posters contact advertise cover archive subscribe

News about great shops in your neighborhood  | By Andrea Pflaumer


30 years of dancing

Two left feet? Beth Hoge doesn’t think so. Hoge is the founder of Danspace, the innovative dance studio in the Rockridge District now celebrating its 30th anniversary. The school provides a welcoming atmosphere for aspiring young ballerinas or boys and girls who just want to gain some coordination, grace, and balance.
Hoge studied at Juilliard and has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, in musical theater, and on television. She believes that building confidence and self-esteem at a young age promotes happiness and success outside the dance studio. Her instructors, many of whom are professional dancers, are trained in the methods of her own mentor Alfred Corvino, who taught dancers how to move with musicality, without incurring injury: “Working smarter and not harder,” she says.

Danspace classes start with children as young as 3 1/2, and ballet and modern dance classes are available for ages six and up, including beginning adult classes for all body types. And if you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate your little one’s birthday the studio offers Ballerina Birthday Parties, complete with a beginning dance lesson, a room for refreshments, a box of costumes (tutus, feather boas, and hobby horses), and a live tutu’d ballerina popping out of a box.

Danspace, 437 Hudson Street, Oakland, (510) 420-0920;

Far East comes West

Hidden Corners, the import store in the heart of the Gourmet Ghetto, has just received a shipment of silk textiles from India and Indonesia that includes pillows, bedspreads, and pillowcases in rich shades of fuchsia, sapphire, and tan, some embroidered and ornamented with sequins. Also in are delicate window panels in cotton block print, intricately patterned, tie-dyed pillowcases, and cotton and silk clothing. And if you loved the look of your old Indian bedspread, you can indulge yourself with one of its cozy comforters made from Indian print cotton.

Owner Manzar Banai has 30 years experience in the import business, and runs three other shops, two in her native Belgium, and one in New York. Banai’s nephew Ali Noorialla (the store’s co-owner and a Bay Area resident) suggested Berkeley as a likely spot to offer her selection of colorful, handmade merchandise from the Far East including home furnishings, clothing, and jewelry at accessible prices.
Modern-looking brushed-metal vases and trivets from India make great gifts as do terra-cotta Buddhas, wall masks, and playful animal-carved incense holders. Teak furnishings include hand-painted, three-panel room dividers from India, hand-carved armoires, linen chests, tables, and chairs. If you’re into the “big jewelry” trend this season, check out the bold, large bead, and intricate six-strand bead and silver necklaces with silver and glass pendants—all at near-outlet prices.

Hidden Corners, 1539 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, (510) 843-1998.

The winds of change

It appears that Mis-sissippi’s loss is Oakland’s gain. Artist Coygon Robinson, Jr. blew in from Biloxi last year, courtesy of Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, his work was spared the storm’s wrath. “My studio was in my sister’s home, which got flooded to my knee caps, but my studio was off the ground,” he says.
Before relocating to the Bay Area he convened a symposium in Biloxi, to help educate artists about the convergence of art and science. Robinson, who works in oils and acrylics, pottery, and mixed media, has more recently developed a portfolio of computer-based, digital photographic artwork incorporating themes and textures from nature. He participates in 15 to 16 art festivals a year and has won numerous awards in juried shows. He also was one of the few artists selected to show at the opening of Biloxi’s Georgia O’Keeffe Art Museum.

His work ranges from representational evocative landscapes to nature images, sea life, and portraits of famous jazz musicians, such as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald. “I start with a bit of the image to get its essence, and then add design and texture from trees, grass, clouds, stone, etc.,” he says. “Computer digital art has the same structure, requirements, and dedication required of any other fine arts format. I’m from the old school with one foot in technology, but I try to keep my work in the fine arts tradition.”

Coygon Artist Studio Gallery, 3719 Grand Avenue, Oakland, (510) 251-1713;

Domestic design

After 18 years as a commercial architect Rita Lee found herself doing more residential design work. Because of her expertise in selecting color, materials, and furnishings that create an atmosphere of peace and harmony, her residential clients started consulting with her for interior design and lighting of their newly renovated spaces. After seeing the results a client commented, “It really made my day to come home to this.” So Lee and her husband Brian Liebel, an electrical engineer and lighting consultant, opened Make My Day, a warm and richly appointed retail and design studio on Piedmont Avenue offering furnishings and home accessories.

