Where to buy a watch—and where to fix it—and dozens of local shops and services worth having on your radar.
Everything I know about fly-fishing came from watching A River Runs Through It, and honestly, I was a little distracted by Brad Pitt. So, when my outdoorsy uncle’s birthday rolls around, I am thankful for Creative Sports Fly Shop. In addition to gear (waders, vests, rods, float boats), the shop has everything fly-fishers need to lure their favorite fish. From spotted guinea feathers and moose hair to spools of chenille and strips of shiny mylar, the selection of craft supplies for custom fly making rivals Michaels. The shop is also the only West Coast retailer of the hip, minimalist Tenkara system—an ancient Japanese method that is a favorite of backpackers, with a featherlight 12-foot telescopic rod and simple tie-on line. Plus, the experts on staff know every detail about fishing local waterways and will not only offer advice, but teach casting techniques and guide your next trip, too. 1924-C Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, (925) 938-2255, creativeflyshop.com. —LeeAnne Jones
Whether you’re looking to traverse Mount Diablo on a mountain bike or take the kids to school in a side caddy, the knowledgeable staff at Mike’s Bikes will hook you up. In addition to cycle sales, an expert team of technicians is on hand at each of the 10 Northern California stores to maintain your old ride. Best of all, Mike’s Bikes fosters community among local cyclists: On Saturday mornings in Walnut Creek and Sunday mornings in Berkeley, the shops offer free breakfast and a two-hour all-level ride led by staff. Just don’t forget your helmet. 2161 University Ave., Berkeley, (510) 845-2453; 6754 Bernal Ave., Ste. 710, Pleasanton (opening soon); 1615 N. California Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 954-1490, mikesbikes.com. —Brandon Weight
Elaborate timepieces fit for James Bond usually require a spy’s unrest-ricted resources. Luckily, luxe jeweler Davidson & Licht’s second store, The Watch Shoppe, specializes in quality pre-owned timepieces. A certified Swiss watch technician inspects the crown, stems, and tubes; replaces worn parts; and gives each water-resistant watch a healthy dose of hydration to ensure it can still stand up to liquids, shaken or stirred. The end result? Handsome watches from top names such as Rolex, Panerai, and Breitling for a fraction of the price. And with more than 400 rare and unique pieces, The Watch Shoppe offers watches you won’t want to keep undercover. 1329-A N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 954-1056, thewatchshoppewalnutcreek.com. —Kristen Haney
Local Online Shop
Enjoy the spa experience in your own home with goodies from San Ramon–based Eye Candy. Chill-able, candy-colored, soft-gel eye coolers reduce puffiness and dark circles around your eyes and ease allergy symptoms, or simply soothe. For gifts, the patches come in a variety of spa buckets, along with terry cloth and treats such as eucalyptus and mint bubble soak. This summer, don’t miss Eye Candy’s tropical-colored spa wraps and flip-flops. eyecandycoolers.com.
Place to Assemble a Terrarium
Tucked away in Temescal Alley, Crimson Horticultural Rarities is like a cabinet of curiosities, from framed butterflies and taxidermy birds to herbal soaps and handmade journals. And on every shelf and table are beautiful terrariums—glass vessels filled with whimsical tillandsia and succulents. You can buy them premade or pick up supplies such as moss, stones, and mini garden tools to create your own. Owners Allison Futeral and Leigh Okies have a fascination with the natural world and its relationship with humans, and that is especially evident in the shop’s planted science beakers and rusty birdcages. Don’t miss the framed vertical succulent gardens or jars of baby marimo balls, algae-like water plants that resemble soft tufts of wool and live for hundreds of years. And for buzz-worthy accents at your next event, the shop can put together custom arrangements. 470-A 49th St., Oakland, (510) 992-3359, crimsonhort.com. —LeeAnne Jones
Eco-Friendly Home Product
Berkeley-based Vaska claims its laundry detergent is so safe, you could drink it—and its CEO does just that on YouTube. In place of typical cleansing ingredients that read like an alphabet soup, Vaska’s products use plant-based surfactants and conditioners, filtered water, and flower extract. But does its performance score as high as its eco-friendliness? My Vaska-washed loads of colors and whites came out clean and bright, with a light lavender scent (unscented is also available), and I swear the fabric is softer, too. I’m a fan—and I’m in good company: Vaska is the official detergent of the San Francisco Giants, Broadway’s Wicked, and Big Sur’s high-end Post Ranch Inn. Available at area grocery stores, vaskahome.com. —L.J.
