12 Days Of Gift Giving
From a car of the future to a dozen wine finds, we’ve compiled the ultimate gift list from 12 of the East Bay's specialty shops.
This holiday season, head to the East Bay’s specialty shops for hand-selected treasures and a feel-good local vibe. The Diablo team scoured a dozen stores for this year’s most popular gifts, taking recommendations from knowledgeable staff along the way. So stress no more: We did the legwork for you. Happy shopping!
Day 1: Green Dream
For the (eco-friendly) true love
The coolest electric car on the planet happens to be built right here in the East Bay.
The Tesla P85, manufactured in Fremont, is the ultimate Bay Area luxury car: comfortable and cutting edge while eco-friendly. And it has power: Tesla’s brand-new dual-motor P85D ($105,000–$138,000), available in December, is the fastest four-door sedan in the world. It’s no wonder there’s a waiting list to get one.
Take a trip to the new showroom in Walnut Creek’s Broadway Plaza to pick out a Tesla in any combination of colors and materials, and it will be ready in two to three months. Or order early, and get ready for the moment your loved one opens the box and finds the Tesla “key”—a miniature remote shaped like the car—inside. 1174 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 210-1792, teslamotors.com.
Day 2: Quirky Clocks
For the little ones
At the top of the hour, Clocks, Etc., sings with the sounds of hundreds of unique and handcrafted timepieces. This quirky clock shop is owned and operated by husband-and-wife duo Scott Hampton and Wendy Tamis, and has been delighting clock lovers since Hampton opened the original location on Mt. Diablo Boulevard in 1976.
Choose from a number of clocks the kids will love, including the Robot Man ($323), a solid cast and polished aluminum table clock that stands at more than a foot tall (his arms even move), or this old-fashioned Payton ballerina wall clock ($62.50). 971 Moraga Rd., Lafayette, (925) 284-4720, clocksetc.net.
Day 3: Fido Fashion
For the (furry) best friend
For canines of a certain caliber, there’s Paco Collars. The shop, located on Berkeley’s Shattuck Avenue, specializes in custom leather accessories for pets looking for a little edge.
Paco’s talented team can make nearly anything on-site (they’ve even made harnesses for bearded dragons, chickens, and tortoises), but most popular are the store’s dog collars ($50 and up).
Go online for the custom collar-maker, or visit the shop and create a design there. Choose from four colors of leather sourced from Napa, and add a brass or silver buckle, rhinestones, and metal studs.
If you want to spoil the furry friend in question rotten, pair the collar with a leather harness and leash, which can be upgraded with extra snaps and stylish details such as braidlike embellishments. Then it’s time for a w-a-l-k. 2905 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 848-7226, pacocollars.com.
Day 4: Retro Fun
For the family
Family is the focus at Danville’s Games Unlimited, an inviting shop tucked into one of the Danville Livery and Mercantile’s roomy, cabinlike units.
Walnut Creek residents Ron and Sue Banducci opened the business in 1988, after realizing the joy of games and toys while playing with their eight kids. Drop by any day of the week, and you’re likely to be greeted by their son, Steve Banducci, a game-a-holic who will gladly give you the lowdown.
Anything Frozen is flying off the shelves right now, but Banducci is partial to the shop’s selection of retro games. Most popular are the classic editions of board games ($19.99–$24.99), including Sorry, Clue, Monopoly, and Parcheesi, which are difficult to find in stock at big-box stores. 810 Sycamore Valley Rd., Danville, (925) 838-6358, www.gamesunlimitedonline.com.
Day 5: Golden Rings
For the mix master
Esqueleto, which means “skeleton” in Spanish, houses treasures ranging from pottery to paintings.
But the Temescal Alley store’s main draw is its cases upon cases of jewelry—including rings for every style.
This season, it’s all about giving jewelry that can be worn solo or mixed and matched.
Jessica Winzelberg’s teardrop stackable rings (top, $385) come in gold and rose gold. For a cool look, wear two and interlock them.
A 14k half-pavé band with rubies, by shop owner Lauren Wolf, can be worn alone or paired with an similar band featuring other precious gems ($850–$1,100).
Rebecca Overmann’s gold ring features a single amber-colored diamond. The rings can also come with a gray-colored or brown teardrop diamond ($600–$1,200).
