Retail Therapy - Girl Power

Supporting Sisters in Sales

by Elise Proulx

Retail - Therapy - Girl Power

Women may hold up half the sky, but they also manage to hold up a lot of Oakland’s retail establishments, too. It may not be apparent from the outside that a woman is in charge, but these five Oakland shops are the pride of their female owners. As 17 Jewels owner Julie Stevens says, "Being a woman owned business helps me because it makes me feel proud to be a woman in our society."


This hip and stylish Lakeshore consignment store is named after owner Ann Hartford’s great-great grandmother. And her grandmother. And her mother. All were named Maribel (it skipped a generation three times back) and all were proud Oakland residents. "My great-great grandmother Maribel came to Oakland in 1856 and started the first nursery in Northern California," Hartford says. "I have a picture of her in the store … with West Oakland in the background." Apparently, the retail bug is common in the family, since Hartford’s store, which opened in 2003, is still going strong. The bulk of the stock is au courant fashions from the likes of Prada, Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Theory and 7 For All Mankind. But the store also stocks new jewelry from local designers Lila Rice Marshall (whose line, Round, consists of architectural silver, brass and copper pieces), M.E. Moore (who finds brass pieces from the ’30s and re-makes them into modern-day pieces and Viv and Ingrid (the duo makes gold, silver and semi-precious baubles). Hartford turned to retail after a career in art, and she loves it. "The store’s kind of a little community center, which I love. I always felt isolated in the art world and now, everyday … to be challenged by people is a great thing and to meet new people, I have a totally different life now!" Now who wouldn’t want to be part of that?
3251 Lakeshore Ave., (510) 419-0677, open daily; consignment hours 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday.


Step into this art gallery-cum-fine jewelry store and enter an entirely different world, where diamonds sparkle, gold gleams and each piece in the display cases is more beautiful (and covetable) than the one before. Owner Jan Christensen Heller says that most of the work in the store is done by craftsmen (and women) in the United States, with a few exceptions, including some lovely ancient Lebanese pieces incorporated into modern settings. Lynn Oburg does custom in-store work and displays a number of premade pieces, including chunky gold rings with garnets and thick gold and moonstone earrings. One of the items that caught my eye on a recent visit was a $1,205 ring incorporating a mesh gold “cage” holding a group of pebbles, with a diamond floating on the outside. The combination of organic and luxurious was striking and breathtakingly beautiful. Christensen Heller also carries a large number of craft items, ranging in raw material from ceramic to glass to beeswax, most made from recycled goods. One table in the gallery is made from worn-out plough blades. Now that’s a creative way to recycle.
5829 College Ave., (510) 655-5952,, closed Sunday.


This shop for the woman on the (literal) run is conveniently just two doors down from Zachary’s Pizza in the Rockridge District. After scarfing down some delicious pie, ladies can stop by See Jane Run to stock up on the gear they’ll need to burn off those calories. The 6-year-old shop is not only owned by a woman, Lori Shannon, but also is devoted to helping active women get the gear (from Asics, Adidas, New Balance, Patagonia, Teva, SheBeest, Champion and more) they need for running as well as for yoga, swimming and chilling out. And the store is also the base for a nonprofit foundation that sets out to “empower women and girls through sports and fitness” and hosts training programs that help women get in shape for triathlons, marathons and life in general. Check out the Web site for more info about how to get involved.
5817 College Ave., (510) 428-2681,, open daily.


Stylist and owner Julie Stevens says that the name for this new salon came from the watch she inherited from her grandfather. “Seventeen jewels is a way to distinguish fine work,” says Stevens, whose nickname is Jewels. And this soothing salon seems to be well on its way to distinguishing itself. With walls painted a calm blue, fresh-looking wood and glass cabinetry, lovely flower arrangements by fellow female business owner Bonnie Pearson (Bonnie Pearson Design, 4770 Telegraph Ave., 510-388-8966, www. and reading selections like the San Francisco-based literary magazine Zoetrope: All Story in the waiting area, this Temescal neighborhood salon is a pleasure to enter. The salon and spa exclusively uses Bumble and bumble products and offers everything from haircuts and styles to low-pain waxing (Stevens says she offers a European hard wax that doesn’t even bother the bikini zone) and a variety of facials, including “The Jewel,” which involves steam, aromatherapy, hydration, exfoliation and a paraffin wax. And although owned by a woman, the salon isn’t playing gender favorites, offering a “Gentleman Only” facial, which at $75 for 55 minutes seems a bargain.
4801 Telegraph Ave., (510) 653-1059, closed Sunday and Monday.


Kieran Best, owner of this sweet, 6-yearold vintage furniture store in Temescal, travels to the Midwest about four times a year to trawl “estate sales, garage sales, farm auctions and antiques stores” for the eclectic early 20th-century goods she sells. And there’s even a sister store in West Des Moines, Iowa, owned by Best’s sister Kate: Porch Light Too. Best is a big fan of color, which is apparent when walking into the shop, where pottery, painted furniture and embroidered linens are on display. From antique signage to kitchen tables to funky aprons to new, but retro-inspired, jewelry, this shop has something for everyone. But Best’s quirky taste seems to appeal most to the female market: She says that 85 percent of her customers are women. “In general, I think that my regulars like shopping here because they like dealing with smaller, owner-operated businesses. They get more attention and better customer service,” she says.
5026 Telegraph Ave., (510) 597-0588,, closed Monday.

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