A registered dietician and yoga instructor, Angela Stanford teaches individuals and families about “eating closest to the Earth by choosing foods in their natural state.” Through her company, Vital Nutrition & Wellness, she addresses clients’ weight loss, digestive, allergy, and fitness needs by offering practical how-tos—how to grocery shop, navigate a restaurant menu, or plant a garden—focusing on consuming whole foods and minimizing toxins. Feeling rundown? Stanford’s Spring Into Health workshop introduces detoxifying yoga positions and healthy foods that will reinvigorate your body, and Fit Camps revive with customized workouts and personalized nutritional advice. Expecting? Try the prenatal workshop to learn how to nourish yourself and your baby. 9000 Crow Canyon Rd., Ste. 320, Danville, (925) 389-7107, vitalandwell.com. —Linda Lenhoff
Place to Learn to Play an Instrument
I never considered myself musical, yet I recently found myself playing the harp at Harps Etc., a shop hidden down an alleyway off Walnut Creek’s North Main Street. There are not many harp stores in the world, but interest in harp music is growing, according to shop owner Jessica Siegel, a former professional harpist and one-time Las Lomas High band teacher. Not only do the instruments make a heavenly sound, but you can make those heavenly sounds as soon as you start your first lesson. With our very first glissando, my five classmates—a mom and her two young daughters, and an older couple from the South Bay—and I made music that reminded me of angels. Lessons take place the third Saturday of the month. We beginners used some of the simple (at least compared to the early 1900s 23-karat gold leaf harp on hand) but pretty wooden harps that the shop sells. 1601 N. Main St., Ste. 106, Walnut Creek, (800) 836-5559, harpsetc.com. —Martha Ross
Whether you want to catch up on The Hunger Games or dive into the steamy Fifty Shades of Grey—or let the expert staff lead you to the perfect recommendation—Rakestraw Books has the summer’s hot reads. And you can meet your favorite authors here, too, from Deborah Harkness (July 11) to Gail Tsukiyama (August 21). But it’s not all books: On a recent visit, I was charmed by crazy-cute owls and rabbits made with Woolbuddy needle-felting kits. 522 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 837-7337, rakestrawbooks.com. —LeeAnne Jones
Place for Deep Thoughts
A recent Saturday morning trip to Oakland Floats was like a spa treatment and a month of psychotherapy wrapped into one two-hour session. After a shower, I lowered myself into the flotation tank filled with warm water and 800 pounds of crushed Epsom salts. Buoyed to the water’s surface, I floated in total darkness for 75 minutes—the first 10 of which felt like an eternity, with my daily anxieties bouncing around in my mind. But soon, I was spacing out and considering the zero gravity eternity of the cosmos. I blissed away the remainder of the session, unaware of work deadlines or Caldecott traffic, and my deeply relaxed body and mind stayed so for about 48 hours. 344 40th St., Oakland, (510) 423-8772, oaklandfloats.com. —Peter Crooks
In today’s economy, everyone’s looking for a good deal, and in the Tri-Valley, one great new resource is Local Grüv. Founded by three bargain hunters with young children—who loved coupon offers from sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, but not driving out to Oakland or San Francisco to claim them—Grüv presents hyper-local daily deals, from half-off dining at Eddie Papa’s and Winemaker’s Pour House, to discounted lanes at Dublin Bowl and ceramics studio time at Café Art. Since its September launch, the site has grown to 5,500 subscribers. And best of all, 10 percent of profits go toward weekly rotating local charities such as the Valley Humane Society and Open Heart Kitchen. Get your grüv on. localgruv.com. —L.J.