For glitz, choose Sarah Swell’s weathered three-diamond ring, which is also available with one or two diamonds ($330–$460).
To shake things up, choose a 10k blonde rose-gold ring with eight scattered diamonds ($1,220) from Urbina Designs’ roller-printed collection. 482 49th St., Ste. A, Oakland, (510) 629-6216, shopesqueleto.com.
Day 6: Trail Ready
For the lifelong boy scout
Rivendell Bike, Book, and Hatchet in downtown Walnut Creek is owner Grant Petersen’s thoughtfully curated shrine to those who love the outdoors. Not for the faint of heart, this tidy shop on Main Street is memorable for its woodsy smell, imaginative handmade displays, and top-quality “nothing-made-in-China” products.
Give the person who likes to be prepared one of Rivendell’s Sackville bags, such as this small handlebar bag that attaches to a bike ($70). Include a Bike, Book, and Hatchet mug ($23), a bar of no-extra-crap-added vegetable-based Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap ($5) designed for scrubbing off dirt and sap, and Just Ride, a practical guide to bike riding ($14) .
Nature lovers rise early, so get a Mondaine Swiss Railway watch ($169 and up)—simple timepieces that resemble classic Swiss rail station clocks. And anyone who spends a considerable amount of time outside needs a hatchet. Pick up the Gransfors Bruks axe ($112), with a handle crafted from American hickory. 1601 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 937-7224, rivbike.com.
Day 7: Cozy Chic
For the fashionista
From coffee mugs and handmade candles to jewelry by Bay Area artists, Downtown Pleasanton’s Therapy has home and style accessories galore. Owned by former San Francisco residents Jing Chen and Wayne Whelan, the girly chain has 10 locations, with four located right here in the East Bay.
Outfit a friend with a hypo-allergenic, alpaca hair Shupaca beanie ($32), and some cute and versatile booties like this Stay Gold pair by Seychelles ($150) in cognac.
She’ll need the cross-body leather Mara purse by Hobo ($138) to hold her Echo Design Touch gloves ($42), which are designed to work with touch-screen devices, and a tri-fold Jill wallet ($68).
Finish off her look with a Shupaca wrap scarf ($44) and pair of fashionable sunglasses ($14) from the store’s rotating selection. She’ll be set for any weather. 1428 Park St., Alameda, (510) 263-8622; 2951 College Ave., Berkeley, (510) 665-9009; 1575 Solano Ave., Berkeley, (510) 528-5288; 525 Main St., Pleasanton, (925) 931-0545, shopattherapy.com.
Day 8: Warm Wares
For the ultimate homebody
Nathan and Co.’s mix of design-oriented items (toys that actually look good abandoned on the floor) and funny little luxuries (tumblers featuring male and female strippers) is certain to make you smile. Though the Oakland store carries gifts for all ages and tastes, home items are where this inviting shop shines.Help any couch lovers relax in style, starting with the quintessential Brown Betty Teapot ($44) made in England. The design-obsessed will love displaying Two’s Company’s blueprint-inspired trays
($18) in the living room—especially alongside Paddywax Apothecary ($24) and Ex Libris’ ($8) library candles, which are a far cry from your basic vanilla flame, in scents including vetiver and cardamom and cedarwood and thyme basil.
A cup of Flying Bird Botanicals loose-leaf tea ($10), from Portland, and the superluxurious, retro Darzzi blanket in a mélange of grays ($100) or curry ($90) and matching cable-knit cushion ($80) are also perfect for a cozy evening. 5636 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 601-1677; 4025 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, (510) 428-9638, nathanandco.com.
Day 9: Vintage Cool
For the urban outdoorsman
Elder and Pine owner Nick St. Mary fell in love with vintage clothes at 14, when he bought a pair of bell- bottom pants at The Salvation Army. Now, he and his wife, Sarah Dunbar—the style maven behind Pretty Penny on College Avenue—select new and mint-condition vintage clothes for his Temescal shop that are cool, but not too cool.
Start from the ground up, with timeless Zig-Zag canvas kicks ($28), available in black and navy. Pair them with Richer Poorer athletic-style socks ($12–$20) designed in Los Angeles, to add a flash of color to your guy’s wardrobe. California-made Kennedy Denim pants ($38–$52) are soft and a little stretchy, and are among the shop’s best-selling items. Plus, they look great with flannel, including the store’s selection of vintage Pendleton shirts ($46). Don’t confuse vintage with hand-me-downs, though: These shirts are in top condition.
