In the 1800s, designer Liz Thayer's family owned and maintained a boot and shoe manufacturing company in New York in the 1800s called Claflin, Thayer & Co.
"It closed during the Great Depression, and many years later—totally unrelated—I moved to New York to study leather goods design," she said. "After school, I began working as a shoe and accessory designer and started a side project making my own things. When it came time to name my company, the obvious choice was to resurrect the family name because of the leather connection."
So Thayer's heritage has come full circle. Thayer, who worked as a designer for other companies over the years, quit working full time in 2017 to "pursue my own projects." However, she said, "The shop came up in October 2017, and it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I hustled to get up and running and opened in December 2017." In Temescal Alley, Claflin Thayer fits right in with stores like Ali Golden, Baggu, and Minds Eye Vintage. Thayer not only carries her own line of leather goods—jackets, purses, and more—but she also stocks a range of products from other independent producers.
"I only carry things in my shop that I personally love and use," she said. These goods include everything from beauty products to beanies, which sell surprisingly well, she added.
Thayer still does most of her own production—you can often find her in the shop working behind the counter. Her leather jackets, vests, and bags are all designed in-house.
"I'm primarily designing, cutting, and sewing everything myself. Making a jacket is a very involved process, but I really enjoy the hands-on aspect of working with leather," she said.
Currently, her wearables are made to suit women's or slighter frames, but several requests for men's sizing have her considering the possibility. Thayer is very receptive to customer requests: "If 10 people ask if I sell a fanny pack, I'm definitely going to make some fanny packs." While those of us with larger bodies may have to wait to take advantage of Thayer's skills, there's still so much to be had at her shop. You can visit the Claflin, Thayer & Co. brick and mortar Wednesday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and online at www.ClaflinThayer.com.
Quite a few of us have probably had this experience: We're flipping through a magazine or browsing Instagram or we're visiting a friend's house or some other tastefully designed place with a curated collection of furnishings and housewares. Because your friend or that stylist you follow on social media makes it look easy, you're inspired to try the same to make your own home an aesthete's den. You search your local thrift shop and visit flea markets, but you just don't know what to choose, so you come up empty-handed—or with a jumble of pieces that don't really make sense together.
Enter Mandana Blvd. The Oakland online-only shop carries a range of goods to fulfill many of your home décor desires. From woven wicker trays to vintage pitcher and tumbler sets, the shop makes it easy to separate the wheat from the chaff when shopping for vintage goods. Run by Bay Area locals Christina Ramos and Nu Goteh (who relocated here from Brooklyn), the shop was established in November 2017. It takes its name not only from the Oakland boulevard but also the Persian word for "eternal," which the pair chose for an association "with the lasting quality of our products, the lasting goals of our business, and the lasting foundation of our love." It's a combined effort, though their tastes differ: She's more into the boho-chic vibe, while he is drawn to minimalism and mid-century modern. They have, and continue to, put together a collection of premium goods, true to a cozy and eclectic taste they like to share. Teak wood, rattan, brass, Japanese ceramics, Danish furniture, plant baskets, stands and "obscure but tasteful vintage art" are among their wares.
They cull their stock from estate sales, thrift stores, Craigslist, and other places and re-sell at reasonable prices. They especially love estate sales, which they find often tend to have a lot of the same-styled pieces, meaning there's a high chance of being able to pick up many pieces from the same era all at once. And while this is something you could do yourself, a cruise through their online storefront offers strong evidence of their good taste and expertise.
For now, the duo intends to keep Mandana Blvd. online only but do plan to launch a line of home goods and décor products. A brick-and-mortar location may be further off. More likely, they said, is a mixed-use space that would be more of an experience than a typical retail store. You can also meet Ramos and Goteh at the many monthly pop-ups they attend and purchase their wares in real time. The couple doesn't think vintage style has to be limited to antique collectors or time capsule enthusiasts. Collectors can, they said, mix vintage into their contemporary home to create a unique, well-crafted, inviting space that doesn't have to break the bank. And while it's always tempting and often easier to buy things new, Mandana Blvd.'s eclectic, ever-evolving collection is a more sustainable option. You can visit 24 hours a day online at www.MandanaBlvd.com and check Manada Blvd. out on social media @mandanablvd.
Denizens of the Grand Lake neighborhood are likely familiar with Dr. J's Closet, nestled on Grand Avenue just a few blocks away from the theater. For years, the store has been known as a consignment shop for women's wear; however, storeowners Janet and Kim McAfee decided to make a change that likely will resonate with many in the Bay Area: They now stock hemp goods, from wearables to edibles (mostly in the form of CBD oil), and everything in between. The store has been re-christened as "All Things Hemp," as of May 1. The McAfees said that hemp is a great multipurpose plant. And it's true: Hemp seeds and hemp-derived products are nutritious and may help prevent some physical conditions, and the oil is good for the skin. Hemp fiber is used to make everything from clothing to paper. Why the change? It was just a natural progression, they said, explaining they are hemp users and believers and thought this store would be good for the community. The change is also slightly political. The store originally catered to the stylish senior. Now, one owner is a senior and part of the movement of seniors leaving pharmaceuticals for pain, anxiety, and inflammation in favor natural products like hemp with fewer deleterious side effects. Dr. J's Closet customers had expressed interest in CBD and hemp, the couple said, adding they are happy those customers are taking charge of their health and moving away from prescribed medications and toward hemp and CBD products.
Eventually, the store will transition out of being a consignment shop and only carry hemp goods. The McAfees plan to stock even more hemp products, including linens and more clothing. They welcome anyone who has been curious about hemp to stop in and ask questions. You can visit All Things Hemp Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m., at 3738 Grand Ave. in Oakland or visit www.DrJsCloset.com.
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.
Liz Thayer is designing and making leather goods at her Temescal Alley shop Claflin, Thayer & Co. Photo courtesy Claflin, Thayer & Co.