east bae holiday shopping guide
five local favorites
For most of my life I was never much of a shopper, but between the pandemic and the pregnancy I’ve gotten very into the ol’ retail therapy. So much so that I actually completed all of my holiday shopping already and have even begun wrapping. I don’t know who I’ve become or if the condition is permanent. But alas, this weekend, as we rest gracefully in the space between Black Friday and “cyber Monday,” we can now use this opportunity to take a breather and break free from the mass market shopping frenzy and find something special and local for loved ones. I’ve pulled together a sampling of five of the best places to shop here in the east bay (in person and online) where you’ll be sure to find something original that you’ll feel good about gifting to everyone who matters on your list. Enjoy!
Sweet July - so I’ll admit I’m a bit of an Ayesha Curry fangirl. As she’s married to everyone’s favorite record-breaking NBA player, someone like Ayesha could totally call it a day herself by simply showing up and stunning at red carpet events or raising gorgeous children, but instead - she’s an over the top Renaissance woman - running her own lifestyle brand & magazine, building a restaurant with Michael Mina, writing best-selling cookbooks and running a local retail store. I stopped by her Sweet July shop for the first time the other day and was impressed by what I found. There’s a certain look to most boutiques these days - that monochromatic instagram aesthetic - and so when I walked in I was half expecting the same selection of items on the shelves that you find everywhere else, but what I found instead was totally different. The offering at Sweet July was original and unique, featuring thoughtfully selected items from Black-owned and Bay Area-owned businesses - like 54 Thrones (pictured below) which makes the softest shea butter skincare line in fragrances like Egyptian Lavender and Moroccan Mint.
The shop displayed a collection of beauty items, elegant home furnishings and glassware, local cookbooks, clothing and even whimsical plate-ware for kids. The space has a soothing ambiance and a large communal table at its center, plus a cafe corner that has a rotating seasonal selection of to-die-for bread pudding on offer. Staffers told me that Ayesha writes the recipes for the indulgent treat and that the nearby Firebrand bakery makes it daily. You’ll have no problem finding gifts and stocking stuffers in this shop - or just a new spot to hang out and have a coffee. Visit Mon- Sat or buy online.
Mignonne Decor - If you have a hard-to-shop for sophisticate in your life, this is the place for you. Nestled between Trader Joe’s and my favorite coffee shop on College ave - Mignonne is a darling vintage shop run by bay-area native Johnelle Mancha. Whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind furniture, unique art, drinkware, decorative knick-knacks or even cool knobs for cabinets - you’ll find something special at this store. And a trip to Mignonne doesn’t have to stop at gift giving - they also offer furniture reupholstery, vintage scouting and wedding and event rentals to bring your dreamy vintage fantasies to life. The showroom is open Tues-Sun from 11-7, or you can shop online anytime.
Oaktown Spice Shop - I just adore this place. A true local favorite, known for their spices and original blends - this is a great spot to nab a hostess gift, something for the chef in your life or even your coworkers. In addition to curated spice selections and teas, they offer DIY pickling kits and homemade tonic water kits which are fun local finds for the ambitious folks on your list. Their mulling spices (pictured below) make a lovely seasonal gift. Oaktown spice shop’s flagship retail shop is on Grand Ave in Oakland, plus locations in Albany, and Castro Valley - and you can order online nationwide with free shipping for orders over $75.
Alkali Rye - if you’re looking for beautiful libations to gift your loved ones and wish to support underrepresented talent in a sustainable way, this is your place. Alkali Rye has carefully curated a serious selection of beverages - everything from tequila to wine and modern non-alcoholic spirits, plus all the drinkware you might need - be it a matcha whisk, a champagne stopper or some paper umbrellas for a tiki cocktail. This is the kind of place where one can’t help but want to buy everything but if you shop online, you can whittle down your search on their site by sorting by beverage type, lifestyle or by curated seasonal picks. I was recently pleased to discover Redwood Empire whiskey (pictured below) - a northern California-based distillery (Graton) that plants a tree for every bottle sold. Alkali is run by two lifelong Oakland residents Jessica Moncada-Konte and Kori Saika Chen, and they say their store’s name derives from a wild grass native to the Oakland hills. You can shop in store in Grand Lake, order for local delivery to Oakland, Berkeley or Alameda - or you can order online for nationwide shipping.
The Gardener - originally opened in Berkeley in 1984 by a woman delightfully named Alta Tingle, this special home furnishings and garden shop has a little bit of everything. The Gardener features loads of housewares, plants, books and cards, plus one-of-a-kind items like wabi-sabi inspired Japanese ceramics and hand-made wooden bowls. There are three locations: San Francisco, Berkeley and Healdsburg, or you can order online.
Lastly, please consider giving the gift of a meal to folks in our community in need:
And for more local gift ideas, here’s where you can find last year’s local east bay shopping guide. Have a great weekend!
Reminder: east bae is just a hobby. I do not receive any compensation or trade for sharing these places, I just really love them! If you have a favorite local boutique or non-profit to support - feel free to pass along recs!