (because who doesn't want one?).
And, finally, no East Bay shopping spree is complete without a visit to one of the area's awesome small thrift shops to pick up drastically underpriced designer and vintage clothes, great nearly-new books for a buck or two, that extra set of wine glasses you've been meaning to have on hand, and other odds and ends. Your best bet is to make a quick stop a weekly habit. Look for books (including kids') and clothes at Dress Best for Less (3861 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510- 658-8525, dressbestforless.org); a little bit of everything — and special vintage and other themed events — at American Cancer Society Discovery Shop (127 41st St., Oakland, 510-601-0100, DiscoveryShop-Oakland.org); and books and kitchenware at Clausen House Thrift Shop (4834 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-653-6812, ChniftyThrift.com).