Shop Eat Play in Golden Gate District

Independent shop owners and artists reignite the spark in Old Klinknerville.


Treasures from Collection Agency.

Chris Duffey



Blink and you might miss a hive of artisan activity in the Golden Gate district, the North Oakland neighborhood that straddles the Berkeley and Emeryville borders and apparently was once known as Klinknerville in honor of its colorful founder, Charles Klinkner, a rubber stamp salesman and developer. Or, more likely, you’re just too focused on keeping your eyes on the road as you travel down the busy San Pablo Avenue thoroughfare. But it’s time to park the car, bike, or scooter near the corner of San Pablo and Alcatraz avenues and explore a two-block string of independent shops, most of which double as galleries and tasty eateries. You might end up leaving with a German chocolate cupcake, a new piece of art, or even a refurbished rickshaw.

Pop into Collection Agency Art & Design (6501 San Pablo Ave., 510-350-8914) to find a selection of vintage Pyrex kitchenware, stylish geometric throw pillows, and funky curios that owner Alison Kaiser has amassed over the years. While the shop exudes cute and classic, don’t let the adorable figurines, delicate bud vases, or the roaming Cocker Spaniel named Macy fool you. There is an array of super cool items, too. Case in point: a 1950s Tynar mini spy camera and pop art-inspired portraits such as a Frankenstein-green Dolly Parton by San Francisco artist Jim Winters.

For more organic art and commerce, cross over to The Grease Diner (6604 San Pablo Ave., 510-379-0190,, a 400-square-foot storefront and gallery that leads to a larger screen-printing studio in the back, where classes are held throughout the week. Husband-and-wife team Laurie Shapiro and Jon Jon Cassagnol have made the former jazz club all their own, from Shapiro’s ethereal large-scale paintings on the walls to Cassagnol’s refinished shelves made from recycled wood. The gift shop showcases Bay Area-made and Oakland-made wares-including the proprietors’ own Grease Diner T-shirts and totes made right in the back-along with a handful of goods from artist-makers elsewhere (Japan and Denmark, for instance), often with a local connection, and the couples’ former home of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Alternatively, scratch the DIY classes for live performances at The Pallet Space 6510 San Pablo Ave., 510-502-1940). The antique store sells a variety of oddities in what feels like an artist’s garage-think one-dollar records, amusing sculptures, and that aforementioned rickshaw. On any given day, you might find founder Purdey Darrow working on a piece of street art, or hosting a performance of fire dancers and muralists on second Saturdays. Be on the lookout for more weekday music acts that range from bluegrass to steam punk.

For more hands-on creative endeavors, visit A Verb For Keeping Warm (6328 San Pablo Ave., 510-595-8372, for classes where you can learn the ropes of knitting or take up quilting in the cozy shop padded in colorful yarns for sale, some of which are dyed naturally on site.

Top off your visit to the area with a stop at Victory Burger (1099 Alcatraz Ave., 510-653-8322, or a juicy Five Dot Ranch burger garnished in what could be barbecue staples like tomato and avocado, or for the more adventurous, ask for a spread such as the chicken-skin mayo (sounds like what it is) or jalapeno jam. The diner shares a wall with Actual Café, both thought up by Sal Bednarz. On a sunny day, you’re hard-pressed to find a seat in the small restaurant or its patio, where people wash down their burgers and hand-cut fries with local craft brews and vegan milkshakes.

End your Golden Gate neighborhood visit on a sweet note with a treat from James and the Giant Cupcake (6326 San Pablo Ave., 510-596-8834, You won’t find a dry cupcake in the house, and you can thank the grandmother of baking extraordinaire Eurydice Manning for teaching her the tricks of the trade. Sink your teeth into a Smurf, a blueberry cupcake smeared in cream-cheese frosting, or indulge in the Hostess with the Mostess with its butter-cream filling. The memorable names go on: Molly Ringwald, Rainbow Brite, Orange You Glad. Yes, glad indeed.

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