Confession: this is me stealing from me. This blogpost is taken (with minor edits) from “On the Avenue,” my regular column in the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association newsletter that is published quarterly. My beat is the businesses along the Berkeley end of the street.
It was midday on a sunny Saturday when I strolled Solano Avenue. People were eating burgers outside at Barney’s, waiting in line at Lavender Bakery, and going inside stores (masked, of course!) to buy shoes, clothes, gifts, and rugs. An adorable pre-school ballerina all in pink was waiting outside The Tutu School. The door was open at Anytime Fitness, where people were actually working out on the equipment. And, notably, the northern, Solano-facing entrance to Andronico’s is no longer blocked. To those of you who used to park in the grocery store lot, cut through the market to pick up your Zachary’s pizza, and then buy wine and a pint of ice cream on your way back, you can do it again. (That wasn’t just me, was it?) Related news—Zachary’s slices are back!
It almost felt…normal. Of course, COVID still requires precautions: Women were getting their toenails painted under a tent outside Le Petit Nail Salon. Only eight customers at a time are allowed in Pegasus Books. And customers still put on hand sanitizer before entering Payn’s Stationery. But in general, Solano Avenue is starting to look like the bustling business district it once was. Although I couldn’t see if people were smiling under their masks, I sensed joy all around. Even the gnomes in the window at Wendy’s Gnome Shop looked happier to me.
So, what’s new to the avenue? A colorful Chinese dragon adorns the entrance to recently opened West Wind Karate (1775, Fit Lite’s former home) where they teach martial arts, self-defense, boxing, and more to “all types of students ages four to seventy-four, men and women.” The Solano site is the latest West Wind School to open, founded in 1969 by Master Ron Lee.
After months of anticipation, I’m quite excited to announce that voluptas (1585) is up and running! Self-described as a “small-batch artisanal bakery experiment,” it offers lots of breads (including gluten-free), croissants, cookies, fresh pasta, and chili. During COVID, the bakery delivers to North Berkeley, Albany, and Kensington, or you can pick up your order there. According to the website https://quovoluptas.com/shop, the storefront will open in the near future!
Just off Solano at 904 The Alameda is an offshoot of Noor & Sons Rugs called The Art Box, (although I had to ask the name because there’s no sign up yet). It’s on the other side of Hana Design and Antiques in the space where Persimmon used to be (or, as I thought of it—the place with all the cute socks in baskets outside). I stumbled upon it on its opening day, April 10. Among their offerings are unusual lamps, ottomans, small area rugs, tiny ceramic bowls, and jewelry. Eclectic inventory, huh?
I love my neighborhood. The aroma of the homemade cones they make at iScream makes my mouth water every time I pass by. There are oodles of places to eat, buy natural fiber clothing, and get your nails done. And I guarantee you won’t find more rug stores anywhere else in the East Bay!