Best of the East Bay
Shops and Services
From the moment you see the storefront at Nitro Dog, with its paintings of different breeds of lovable pups, you know this is no generic pet store. Husband and wife owners Len and Leslie Ofiana choose many of their products based on the approval of their three dogs, and customers are encouraged to bring their furry friends into the store while they shop. And Nitro Dog doesn’t discriminate: There is a whole section for cats as well.
Tying for the most votes in the category, Feathered Follies, deserves notice for being so popular while specializing in a less popular domestic pet (birds, such as parrots and cockatiels and macaws).
Nitro Dog, 61 Lafayette Circle, Lafayette, (925) 962-2215, http://www.nitrodog.com ; Feathered Follies, 3471 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 299-9466, http://www.feathered-follies.com
My Daughter’s Wish is the shopping destination for superchic paper, stickers, and embellishments for scrapbooking addicts. But this charming space in downtown Walnut Creek is more than just a store; it’s a community. Classes on handwriting and digital scrapbooking, guest demonstrations, and crop nights lure creative types from all over the Bay Area. On the store’s website, customers everywhere can participate in the active message boards and page postings, and mine monthly design challenges for ideas and inspiration. It’s never been more hip (or collaborative) to preserve your memories.
My Daughter’s Wish, 1475 N. Broadway, Ste. 185, Walnut Creek, (925) 952-4437, http://www.mydaughterswish.com —LeeAnne Carson
Caterer and Event Planner
Special occasions—even the most joyous—can sometimes be so stressful to plan and execute that anxiety horns in on celebration. That’s where Barbara Llewellyn comes in. The Orinda resident and mother of two started her catering business almost 20 years ago, grilling chicken breasts in her backyard.
Today, she employs 20 people and has annual revenues of more than $2.5 million. Clearly, she knows how to take care of business. Llewellyn pushes the concept of specialty food stations, such as the risotto bar or the slider hamburger bar, beyond novelty; you want to eat her food, not just coo at it. Her sliders burst with the flavor of fresh, high-quality beef, and she even makes her own delicious pickles. Her risotto bar turns out velvety, perfectly cooked arborio rice all night long. Her bartenders charm you with conversation as they prepare your cocktail dead right, and her miniature crab Louis salads, served in tiny cordial glasses, are both adorable and delicious.
As if that weren’t enough, Llewellyn also has ties with the best photographers, florists, and musicians in the Bay Area, so when you work with her, every aspect of your event is addressed.
Barbara Llewellyn Catering & Event Planning, (510) 832-1967, http://www.barbarallewellyn.com
I have a confession to make: I am not a “handy” man. Phillips or flat head? Too technical. I can barely tell a hammer from a wrench. This makes walking into a hardware store, particularly one of those cavernous Home Depot warehouses, an intimidating experience. Fortunately for people like me, there is another option: Ace Hardware.
Ace may be a national corporation, but when you walk into one of its stores, you feel more as if you’re entering a small-town mom-and-pop hardware shop. No matter which branch you go to, you’ll find friendly employees who will take the time to listen to you and help you find exactly what you need. They can even explain the difference between a hammer and a wrench.
Ace Hardware has locations in Concord, Lafayette, Moraga, Oakland, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, and throughout the Bay Area, http://www.acehardware.com.
From the time he took his first programming class as a college freshman in 1968, Ken Cook knew he wanted to do something with computers. However, it wasn’t until about five years ago that he discovered his true vocation. A neighbor asked him to come over and help her fix her computer and, when he was done, suggested that he start a business fixing home PCs. The Tri-Valley PC Medic was born.
Cook works out of his Pleasanton home, but, unlike most doctors, his business is all about house calls. Most of the problems he sees are software related, with at least half being caused by spyware applications. The best way to escape such problems? Avoid adult websites, gambling websites, or any sort of chat where your computer can come into contact with a “dirty” computer, Cook advises.Cook says the best thing about his job is “being able to empower people.” He has no problem allowing customers to watch him work so they can learn to fix problems themselves.
Tri-Valley PC Medic, (925) 485-9040, http://come.to/pc-medic
The owner of Past Perfect, Walnut Creek resident Genell Durkee, grew up surrounded by old stuff (her mom was an antique dealer) and has spent more than 20 years dealing in vintage clothing—she’s even worked with costume designers for movies such as Titanic, Bugsy, and The Joy Luck Club.
Hollywood aside, Durkee has turned from vintage clothing to vintage everything. Her 600-square-foot store is packed with vintage jewelry, glassware, heirloom silver pieces, fine china, mirrors, light fixtures, and furniture. The goods are in spectacular condition, and Durkee prides herself on the way each piece greets potential buyers.
