2019 Best of the East Bay: Shops and Services

Illustration by Chantal Bennett


Pamela Donahue

Personal Shopper and Stylist at Neiman Marcus

Classic, comfortable, wearable. That’s how personal shopper Pamela Donahue, of the Walnut Creek Neiman Marcus, describes Northern California style. "It’s a look that can take you anywhere," she explains. Sounds about right—which is why women trust Donahue for their everyday style needs.

When clients come to her seeking wardrobe answers, Donahue updates them on the latest trends and teaches them how to dress to best flatter their bodies and increase their self-confidence—which is what makes her a pro. Donahue is more than a girlfriend shopping with you; she’ll suggest something you wouldn’t have considered that may pleasantly surprise you. For instance: "Ditch the skinny jeans and try a flared pair instead, with a pump rather than an open-toed wedge, which makes every body type appear longer and leaner," she says. Donahue will show you how to wrap a lightweight scarf—her vote for one of the most perfect accessories—around a T-shirt in an effortlessly chic way.

Her clients’ favorite brands include Rag and Bone, Tom Ford, Vince, Ramy Brook, and Stella McCartney. She makes sure they have a few staples, including classic pumps, a single-breasted blazer, dark denim flared jeans, and a well-made belt. Donahue wants her customers to leave feeling ready to take on the world. That’s why she’s taken her passion for outfitting a step further, by helping students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business find their personal professional styles, readying them for the workforce and for pitching their ideas to potential investors. 

Donahue's Picks

Go-to shop: "Zara in Walnut Creek is ideal for perfect tees and on-trend dresses," Donahue says.

Favorite local designer: Big Kiss Little Kiss in Walnut Creek makes "fun, playful clothes for busy kids," Donahue notes. "Best of all, they’re made with sustainable fabrics."

Favorite jewelry shop: Alamo-based Love You More. "[Owner Gaby Ghorbani’s] stylish jewelry … empowers women," says Donahue. —S.D.


2019 Best of the East Bay: Shops and Services

Rakestraw Books. Photo courtesy of Rakestraw Books.

Reader Picks


Half Price Books, multiple locations

Runner-up: Rakestraw Books, Danville


Men's Clothing Store

Venture Quality Goods, Lafayette

Runner-up: Patrick James, Danville


2019 Best of the East Bay: Shops and Services

Vici. Photo courtesy of Vici.

Sporting Goods Store

Sports Basement, multiple locations

Runner-up: Dick’s Sporting Goods, multiple locations


Women's Clothing Boutique

Vici, Walnut Creek

Runner-up: Pink Arrows Boutique, Benicia


Gift Shop

Wish, Walnut Creek

Runner-up: Lemon, Danville


Plant Nursery

Orchard Nursery, Lafayette

Runner-up: Sloat Garden Center, Pleasant Hill


Beauty Store

Lafayette Beauty Store and Salon, Lafayette

Runner-up: Essence Beauty Supply, Oakland


2019 Best of the East Bay: Shops and Services

Orchard Nursery. Photo courtesy of Orchard Nursery.

Plus-Size Boutique

Harper Greer, Lafayette

Runner-up: In Full Swing, Oakland


Consignment Shop

Labels Luxury Consignment, Walnut Creek

Runner-up: A Dress Change Consignment, Danville


Jewelry Store

Heller Jewelers, San Ramon

Runners-up: D and D Jewelry, Walnut Creek and Spitz Jewelers, Walnut Creek


2019 Best of the East Bay: Shops and Services

Elsie Green. Photo courtesy of Elsie Green.

Shoe Store

Tootsies, Alameda and Oakland

Runner-up: Nordstrom, Pleasanton and Walnut Creek


Home Decor Store

Elsie Green, Concord

Runner-up: HomeGoods, multiple locations


Car Wash

Lafayette Car Wash and Detail Center, Lafayette

Runner-up: Autopia Car Wash, multiple locations



Sunrise Bistro and Catering, Walnut Creek

Runner-up: AWG Private Chefs, Walnut Creek


Dry Cleaner

Country Club Cleaners, multiple locations

Runner-up: Vogue Cleaners, Walnut Creek



Laural Landscapes, Walnut Creek

Runner-up: Dana Lund Landscaping, San Ramon



Frank’s Import Repair Service, Concord

Runner-up: Big O Tires, multiple locations


Editor Picks

Recently Reincarnated Bookstore: Half Price Books, Concord

After 18 years in business, the Todos Santos Plaza location of Half Price Books—the 2019 reader pick for Best Bookstore in the East Bay—closed its doors in May. But we bring you good news: The local favorite has found a new home in the Willows Shopping Center and is due to reopen in late November. Until then, Half Price Books lovers will have to travel to the Berkeley, Dublin, or Fremont outposts to buy tomes for less. hpb.com. —M.M.


2019 Best of the East Bay: Shops and Services

Lesley Evers. Photo by Amelia Plumb.

Boutique on Wheels: Gypsy Boutique, Pleasanton

You may have heard of Airstream campers, but have you ever heard of an Airstream shop? Well, now you have. Gypsy Boutique—which usually parks in Pleasanton—presents deals on wheels, with its carefully curated selection of feminine, boho-chic attire. The mobile storefront allows the boutique to travel around, so don’t be surprised if you see the shiny silver store at local farmers or flea markets. facebook.com/gypsy​boutiqueshop. —M.M.


East Bay-Made Fashion: Lesley Evers, Oakland

Not only is designer Lesley Evers an Oakland resident with a flagship store in Rockridge, but she also proudly produces every one of her pieces in Oakland. So her brightly printed dresses, separates, and scarves represent the East Bay in more ways than one—which might be why Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf has been spotted wearing Lesley Evers creations on more than one occasion. lesleyevers.com. —M.M.


2019 Best of the East Bay: Shops and Services

Photo courtesy of Orchard Nursery


Rooted in the Community

42 Years Lazy K has been open at Lafayette’s Orchard Nursery. Owner Tom Courtright decided to transform his family home on the property into a gift shop in 1977. The store—named for the house of the land’s original ranch owners—has provided the community with nature-themed decor, apparel, and accessories ever since. orchardnursery.com. —M.M.




2019 Best of the East Bay: Shops and Services

Find stylish threads at Neiman Marcus in Broadway Plaza. Photo courtesy of Neiman Marcus.

A Whole New Mall Game

When it comes to massive shopping centers, the East Bay has more than its fair share. Here are some tidbits about three of our favorites.

City Center Bishop Ranch, San Ramon

November 2018: Opened

16 Eateries

7 Acres

18 Stores

Newest tenants: Heller Jewelers, Sephora, and Unionmade

Standout tenant: M by Maggie Rizer

Trivia: Designed by star architects at Renzo Piano Building Workshop, in collaboration with Bar Architects.

Transit: County Connection buses arrive from the Walnut Creek and Dublin BART stations.


Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek

September 2016: Redesign completed

11 Eateries

24 Acres

71 Stores

Newest tenant: Forevermark by Padis Jewelry

Standout tenant: Neiman Marcus

Trivia: Confused or need help? You can text the Broadway Plaza concierge with questions at (925) 948-8826.

Transit: Walnut Creek’s free downtown trolley goes from BART to Broadway Plaza.


San Francisco Premium Outlets, Livermore

2012: Opened

2015: Expanded

18 Eateries

42 Acres

164 Stores

Newest tenants: Champion and Bath and Body Works

Standout tenant: Eredi Pisano

Trivia: It is California’s largest outdoor outlet shopping mall.

Transit: An Outlet Hop tour bus takes shoppers to the outlets from downtown San Francisco. —M.M.