I was out shopping (Oh, no-that’s not right. According to my nephew I’m not allowed to call it “shopping” when we’re looking for tools) and headed for Urban Ore in Berkeley. He stumbled upon a solid oak work bench and an older (think solid iron) table saw, both in amazing shape. If you’re not familiar with Urban Ore, it’s a huge warehouse filled with “stuff” in various stages of usefulness from vacuum cleaner filters to office supplies and desks, speakers to clothes and lots of building supplies: tools, doors, doorknobs, kind of like a giant perpetual garage sale. They’re a “for profit” organization so they take things in trade or sometimes pay a bit of cash for the better offerings. Their mission is to get folks in the habit of re-using as much “stuff” as possible to keep it from the landfill. (Unfortunately, it’s not great for beads or jewelry-I checked.) Urban Ore is a local treasure. One of those places not everyone knows about but when you find it you tend to tell your friends.
Bead Inspirations is one of those places in Alameda. It’s got a great selection of findings, beads and stringing materials as well as metal smithing and metal stamping supplies but more important is the atmosphere. They know many of their regular customers by name, host Bead Night every Friday (where beaders new and experienced come to chat while working on their projects) and they really listen to the people they serve. You can ask for advice on a current project and someone will work with you to help you design or puzzle out a construction issue. Those of us who make jewelry in Alameda are very fortunate to have such a great resource right here in town. Lots of people drive from not just Oakland, but all over the bay area, including from the peninsula, San Francisco and out from the Livermore Valley to shop and take classes at Bead Inspirations but for us, it’s “just down the street”.
We’re so lucky in Alameda. You can pretty much get everything you need right here on the island, or so we believe. But if we want to continue to have this luxury, we have to get in the habit of supporting our local businesses and organizations. I discovered that the hard way.
There used to be a wonderful little grocer on the corner of Park and San Jose called Williams Bros. (Party Warehouse is there now). Every time my husband and I went in there, we commented on how pleasant it was-high quality food, really nice staff, old fashioned feel-but we didn’t go in often. We loved knowing it was there and it was our “go-to” shop for last minute needs or for specialty items. We assumed they’d always be there – right around the corner. Then, suddenly, they were closing. We were really sad but realized too late that we hadn’t supported it enough to keep it alive.
Here in Alameda, we love our local treasures but we’re starting to lose more and more of them to the vagaries of the economy. So, if you like the convenience of having a high quality shop “just down the street” don’t forget to support it. I know being able to run in for the clasp I need or the crimps I have to have to finish that necklace I’ve been working on is a tremendous convenience. I love having the opportunity to take classes 5 minutes from home.
Oh, and speaking of local treasures, another one to remember is Rhythmix Cultural Works.Did you know Rhythmix has all kinds of fantastic adult night out options? Ever heard of performance art Bingo? Every month has a theme. Past goofiness has included Beach Blanket bingo, Secret Agent Bingo-August 11 is Bollywood bingo. This is a combo of comedy, and bingo with a full bar and food. “Not your Grandmother’s bingo” said the Alameda Sun. This madness has also been touted by East Bay Express, and the S.F.Chronicle. Rhythmix also has regular art installations in its downstairs gallery, “Comedy Jam” on the second Friday of every month which have included Will Durst, Johnny Steele and Mike Bossier, among others, and many concerts from folk to rock to world music every month.
So appreciate your local treasures! Join in and support them! We’re really lucky to live in Alameda. We’re close to everything cool and many of those cool things are right here in our own little island town. And if anyone else has “local treasures” they’d like to share, post them here!