Durkee is smart and fussy. She doesn’t fill her store with dusty estate purchases that contain everything including the kitchen sink. She keeps her finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not. Right now, what’s hot is highly ornate Italian gilt furniture and light fixtures from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and they’re just blowing out of the store.
Past Perfect, 1463 Newell Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 932-5020
The motto at Club K-9 is “While you’re away, your dog’s at play.” From the moment you pull off Crow Canyon Road and see the dozen dog park–inspired outdoor play areas spread across the hillside, it is easy to understand why. The dogs at Club K-9 are allowed outside all day, and their play areas have umbrellas for shade. Boarding, at $30 a night, costs less than Motel 6—and is much nicer.
In addition to boarding, Club K-9 offers day care and dog training taught by a trainer who has taken seminars with Cesar Millan (“The Dog Whisperer”). There are two veterinarians on staff, and the dogs are always supervised.
Be sure to make reservations early if you want to leave your dog here; Club K-9 can fill up as much as two months in advance in the summer and on holidays.
Club K-9, 10671 Crow Canyon Rd., Castro Valley, (510) 247-9600, http://www.clubk9inc.com
Place to Collect Great Art
If you love contemporary art and have the money to do some serious collecting, you no longer need to travel to one of San Francisco’s top galleries. The 925 now has a fine arts gallery that befits our maturing arts scene—and growing affluence.
Art-Scape Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Walnut Creek carries the works of more than 60 top East Bay and international artists. You can browse their cutting-edge, museum-quality paintings and mixed media pieces, or wander through the large back garden’s sizable display of contemporary water sculptures.
Finding the gallery takes a little doing. It’s a bit off the beaten path of Walnut Creek’s bustling retail scene on a hodgepodge block of small businesses and funky old houses. The gallery sits in a 2,500-square-foot 1940s bungalow whose former living room and bedrooms have been transformed by paint and track lighting into stylish and cozy display spaces.
As it turns out, Art-Scape’s somewhat out-of-the-way location suits owner Merridith Pelino just fine. Her gallery, she says, is not for the casual shopper looking for tchotchkes to fill shelf space. It’s a destination for people who love art and sophisticated home design, and who can, for example, see the beauty in the pure abstraction of paintings by El Cerrito artist Harry Gruenert or in the strange gourd-shaped sculptures, built of cardboard, by Canyon resident Ann Weber.
Pelino, a Brentwood native who now lives in Lafayette, enjoyed a successful career in business before opening Art-Scape in May 2005. “You don’t go into this kind of business to make money,” she says. “It’s my contribution to the community: to present art that is fine and interesting, that’s beautiful and that will have some longevity.”
Art-Scape Gallery and Sculpture Garden, 1161 Alpine Rd., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-1544, http://www.art-scapegallery.com —Martha Ross
We like ours dark, dashingly dressed, and soft on the inside. Our chocolate, that is. And our readers say, “See’s, please.”
In the 85 years since the company was founded, more than 200 stores have opened and 100-plus See’s varieties have been crafted, and the old-fashioned comfort candies are still the leading tool of seduction for East Bay husbands and heartbreakers alike.
The runner-up, Walnut Creek’s Leonidas, is esteemed by jet-setting candy junkies. The shop—whose siblings dot the cobbled streets of Paris, Brussels, Athens, and Rome—sells haute chocolate with a European twist. “Our chocolate uses the freshest milk and butter and the highest-quality cocoa beans,” says owner Kurt Kroothoep. Leonidas’s confections are flown weekly from Kroothoep’s native Belgium to Walnut Creek. We fancy the Manon Café, the first chocolate that founding confectioner Léonidas Kestekides created in 1913 using 100 percent cocoa butter. There are 14–16 pieces to a half pound—that’s just enough for breakfast, lunch, and after dinner.
