Another Kind of Container Shopping

Another Kind of Container Shopping

Plus, introducing fashion-forward scrubs and your new favorite bottle shop.

If you live near or spend much time around the MacArthur BART station, you may have noticed an interesting building being pieced together just opposite the station, across 40th Street. Built by Oakland’s Baran Studio Architects—whose principals saw an opportunity to make good use of an empty lot—and completed in November 2016, MacArthur Annex houses an assortment of storefronts, offices, and creative studios.

According to clothing designer Gina Di Girolamo, owner of La Loba (which is housed within MacArthur Annex), the building was constructed from stacked 20-foot shipping containers, each built-out with doors and windows. There’s a patio out back with ample booths and picnic tables, where you can lounge and enjoy a meal from Arthur Mac’s Tap and Snack.

Three units are open to the public every day, offering a fun mix of shops and refreshments for the urban shopper: the aforementioned La Loba, which sells simple, well-crafted women’s clothing designed by Di Girolamo and handmade jewelry and sculpture by Hellbent (Beth Naumann); E.M. Wolfman Books’ second location; and Contact Records, which specializes in vinyl. If you’re seeking a warm beverage, Subrosa Coffee is just around the corner.

The rest of the building is occupied by such varied business as The Hangedman (floral design and tarot by Matthew Baker), Anchor and Orbit (consulting and strategy for small businesses), and She Wolf Studios (makeup artists), among many others.

As Di Girolamo said, the building’s combined occupants see the annex as a part of the community, where people can get involved and be a part of what’s going on. To learn more, check out any of the businesses listed above, visit, or stop by for open studios once a month, every second Sunday.

Fabled Scrubs

When you think of scrubs—the utilitarian garb worn by most medical professionals in hospital settings, especially—the term “fashion forward” probably doesn’t come to mind. Local East Bay pediatrician Olga Lemberg was tired of looking like, well, a scrub, while working in a professional hospital environment and interacting with patients. Standard scrubs are not only unattractive, but also inefficient—the pockets are too big, which often leads to important stuff falling out onto patients. And because everyone wears them, everyone, regardless of his or her station, is indistinguishable from everyone else.

“I think there’s a big disconnect … between the sophistication of a doctor’s skill and the weight of their authority on the one hand and their often pretty unsophisticated, sloppy appearance on the other,” Lemberg said. So it’s understandable that people often have a hard time recognizing the authority of the person in front of them is the same one who is effectively wearing pajamas.

Lemberg wanted something to set her apart “from the blur of blue potato-sack people in the hospital” and something that would help present herself as more professional and polished. She couldn’t find anything like that on the market, so she set out to design her own line, Fabled Scrubs. After surveying a number of her colleagues, a number of issues came to light. First, only certain medical professionals work in situations where their scrubs may be soiled. Consider surgeons and obstetricians, for example, whose occupational activities may necessitate less-than-attractive work wear meant to be beaten up. And second, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look good while at work, especially if that job requires you to wear a uniform. With generic scrubs, the fit is way off. They are too loose around the waist and way too long in the leg. Many women doctors swim in generic scrub shirts. Fabled’s scrubs are tailored and take body size and proportion into account.

Lemberg said women health care professionals “want to dress with integrity and express their personal style at work … We also want to invest in something as simple as looking nice and professional.” Think this may be an unimportant concern? Lemberg can point to studies that patients’ notice and care about what their physicians wear.

Believing very much in “the lean-startup and slow-fashion’ principle,” Lemberg is deliberate about everything Fabled produces. Every garment is researched, tailored, designed in Oakland, and produced in small batches just north of the Bay Area. “To mitigate excessive inventory and waste,” Lemberg said.

At the moment, the scrubs are offered in a pleasing heather-gray color, constructed from a poly/rayon/spandex mix, and include a top ($70) and matching pants ($92). Lemberg plans to produce two to three more colors in spring 2018, and three to four additional styles for women by summer 2018.

She has had many requests for a men’s line, and is considering gearing up production on that in 2019, along with other related products, such as a redesigned lab coat. Of Fabled, Lemberg said, ” if ordinary scrubs and statement work wear got together and had a baby, it’d be Fabled, made by medical professionals, for medical professionals.”

Visit Fabled Scrubs online at

Alchemy Bottle Shop

For most of us, keeping our liquor cabinets stocked involves a trip to the corner store, a big box store, or one of the many vintners peppered around the East Bay. For those of us who appreciate stiffer beverages, there haven’t been many options for getting knowledgeable advice and hands-on help for selecting the gins, whiskeys, and other hard liquors we tried while out at dinner one night and can’t manage to find anywhere else. Enter Alchemy Bottle Shop, a specialty liquor store right on Grand Avenue’s main drag, just a few doors down from the Grand Lake Theater. Next time you’re in the neighborhood, slow down and stop in. Alchemy is worth a second look.

Alchemy opened in 2014, after a two-year process involving permitting and remodeling. Husband-and-wife team Tova and Peter Mustacich had been living in the neighborhood for many years and jumped at the chance to pair their love of a good spirit with their affection for the diverse, inspiring community that makes up the Grand Lake district. Both have a remarkable amount of experience with the business of booze—Tova Mustacich formerly worked as a buyer for an online wine club, and Peter Mustacich was an engineer by day and experimented with cocktails on the side. This is all evident when you visit Alchemy: The walls are lined with shelves heavy with bottles, organized by type: gins, scotches, whiskeys, liqueurs, and more, including an upstairs area where the selection of wines and beer is kept. At Alchemy, you can get a nice bottle of whiskey from Japan for a special occasion, or you can stop in and pick up a bottle of Pimm’s to help you cool down on a hot day. Whatever you need, they’ve got it.

As with many local businesses, Alchemy’s owners do their best to support independent producers and local distilleries. They taste everything they stock and keep their selection small and curated. Current customer favorites include the aforementioned Japanese whiskey, Nikka, and a variety of whiskeys made just a few miles away, by Mosswood Distillers in Berkeley. If you haven’t guessed, whiskeys are the store’s top seller, but a recent customer favorite has been bitters by Amaro Angeleno, a Los Angeles company. The Mustaciches have seen more people getting interested in gin, as well as more obscure products, like vermouth and herbal liqueurs. If you’re up for trying new things, Alchemy offers a selection of clubs, including agave (tequila, mezcal, etc.), craft whiskey, single malt, and gin (prices range from $40 per month to $125 per quarter), which include carefully selected bottles you can’t find on the store’s shelves. Not ready to commit to a club? Alchemy offers free tastings almost every Saturday afternoon, from 2-5 p.m. These range in subject—one tasting will focus on selections of locally distilled spirits, while another will focus on whiskey distilled from locally brewed beer. Who even knew that was possible? The store also offers private tasting events for up to 20 people, with an option to pair small bites.

The Mustaciches welcome all guests who want to learn more about responsibly enjoying liquor. They are never pretentious and love to discuss the topic—they want you to feel comfortable shopping with them and are happy to help everyone, from the novice to the connoisseur. And what do these two connoisseurs drink at home? They prefer simple cocktails, like spritzes and 50/50 (half gin, half vermouth) martinis.

Alchemy Bottle Shop, 3256 Grand Ave., Oakland, noon-8 p.m. Sun-Fri., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat. Find Alchemy online at and at @alchemybottleshop on Instagram.

Faces of the East Bay