Shield your guy from the Bay Area fog with a Loser Machine Company freight jacket ($124), and top everything off with a Loser Machine Company Dark Seas hat in navy ($24). Add Prospector Co. beard oil ($18–$28) and Uppercut pomade ($18) to finish off his new look. Bonus: An Elder and Pine tote is free with any purchase over $60. 423 40th St., Oakland, (510) 420-1980, elderandpine.com.
Day 10: Shake It Up
For the budding mixologist
Any bartender worth his or her salt(ed rim) knows a perfectly crafted cocktail starts with equipment from Old Oakland’s Umami Mart. Owners Kayoko Akabori and Yoko Kumano estimate that half the store’s business comes from professional bar staff, who flock to the sleekly appointed two-year-old shop for its high-end Japanese barware and craft cocktail accessories, ranging from gilded Yukiwa shakers to small-batch bitters.
Opt for the bartender’s 10-piece deluxe tool kit ($256). It comes with a spherical ice cube tray (which produces orbs that melt slowly and keep drinks cold longer), a bitters bottle, a single-prong ice pick, three jiggers, a cobbler shaker, a mixing glass, a 13-inch muddler bar spoon, and a long hawthorne strainer.
Cocktail connoisseurs can also visit Umami Mart’s website for technique tips, including how-tos on perfecting the Japanese hard shake and properly stirring a drink. 815 Broadway, Oakland, (510) 250-9559, umamimart.com.
Day 11: Host Essentials
For the dinner party pro
We Olive, a charming Walnut Creek shop owned by Mike and Christine Livitski, offers a bounty of food-lovers’ gifts. Opened in 2009, We Olive’s downtown tasting room is stocked with a number of olive-themed delicacies, including a variety of stuffed olives and tapenades, hand-painted ceramic plates and wine glasses, and even a delicious array of bath and body olive oil products.
For a quick and tangy appetizer, pick up a jar of Chardonnay almond-stuffed olives ($18.90), which comes paired with a hand-painted ceramic plate. Or whip up your own dish with Cooking Techniques and Recipes With Olive Oil, by Mary Platis and Laura Bashar, which features more than 25 original recipes.
A cook can never have too many kitchen tools and platters. A bread bowl ($99), cutting board ($96.95), and salad bowl ($253.95) are just three of We Olive’s sweet-smelling and hand-carved olive-wood kitchen items.
And you can’t go wrong with a five-piece oil and vinegar sampler set ($29.95), which includes Arbequina olive oil and lemon olive oil (two customer favorites, say the Livitskis), as well as garlic olive oil and two vinegars. 1364 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 280-4574, weolive.com.
Day 12: Wine Time
For the drinking buddy
Go shopping with Walnut Creek Kitchen Table owner Marta Brownfield, and you’re in good hands. For more than 40 years, Brownfield has been going to gift trade shows across the country to pick the best products, from cute and kitschy kitchen items to offbeat accessories for wine lovers.
For a fan of vino, consider this set of colorful MOMA wine stem markers ($11), which fit perfectly around the stems of Schott Zwiesel Pure Burgundy glasses ($14.50 each). Or, he or she can take a bottle to go in a Built origami collapsible wine tote ($27). If it needs to breathe first, the Schott Zwiesel Tritan Crystal Glass Pollux one-liter decanter ($110) is easy to grip.
Don’t believe everything you read? Well, believe this sign: True Friends Don’t Let Friends Wine Alone ($30). For the freshest glass, get the Nuance wine aerator ($29)—a filter, pour spout, and bottle stopper all in one—and Le Creucet’s lever corkscrew ($130), which removes stubborn corks. And cocktail napkins ($5.25) are a must for any tasting party.
The Corkcicle Air ($26) chills, aerates, and pours wine, and whites will stay frosty in a stainless steel Mary Jurek wine cooler ($135). A cheeky saying on a wine and beverage tote by Tote+Able ($20) is always fun at a BYOW event. And lest your friend is the forgetful type, have him or her jot down pours in Hugh Johnson’s wine journal ($14.99). 1373 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 937-8888.
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