Find unique gifts for everyone on your list at our readers’ fave shops.
For your BFF’s birthday, wedding, or baby shower, head to Just a Little Something Gift Shop for Swan Creek candles, Lindsay Phillips shoes with interchangeable straps, and locally made chenille baby blankets. 425 Market Pl., San Ramon, (925) 277-1270, justalittlesomethinggiftshop.com.
While Cottage Jewel offers great gifts for any antiques lover, it’s the vintage jewelry aficionado you’ll impress most. Stepping into the store is like entering a larger-than-life jewelry box, with period baubles, beads, and pendants draped over every surface. 100 Prospect Ave., Danville, (925) 837-2664, cottagejewel.com.
To keep Fifi or Fido on trend, Molly’s Pup-Purr-Ee offers dog fashions from Ruff Ruff Couture hoodies to rhinestone collars. Today’s modern pooch wouldn’t be complete without an iPawd, a plush squeaky toy with embroidered apps like FaceBark and DogTube. 425 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 820-8222, mollyspup.com.
With the inventory of affordable vino at Wine Thieves, you can gift foodies with several bottles as well as some artisanal cheese. Or get them a membership in the wine club, which includes pairing recipes and quarterly club member soirees. Berkeley and Lafayette, winethieves.com.
After pulling weeds and potting plants, the green thumb in your life would love a wooden garden swing or colorful striped hammock. You’ll find them at Orchard Nursery, along with bird feeders, garden ornaments, and, well, plants. 4010 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-4474, orchardnursery.com. —L.J.
More Reader Picks
Car Wash: Chamois Car Wash & Detail Center, 7711 Crow Canyon Rd., Danville, (925) 648-2250.
Cleanse: 28 Days to Health, 1711 Almond Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 478-8545, 28daystohealth.com.
Computer Repair: Computer Courage, 2093 Rose St., Berkeley, (510) 525-2226, computercourage.com.
Craft Store: Richard’s Arts & Crafts, locations in Alamo and Livermore, richardsartsandcrafts.com.
Doggie Day Care and Pet Lodging: Kamp K9, 6776 Crow Canyon Rd., Castro Valley, (510) 886-7877, kampk9.com.
Eyeglasses Shop: Dublin Ranch Optometry, 3708 Dublin Blvd., Dublin, (925) 551-3937, dublinranchoptometry.com.
Farmers Market: Danville Farmers Market, Danville, pcfma.com.
Florist: Florali, 2345 Boulevard Cir., Walnut Creek, (925) 934-6877, florali.com.
Health Food Store: Harvest House Natural Foods, 2395-M Monument Blvd., Concord, (925) 754-0138, harvesthouse.com.
Home Accessories Store: Elegant Clutter, 702 Sycamore Valley Rd. W., Danville, (925) 837-1001, elegantclutter.com.
Interior Design: Danville Interior Design Gallery, 300 Sycamore Valley Rd. W., Danville, (925) 838-8040, danvilledesigngallery.com.
Local Blog: Claycord, claycord.com.
Massage Therapist: Sergio Casco at Changes Salon & Day Spa, 1475 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek, (925) 947-1814, changessalon.com.
Pet Adoption: Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, 2890 Mitchell Dr., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-1273, arf.net.
Pop-Up Shop: Room With a Past, 1557 Third Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 933-1903, roomwithapast.com.
Shoe Repair: Nick’s Boot & Shoe Repair, 3104-E Crow Canyon Pl., San Ramon, (925) 866-0774, nicksbootandshoerepair.com.
Sweets Shop: Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, locations in Berkeley and Lafayette, powellsss.com.
Thrift Store: Hospice Thrift Shoppe Boutique, 1345-A Newell Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 947-1064, hospiceeastbay.org.
Veterinarian: Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care, 2000 Bishop Dr., San Ramon, (925) 866-8387, webvets.com.
Wedding Planner: Barbara Llewellyn Catering & Event Planning, 434 25th St., Oakland, (510) 832-1967, barbarallewellyn.com.