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Morningtide Cultivates Slow Living in Albany | Introducing CelerySpace and saying goodbye to Urban Stitch. By Nana K. Twumasi

Should you find yourself wandering Solano Avenue in Albany, make sure you take a detour down Cornell Avenue and stop by Morningtide boutique. This small-but-mighty storefront carries everything: clothing, home goods, and even chocolate, and shouldn't be missed. Morningtide opened its doors in September 2017, the result of a partnership between Lisa Wong Jackson, who owns the design and stationery company Good On Paper, and Lisa Fontaine, who designs for the up-and-coming local clothing line, Hygge. The pair, each successful in their fields, chose the Albany location because it's a central spot between both of their homes in the Berkeley hills, it exudes a small-town charm, and it's near a vibrant restaurant scene that creates good foot traffic. They discovered the space much as other storeowners have—by chance. While walking around the neighborhood, Jackson and Fontaine noticed the storefront was available for rent and immediately contacted the landlord who, they said, grew up in the neighborhood and wanted to find a tenant who had good energy and a business idea that felt right for the neighborhood. It proved to be a fortuitous beginning.

In stock at Morningtide (which received its name after a brainstorming session from a list of words relating to California, the beach, and slow living), you'll find a tidy collection of clothing, home goods, artisanal chocolates, and other treats. Devoted to minimalism, the shop owners only stock goods from brands they are familiar with. Everything is worn, tested, and used by the store's owners before they decide to carry a certain item. These include American-made and women-owned clothing from Uzi NYC and Fontaine's Hygge brand, skin care products by Everyday Beauty, and home goods by Totem. Fontaine and Jackson have also seen a lot of interest in the ceramics they carry, produced by various small-batch artists. Their current personal favorites? Sisters brand shampoo and body soap and easy-breezy summer dresses from Sugar Candy Mountain. 

The pair loves the neighborhood. They said part of their desire to open a shop was to participate in a tight-knit community, which is exactly what they got, with some regular customers popping in daily or weekly to check out the new goods and chat. They love building friendships with their customers. In keeping with community-mindedness (they'll even occasionally hand-deliver purchases to local customers), the store hosts events, which have included free mini-tarot readings, a weaving class for kids, and bread and juice pop-ups. You can sign up for their newsletter at their website, MorningtideShop.com, or follow the store on Instagram (@morningtide.shop) to stay abreast of upcoming events and see what's new in the store. Coming up this month, they will celebrate Mother's Day with a weekend-long pop-up on Solano Avenue in Albany, featuring over 20 local artists and makers. Check the website for details.

Although it can be tough for these two working mothers to maintain the shop (they often work weekends, which takes them away from their families), Jackson and Fontaine are committed to keeping the store going. It's important, the pair said, for their customers to shop smart and buy less but buy better quality. The pair works hard to accommodate customers. If you place an order online, type in "LOCAL" to negate shipping fees, and you can pick up your order in person. Morningtide welcomes special requests. It's a wonderful source for gifts, for others, or for yourself, whenever you need a retail pick-me-up. Visit Morningtide at 847 Cornell Ave., Albany, Tue.-Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and online at www.MorningtideShop.com.

Handmade, Small-Batch Products

You'll find CelerySpace on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, in a big blue Spanish-style building (built in 1932). It's not a blink-and-you'll miss it spot; in fact, CelerySpace takes up only a small portion of the building's square footage—the rest of it contains the offices of Celery Design Collaborative. CelerySpace's storefront is a new addition to this long-running design firm. Celery bought the building in 2012—and in 2016, they decided to make use of the building's street-facing portion, turning it into a design shop. Ella Davidson, shop manager said, "Initially, we used it as a workshop and event space, and after a few successful pop-ups featuring local designers and makers, we decided to open permanently featuring a broader mix of work." 

The shop is run by various Celery Design employees, like Davidson, who "runs the day-to-day shop, coordinating with the makers and organizing pop-up and workshop events." Because many CelerySpace employees have more experience working as artists and designers than they do with the ins-and-outs of retail, managing the storefront gives them the opportunity to learn about a different aspect of the business. The space, which initially sold more fine art, has eventually grown to have "more of a balance between fine art and functional, thoughtfully designed products," Davidson said. Currently in stock, you'll find 3D printed ceramic lampshades by Emerging Objects, a Berkeley-based "make-tank;" women's clothing, including items from Hygge, and hand-woven scarves and shawls by WHEVE; bags by Australian company UASHMAMA, which look remarkably like leather but are actually made from durable, washable paper; and some food products by San Francisco-based We Are Trouble Makers and scientist-turned-food- maker Sylvia Charles. As common with several East Bay retail environments, CelerySpace carries primarily handmade, small-batch products. CelerySpace artists said it's important to support the local maker community by creating a place where they can sell and promote their products. The goal is to use CelerySpace to shine a light on Berkeley's community of makers and grow into a destination spot for those looking for inspired, well-designed, local products.

CelerySpace thrives on workshops. Find more information about upcoming events at www.CelerySpace.com, and visit the shop Wed.-Fri. 1-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 11a.m.-5 p.m.

Bye, Bye Urban Stitch Boutique

The retail environment can be difficult, and it's always unfortunate to lose a local store to the shifting wind of economic hardships and a loss of clientele. So, it happened with Oakland's Urban Stitch Boutique, which, as reported by Oakland Hoodline, closed its doors in December 2017. The store, which catered to a modern shopper, began to experience difficulties due to a change in the downtown area's "shopping scene." The store's owner, Alanna Rayford, could not be reached for comment for this piece but had said previously that Urban Stitch had a "DYI, mom-and-pop" atmosphere but that "clientele drifted away." Additionally, Rayford felt that the area's current real estate environment was pushing out small businesses.

Fans of Urban Stitch likely remember the sunny and airy second-floor spot at 17th and Broadway, filled with a charming collection of unique clothing, jewelry, and accessories, some made by local artisans. We are sad to say goodbye to it, but Rayford's fans should stay tuned. She's committed to entrepreneurship and will again engage with the local retail environment in the future.

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Do you have East Bay retail news to share, including openings, expansions, trunk shows, sales, or other in-store events? Email news to the editor at Judy@TheMonthly.com.

 

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The owners of Morningtide, Lisa Wong Jackson and Lisa Fontaine, want to build community with their Albany storefront. Morningtide has Fontaine's Hygge, which features these pleated cropped pants. Photos courtesy Morningtide.