Best of the East Bay - Shops & Services
Sweet treats, comfy sneaks, a helpful hardware store, and where to browse the good stuff.
Photograph by Cedric Glasier
(page 1 of 4)
+ When we saw our first Smart Car in Paris two years ago, we stopped to gawk. My son was sure he could pick it up, although I asked him not to try. Now, they’re buzzing all over the East Bay—thanks to the new Smart Center.
Even at 41 mpg, these Mercedes-designed babies can’t beat the gas mileage of a Prius, nor do they have a backseat. But, starting at $13,000, the price tag is unbeatable. Not surprisingly, the showroom sells about one a day.
2244 N. Main
St., Walnut Creek, (925) 482-8740, smartcenterwalnutcreek.com. —Susan Safipour
+ Are you a Charlie Bucket or a Veruca Salt? Step inside the sugar-high world of Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, and you may soon find out. Every sweet indulgence is here: old-fashioned candy buttons, giant Pixie Stix, fresh fudge, hand-scooped gelato, colorful taffy, and Pez dispensers of every shape and kind. Adults will get a kick out of the section of humorous mint tins, while your kids may be lured to a mini theater that plays Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on an endless loop—the screen framed with signed memorabilia from the classic film.
3591 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 299-9866, powellsss.com. —Leeanne Jones
+ Why do the fleet of feet—and sore of knee—flock from as far away as Boston to Athletic Outpost, a tiny shop tucked into a downtown Walnut Creek side street? Because no one else in town, perhaps even in the country, so expertly applies biomechanics to match the right sports shoe to your feet and whatever activity you want to do. “We keep up with shoes,” says owner Tim Ketron, eyeing his walls of Saucony, Asics, and New Balance. “A company might update a great shoe and ruin it. It’s our job to keep up and know all that.”
1528 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 943-6453, athleticoutpost.com. —Deborah Burstyn
+ When was the last time you went in to see your mechanic, and he turned you away because your car was just fine? NEH-ver, you say? Well, that might be because you haven’t tried Walnut Creek Automotive, where they’ll give you the straight scoop, even if—like someone we know whose name we won’t mention—you go in there with a fistful of twenties insisting you need new brakes. Nah, said manager Jeff Boaman, those brakes are only half worn, and the squeal you’re hearing will go away after a few miles. It did.
1532 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 934-8600, wcauto.mechanicnet.com. —Michaela Jarvis
+ What’s gray and makes you green all over? Instead of sending all that nearly clean water from your bath down the drain, send it out to soak your roses.
Gray water guerillas have recycled household water on the sly for years. But now, thanks to a combination of drought, a new openness to green tech, and a determined young landscape designer, you can have a totally legit system.
Brent Bucknum, who helped create the living roof at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences, is putting the finishing touches on what he says is the first gray water system in Contra Costa with legal permits. It’s going into a new home in Lafayette, but Bucknum says older homes can easily be retrofitted to funnel water from bathroom sinks, showers, and clothes washers out into the yard.
Costs range from $500 for Bucknum to design a DIY plan to $10,000 for a computerized top-of-the-line system. Most systems range from $3,000 to $6,000. “For the cost of a Sub-Zero refrigerator, you can install a very good gray water system,” says Bucknum.
Oakland, (510) 415-2994, hyphae.net. —deborah burstyn