See’s Candies, 3295 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, (510) 452-0380; 1005 Contra Costa Blvd., Pleasant Hill, (925) 687-8343; 428 Stoneridge Mall Rd., Pleasanton, (925) 463-1211; 2005 Crow Canyon Pl., Ste. 152, San Ramon, (925) 830-9779; 1268 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 934-8922; http://www.sees.com ;
Leonidas, 1397 N. Main St., Walnut Creek,
(925) 932-6666, http://www.leonidas.com
Sharp Bicycle, 969 Moraga Rd., Lafayette, (925) 284-9616. http://www.sharpbicycle.com
Lafayette Car Wash & Detail Center, 3319 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-1190
Megan Haney Designs, 629 Capwell La., Walnut Creek, (925) 280-0711,
Elegant Clutter, 702 Sycamore Valley Rd. W., Danville, (925) 837-1001,
Dana Lund Landscape & Design, 206 Estates Dr., Danville, (925) 837-8364; 500 Deerwood Pl., San Ramon, (925) 362-0232
Navlets, 1555 Kirker Pass Rd., Concord,
(925) 681-0550; 800 Camino Ramon, Danville, (925) 837-9144; 6740 Alhambra, Martinez, (925) 935-9125; 2895 Contra Costa Blvd., Pleasant Hill, (925) 939-9000; http://www.navletsgardens.com
David M. Brian, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 947-1991, http://www.davidmbrian.com
Elegant Clutter, 702 Sycamore Valley Rd. W., Danville, (925) 837-1001,
Bonanza Street Books, 1605 Bonanza St.,
Walnut Creek, (925) 932-2466; 5433-D Clayton Rd., Clayton, (925) 673-3325;
Roberta Gonzales, http://www.cbs5.com/roberta
Busta-Groove, (408) 981-6451, http://ww.busta-groove.com
Orchard Nursery, 4010 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-4474, http://ww.orchardnursery.com
ShamPooches, 3151 Crow Canyon Pl., San Ramon, (925) 806-0647, http://www.shampooches.us
When it comes time to decide who will get your money after you die, you need more than a lawyer with experience writing wills and managing trusts and estates. Choose someone who will listen to your concerns about life’s delicate subjects: money, family, and death.
If you can’t be honest with a lawyer about the fact that your child is a drug addict and you want to set up a trust for him, or that you’re afraid your spouse is going to remarry and there won’t be money left for your kids, you shouldn’t hire that person,” says John A. Hartog, who has been practicing trust and estate law for 26 years, the last 25 in Orinda. Hartog’s ability to connect with clients, as well as his legal expertise, won him a coveted spot on Worth magazine’s 2005 list of 100 best attorneys in the country.
Hartog represents a trend noted by Worth: the rise of independent estate attorneys who can respond to clients’ individual needs, unlike associates in large firms, where there is tremendous pressure to rack up as many billable hours as possible. “This is an inherently personal practice,” Hartog says.
John A. Hartog, (925) 253-1717, http://www.jahartog.com —Martha Ross
Independent Auto Repair
Have you ever wondered if you really needed some of the things your auto mechanic charges you for? Well, you wouldn’t worry if you took your car to Buresh Auto.
Buresh is one of those places that just gives off a good vibe. It has been in the same location in Walnut Creek since 1984. The owner, Bob Wershila, is a native of Walnut Creek and a graduate of Las Lomas High School, class of 1972. The staff of two—Wershila and mechanic Ray Dempsey—make sure the shop has an undeniable family atmosphere oriented toward taking care of you, the customer. When you get your oil changed at Buresh Auto, you also get a complete safety inspection, free of charge.
Buresh Auto, 2770 Camino Diablo, Ste. A, Walnut Creek, (925) 939-7964
Pool and Spa Service
Aquarius Pool & Spa Service, 1822 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek,
(925) 933-3310, http://www.poolspapros.com
Leslie’s Swimming Pool Supplies, 5100 Clayton Rd., Concord, (925) 676-2855; 494 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Danville, (925) 838-3090; 6743 Dublin Blvd., Dublin, (925) 829-4882; 3389 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 299-8939; 1002 E. Stanley Blvd., Livermore, (925) 606-9004; 25 Vivian Dr., Pleasant Hill, (925) 686-4975; 2971 Ygnacio Valley Rd., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-1296; http://www.lesliespool.com
Jamie Westdal Photography, 2 Theatre Square, Ste. 112, Orinda, (925) 254-9689, http://www.jamiewestdal.com
Nor-Ski and Sports, 3518-F Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-2522; 3191-B Crow Canyon Plaza, San Ramon, (925) 244-0206; 4855 Hopyard Rd., Pleasanton, (925) 460-0222; http://www.nor-ski.com
Soccer Pro, 6635 Dublin Blvd., Ste. F, Dublin, (925) 803-4435; 565-C Contra Costa Blvd., Pleasant Hill, (925) 685-0440; http://www.soccerprodublin.com
McCaulou’s, 5100 Clayton Rd., Concord, (925) 827-0330; 589 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Danville, (925) 837-0261; 512 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-3380; 1441 Moraga Way, Moraga, (925) 376-7252; 6211 Medau Pl., Oakland, (510) 339-2210; 250 Village Sq., Orinda, (925) 254-3448; 718-C Countrywood Ctr., Walnut Creek,
(925) 935-9300; http://www.mccaulous.com
Rossi’s Tennis & Running, 1005 Oak Hill Rd., Lafayette, (925) 284-1222
AAA, various East Bay locations, http://www.aaa.com
Big Sky Luxury Yarns, 3604 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-1020,