News about great shops in your neighborhood

News about great shops in your neighborhood

Bollywood Style
Evelyn Grew-al took a two-year sabbatical from a corporate marketing job to travel to India with her husband and came back with some unanticipated gifts: two adopted siblings for their son, and a new business, Zeba Home. The final addition to North Berkeley’s Solano Avenue complex, Zeba Home is the only U.S. factory-direct outlet of an Indian company that manufactures and designs floor-to-ceiling home textiles. Grewal was impressed with the company’s global vision and social commitment: “They use no child labor, the offices and plants were air-conditioned, and the workers all looked happy,” she says. The look is fresh, hip, and exquisitely crafted.

Zeba carries decorative cushions and pillows with sparkly textures and contemporary patterns, rugs designed to customers’ specifications and size, one-of-a-kind quilts and duvets, plus everything for “top of table”—tablecloths, runners, place mats, and napkins. The store also offers numerous fabric swatches of luscious woven silks for upholstery, bedding covers, curtain panels, and colorful lamps that create defused mood lighting. “We carry mostly unique pieces so it’s unlikely that your neighbors will have the same thing you do,” says Grewal. And the company contributes a percentage of all earnings to Children’s Hope India, helping street children get an education.

Zeba Home, 1820 Solano Avenue, Suite B-1, Berkeley, (510) 558-0993;

El Cerrito Treasure
Eclectix, the four-month-old, aptly-named gift shop just down from Fatapple’s in El Cerrito, features the kind of offbeat funky treasures you might find in the Haight: a selection of vintage clothing like Hawaiian shirts, bow ties, gloves, and hats; midcentury kitchenware; authentic Cuban, hand-carved coconut-shell maracas; tiki items; cowboy lunch boxes; lava lamps; pink flamingos; pirate-themed items; Tim Burton merchandise; and “action” figures of Jane Austen, Sigmund Freud, and Marie Antoinette—with an ejectable head.

Owner Patricia Zemanek, a former illustrator for the Los Angeles Times, has been haunting thrift stores since her teens. “Many of the vintage items are from my private collection,” she says. The mother of two preteen girls, Zemanek also carries lots of kids’ stuff including pencil toppers (featuring black cats, devils, yellow duckies, and Buddha), Emily items (the sullen waif with black cats), playful “boo boo” bandages, gold crowns with colorful gem stones, and glitter balls. Zemanek’s “tyke travel totes”—entertainment for a day at the beach or a ride in the car—include crayons, cards, drawing supplies, bubble necklaces, and other fun items. At the back of the store is a rotating art gallery showcasing local and West Coast artists. A new show, “All Gurlz,” featuring all women artists, opens July 7.
“ Stop by and check us out after your pumpkin pancakes next door!” says Zemanek.

Eclectix, 7523 Fairmount Avenue, El Cerrito, (510) 364-7261.

Bar None
Chocolate lovers rejoice! Ching Sipin, long-time chocoholic, followed her passion around the world to discover the best domestic and international candy makers, and the result is Chocolat, a little gem of a sweet shop on Solano Avenue just opened in April. In addition to local favorites like Scharffen Berger, Joseph Schmidt, Charles Chocolates, and XOX Truffles, the shop features an enormous variety of the highest-rated chocolates from Belgium, France, Russia, and the boutique Italian company Amadei, recently featured in Food and Wine magazine and available in few stores nationwide. “I’ve tried every single one of their bars and not one disappointed me,” Sipin says. Amadei’s white chocolate with pistachio is her favorite. “It tastes like no white chocolate I’ve ever had,” she says. Amadei’s Porcelana bar, made from a rare cacao bean, is the most expensive one Sipin sells at $14 for under 2 ounces. “The company makes only 20,000 bars of it every year and each one is numbered,” she explains.

On one side of the store, signs indicating “Dark,” “Milk,” and “White” make selection easier. Other chocolate-related items include scented candles, baking blocks, 20 kinds of hot cocoa, truffles, chocolate fondue dip, and brownies made to order. There are gift baskets for the chocolate lover, and party trays featuring an assortment of truffles and other chocolates.

Chocolat, 1485-A Solano Avenue, Albany, (510) 528-2462;

Cover-all merchandise
Patu is the name of a seaside village at the boot of Italy and is also Farsi for “blanket.” Bijan Zahedi’s new bed and bath furnishings shop of the same name elegantly combines both ideas. Zahedi redesigned the interior of his former Persian rug store (from which he retired in 2005), adding a fountain at the entrance, Spanish marble floors, mirrored walls, and floor-to-ceiling columns—creating the feeling of a luxurious home. “I thought the local community could use a linen shop and decided to do it right here,” says Zahedi, who opened Patu in November 2005.

All of Patu’s merchandise is factory direct, which explains why silky, 400-count Egyptian cotton sheet sets are sold at near wholesale prices (queen sets for $82). “You can’t find this quality in the department stores at this price,” says Zahedi.
Patu sells duvets, cashmere throws from Mongolia, 100% Australian wool blankets, thick cotton towels, bathrobes, and chenille and double-sided cotton floor mats. All the soft, rich colors for the bedding, and towel and bath mat sets are coordinated. “I chose them based on the palette of the yarns I used when I repaired antique rugs,” Zahedi says. Imported natural bath and body products, candles, soap dishes, slippers, silk flowers, and a series of abstract marble accessories will ensure you never want to leave the comfort of your bed and bathroom.

Patu, 1235 Grand Avenue, Piedmont, (510) 658-0203.

Faces of the East Bay