Run, don’t walk
Many people quit their jobs to follow their bliss, but Eric Wilson put his money where his heart was. Wilson, a former aerospace engineer, cashed in his stock options and opened Solano Avenue’s new Fleet Feet Sports, an athletic footwear and apparel shop for fitness enthusiasts of all levels. A runner since high school, Wilson has participated in numerous 5Ks and marathons, making his segue into the fitness world an easy one. The shop will appeal to “anyone with more than a passing interest in fitness and health,” he says, “[to] people who are already running or doing something active.”
Along with many kinds of running shoes and related sports gear, Fleet Feet carries clothes for running, gym workouts and yoga classes from manufacturers like Carve Design, Moving Comfort, Nike and New Balance. Wilson’s goal is to make the shop a community-based fitness hub. “Everything we do is to elevate health and fitness of the individual,” he says. Fleet Feet will sponsor regular seminars from nutritionists, fitness experts and podiatrists, as well as training sessions for runs and marathons.
“We’re gearing up for our first 5K in June,” Wilson adds. “The proceeds from these events will be donated back to the community to help with things like local schools’ fitness programs or beach clean-up.”
Fleet Feet Sports, 1758 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, (510) 524-3338; www.fleetfeetberkeley.com.
Last fall when Kent Caroll held a closing sale at his shop, KCC Modern Living, a stream of teary-eyed customers appeared with good wishes and bottles of wine, because they thought he was going out of business. They needn’t have worried. He soon reopened just down the street at Sixth and University.
Caroll has earned a devoted following over the past 16 years because of his willingness to go the extra mile for his customers. (One appreciative interior designer described how Caroll consistently made sure items got delivered on time for clients’ projects.) The shop’s laid-back atmosphere and cheerful but subtle lighting—plus the aroma of real wood and leather—provide a welcome contrast to the big-box stores. “We try to make it an easy place to shop . . . . There’s no pressure, no people on commission.”
The Swedish-born Caroll describes his merchandise as “quality mid-range contemporary.” Most of the items are import-ed from Italian, Swedish and Danish manufacturers, and he works with fabricators in Los Angeles on custom work. His design sensibility is rooted in an appreciation for what is new: “I’m a modern person—I like open, noncluttered spaces, passive solar design. It’s clean, functional and airy.” The shop also features a rotating gallery of artwork from local artists.
KCC Modern Living, 805 University Ave., Berkeley, (510) 704-9928; www.kccmodernliving.com.
Coquette, the aptly named new boutique on Colusa Avenue in Berkeley, features hip and girly clothing you might expect to find in a Paris boutique, but at considerably more affordable prices. Owner Helen Liu chooses her merchandise with an eye for refinement: “They are quite reasonable for the amount of work that goes into them,” she says. Liu, who grew up in the neighborhood, left a job in the high-tech industry to open the shop. “Even in school I had a thing for fashion,” says Liu. “It was always in my mind to work in this industry.”
Just about everything here has some soft or playful element: a sleeveless tiered navy cashmere dress, a blousy pleated off-white Napa leather swing coat, a floaty lavender-blue silk tunic with round, ruched pockets. Pinstriped pants in navy or gray and straight and flared jeans (thankfully with a higher rise than the barely street legal that’s been popular the last few years) are paired with a finely embroidered white cotton blouse, a puff-sleeved cashmere tee, or cashmere sweaters in teal, true red and lavender. For punch she adds accessories from Juicy Couture, tees from DaNang, French Connection and TokiDoki, and for the well-balanced, sexy Dolce Vita four-inch heels, whose shimmering gold linings are as yummy as the shoes themselves.
Coquette, 884 Colusa Ave., Berkeley, (510) 527-3388; www.shopcoquette.com.
Heidi Werner’s business card for Lava 9, the new Berkeley branch of her successful San Francisco shop, advertises “Leather and Metal”—a slightly intimidating label for such a playful and welcoming store. The Berkeley version leans more toward jewelry—earrings, necklaces and rings—but also carries a full complement of colorful handbags, leather accessories, gloves and hats, all with a modern, fresh edge. All the jewelry displays are from recycled driftwood collected from the Berkeley Marina and rebar sculptures from Urban Ore, adding a gallery-like feeling to the shop.
Werner, who was born in Germany, likes European-influenced pieces. “They don’t have to be a certain style,” she says, “I just like to have new things and rotate them frequently.” The merchandise ranges from delicate to dramatic and from high-end, like gold and gemstone necklaces, to inexpensive multi-beaded “caviar” cocktail rings. “I like to have all price points so there’s something for everybody,” she says.
On a shelf sits her talisman, a golden boar from her husband. “I was born in the year of the boar,” she explains. “A friend told me that last year, the year of the boar, would be a good year for me to start something new.” She’s particularly happy to be working closer to her Berkeley home and two children, ages 5 and 13. “It’s great to be local in case the kids need me.”
Lava 9, 1797 Solano Ave., Berkeley, (510) 528-5336.
Staples, the national office superstore chain, opened in downtown Berkeley at the former Barnes and Noble spot on Shattuck amid community hoopla in April. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Berkeley Public Education Foundation Director Molly Franker received a $1,000 check from Staples for Berkeley’s public schools. Chamber of Commerce head Ted Garrett joined Bates and Franker in shredding (rather than cutting) the ribbon to officially open the store.
“It’s really great to be here in Berkeley. I like my clientele. They are all unique individuals,” says general manager Daniel Guiteras, who recently enjoyed a conversation with a Cal metaphysics professor who was shopping in the store. “I’m getting a tremendous amount of appreciation from customers in Berkeley.”
Guiteras, who lives in Hayward and spent most of his life in the East Bay, says he’s surprised at the number of customers who walk into the store’s front door instead of coming in the back adjacent to the 30-space parking lot.
Staples is headquartered in Boston and has 2,000 stores nationwide. Other East Bay Staples include one in El Cerrito and another in San Leandro.
Staples, 2352 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; (510) 704-0872, www.staples.com