Men in particular feel comfortable in the store because of its emphasis on natural fibers, sueded fabrics, and items that incorporate bamboo, and rattan. Pillows and candles have earthy textures and colors. Adding to the store’s ambience are Murano glass light fixtures such as small ball-shaped, blue millefiore spotlights and orange teardrops. “Lighting is more than functional,” Lee says. “It’s emotional and can also be art.”

Design clients meet in Lee’s studio in the back of the store to pore over catalogs and discuss aesthetics. The cost of an initial consultation ($100) is credited back with any interior design work. “Our goal is to offer inspiring, and unique items and environments at a reasonable price.”

Make My Day, 3850 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, (510) 601-0608;



Meditrina World Healing Spa, 3923 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, (510) 601-7111;

Culinary delights
For those cooks who appear to have everything but secretly long for that perfect spatula, Someone’s in the Kitchen is a good place to browse. Former La Farine bakery owner Jennifer Sandstrom opened the store in 2004 to address what she saw as a paucity of quality baking tools; her shop not only features fresh, homemade baked cookies (also available by order) but also a wide range of kitchen supplies and equipment made by Kitchen Aid, Cuisinart, Le Creuset, All Clad, Nordic Ware, and Bauer. Decorated in a vintage, Grandma’s-kitchen style, Someone’s in the Kitchen offers a homey, welcome respite from mass-market culinary suppliers. Who knows? After a visit, you may be the person happily baking in the kitchen.

Someone’s in the Kitchen, 6128 LaSalle Avenue, Oakland, (510) 339-3837.

Good karma for the home
Shaman Ajmani was hot on the trail to open an electronics business last year when his fiancée and business partner, Shanaz Nagiff, interrupted him with a new idea: a home furnishings store, based on high-quality products from China, India, and Thailand, countries he had been visiting frequently. “The next time I was in Asia, in March 2005, I started noticing wonderful things for the home, often handmade, and I thought it was a great idea, especially for Berkeley,” Ajmani says. Karma was the result. Launched in November of last year, Karma is loaded with unique items such as handmade candles from China, custom bedding and pillows from India, and home accessories like small beaded boxes, photo frames, and coasters. Karma invites visitors to explore the ways the home can be made into not only a sanctuary but also a place of hospitality. Ajmani and Nagiff practice what they preach: They plan to donate a percentage of their earnings to local organizations that support youth. A visit to Karma may very well increase yours.

Karma, 1006 University Avenue, Berkeley, (510) 843-9999;

Gem of a salon
When clients are getting an aroma-therapy facial or a haircut at 17 Jewels Salon+Spa, they inevitably try to guess about the origin of the Oakland spa’s name.
“ One thought that the name could be describing 17 stages of enlightenment,” says spa owner Julie Stevens. “I always have to say, ‘No. But you have a great imagination.’”
Stevens actually named her salon after an inscription inside her grandfather’s pocket watch. Seventeen jewels describes the works inside a high-quality timepiece, Stevens says. “I saw those words inside his watch and thought I’d name my salon after them someday. And now I have.”
Opened in November in the artsy Temescal district, 17 Jewels offers hair and skin care in a space filled with natural light. Stevens has maximized that light and created a unique salon setting by installing mirrors into the spa’s windows. “This gives us all a little privacy, but it’s interactive with the outside, too,” Stevens says.
Stevens has trained with Vidal Sassoon and at New York’s Bumble and Bumble University (17 Jewels is an exclusive provider of Bumble’s hair products). In addition to facials, hair cuts and coloring, waxing services, and brow/lash tinting, 17 Jewels staff will order lunch from a local restaurant. Pizzaiolo, Doña Tomas, and Bakesale Betty are just a few neighboring eateries on this increasingly swank little strip.
“ Our facials are really very decadent and pampering,” Stevens says. “It’s a little bit of the treatment of the Napa Valley in an urban setting.”

17 Jewels Salon+Spa, 4801 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, (510) 653-1059.