College Ave, Oakland CA
College Ave is one of those streets that, if taken from one end to the other, can offer up a snapshot of two distinctly different cities that represent so much of the Bay Area and its culture. Beginning at The College of the Arts and Crafts, it leads you on a journey that evokes the Oakland of the past and shows you the Oakland of the future. Funky old thrift stores, hole in the wall restaurants, typically run by an immigrant family, bars with sticky floors and a salty old guy serving up warm beer. All of this sitting shoulder to shoulder with trendy coffee shops, succulent pop ups, couture baby boutiques, and gourmet food shops selling handmade fresh pasta and $5 croissants.
At some point you cross over into Berkeley and the same story is told all over again. Only this time the dive bars of old are relic eateries touting their healthy foods and groovy decor. Street vendors still hawk their wares of hand crafted jewelry, roach clips, and Make Love not War stickers. But yet again, these places of the past are cheek to jowl with vegan pastry shops serving hand ground drip coffee, shoe stores with environmentally responsibly sourced materials, and home decor boutiques with the most beautiful accessories you never knew you needed. I love it all, the old and the new, the funky and the swanky. It is such a slice of Berkley’s evolution and its insistence on maintaining some of its hippy roots.
So join me as I introduce you to a few of these spots along the way. To be sure, I have only given you a peek into all the treasures you can find on this Avenue. So, take a day and see what you find. It's a great way to learn the tale of two cities, and you can support some small and local businesses along the way!
But first….A little fuel.
Stop in at Highwire Coffee for some custom blends of coffee you won’t find anywhere else. Plus, their branding is on point! Their blend names are so fun and fit right into the Bay Area vibe. Obviously, my favorite is the Bauhaus blend. Now that we are caffeinated, let’s start the adventure. You can find them on instagram @highwirecoffee
First stop: Maisen d’ Etre. This little boutique has been on College Avenue for as long as I can remember and never fails to have some trinket or home accessory that I covet. However, the main reason I love this shop is they carry my favorite @blackwing graphite pencils! I use these stylish pencils for everything and love supporting my local business when I need to re-up my supply. They sell them individually so that you can try out all the different lead weights. I buy them in the stylish box since I use them so frequently. I love when form and function come together. Find them @maisondetreoakland
Just a few doors down is another Oakland landmark, Nathan and Co. They first opened on Piedmont Ave many years ago and became so popular they opened a second shop on College Ave. Also chock full of home accessories, and a few “spunky” ones to boot! Nathan and Co. is my go to spot for finding cookbooks that feature both local cooks as well as local food. We all know what a food scene Oakland and Berkeley are and I love pouring over all the beautifully composed cookbooks before making my selection. Check them out on Instagram! @nathanandco
Often you can find pop ups along College Ave. Places where starry eyed entrepreneurs sell their wares for a few months before moving on to the next spot. You never know what you will find in these store fronts. Today I discovered a beautiful shop run by a husband and wife duo. He is a furniture maker (note to self for future projects) and she makes the most beautiful succulent wreaths. She even teaches classes on line! I enjoyed chatting with Jennifer, the wife half of the duo, and getting to hear her story and learn of her passion for what she does. Make sure you go show them some support! @westwindsucculents @lucas.ahlstrand.design
For a little Bay Area pride, I ducked into another fun pop up called Bart Bridge. This eclectic shop sells mostly Trucker style hats with just about every city you can think of stitched to the front. No matter where you are from, you can find your city and sport your hat with pride. I grew up in a Sacramento suburb called Citrus Heights and was delighted to find my own town represented. They also sell clothing and loads of salty stickers with local Bay Area references. @bartbridgeclothing
So, whether you are a long time local, or visiting the Bay for the first time, College Ave. is a great way to get a glimpse into local life, all in one afternoon. I hope you plan your outing soon, and when you do, make sure to tag me in your adventures!
Tag me, @heatherclevelanddesign, in your adventures!
Until next time,