Tucked away in a tiny corner of central Berkeley’s Trumpetvine Court is a lush and exotic new boutique and gift store called Cherry Blossoms. Owners Sharon Anderson and Francisca Santibáñez opened the shop in June, initially as a showcase for Santibáñez’s jewelry–bold and sensual pieces made from chunky semi-precious stones (many from her native Brazil), silver, copper, and gold. “I’m inspired by the healing properties of gems and metals,” says Santibáñez, whose father was a metallurgical engineer.
Everything in the store is designed to appeal to the senses. Multi-colored silk curtains hang from the ceilings, carved wood display cases are filled with Moroccan glazed pottery, African sculpture and beadwork, and Mexican pottery and lemonwood boxes. “We encourage our customers to handle the merchandise,” Anderson says.
World beat music plays in the background and wafting through the air is the fragrance of handmade oils and natural skin products from Venus B, the Oakland-based alchemist who distills all her oils in her home. Much of the clothing, including cut-velvet beaded robes and Indian beaded tops and skirts, are one-of-a-kind wearable art. Gift items include Moroccan glass lamps, Guatemalan beaded pillows, hand-tooled cutwork leather bags and pouches from Paraguay, delicate cards with Japanese, Indian, and contemporary artwork designs. The store has already become a favorite with U.C. Berkeley staff–likely from the history and anthropology departments.
They also carry a wide selection of Téance teas and plan to include a small teashop to complete the sensual feast.
Cherry Blossoms, 2115 Allston Way, #1, Berkeley, (510) 647-5023.
At Your Feet
If you are planning on installing or upgrading your hardwood floors and don’t have a design background, it can be frustrating trying to hold up those 18″ square samples and imagine what your entire floor will look like. Problem solved: Tulip Hardwood Floors recently opened a 4,000-square-foot showroom in Albany that features a showroom floor (literally!) made up of dozens of wide swaths of flooring samples in every color and wood imaginable.
At your feet you’ll find a vast selection of domestic woods–oak, maple, cherry, walnut, hickory–from Appalachia, and the Bay Area’s largest selection of imported and ecologically-farmed exotic woods (see The Monthly’s March 2005 article on sustainable flooring). You can also traipse across bamboo (in 50 colors), cork flooring, and hand-scraped and salvaged woods. Avi Atid, the company’s founder, says he is constantly researching new technology, new lines, and how the materials are grown, harvested, treated, and finished.
Most hardwood flooring is installed without visible nails. For the chemically sensitive, many of the woods are available pre-stained and treated at the factory, thus customers avoid fumes from sealers or stains in their home, as well as the dust and debris from sanding. Tulip offers well-trained and experienced flooring technicians, but also makes its materials available to outside contractors.
Tulip Hardwood Floors Showroom, 724 San Pablo Avenue, Albany, (510) 524-2080; www.tulipfloors.com.
I. Elle, the successful women’s clothing and accessory store based in Yountville (with two others in St. Helena and Sonoma), opened a branch in July at the site of the old Ovation shop on College Avenue in Berkeley. Chelsea Levine, the store’s manager and daughter of the owners Robbie and Cathy Stephens, says the location is a great fit since her father grew up in Oakland. “Also my mother’s family is here and she always loved this neighborhood, so when she learned that Molly was retiring [the former owner of Ovation] and selling the shop, she jumped right on it.”
The Stephenses have benefited from carryover customers, but their merchandise is a notch higher-end featuring dressy and casual pieces from BCBG, Laundry, Trina Turk, Kay Celine, Ann Ferriday, Max Studio, and Hanky Panky. You’ll find lacy tops, leather and suede jackets, well-cut jeans and pants, playful Hobo and bold Francesco Biasia bags, and shoes from Pazzo and Matisse. “This is the place you shop when you’re looking for unique items,” says Levine. “We try to provide excellence in craftsmanship at a very fair price.”
Levine is a professional image consultant and offers wardrobe, beauty, and personal style consultations by appointment and for the store’s customers.
I. Elle, 3206 College Avenue, Berkeley, (510) 652-2533.
No Bones About It
Corazon del Pueblo, a cheery Mexican emporium in the Fruitvale District, celebrates Dia de Los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead (November 2), with a fiesta on October 29 from 6 to 9 p.m. (call to reserve space). This ancient pre-Columbian celebration pays tribute to the fall harvest and honors those who have passed. The festival has gained momentum in the past several years. “Several non-Latino customers tell me that they are setting up altars in their homes to honor their ancestors,” says storeowner Josefina Lopez.
Playful skeletons–the symbolic representation of Dia de Los Muertos–appear everywhere in numerous incarnations: as plastic puppets, collectible painted wood and ceramic sculpture, on whimsical skeleton-patterned fabric, and in humorous glass-enclosed artworks called nichos (meaning niches). For October’s celebration, Lopez offers workshops on fabricating caliveras, brightly colored sugar skulls made from plastic molds.
If you don’t make it into the shop until after November 2, you can check out the Remains of the Day of the Dead (sorry, couldn’t resist), as well as irresistible, brightly-colored tin Christmas decorations (angels, fish, armadillos, cacti), papel picado (paper cut-out garlands), Mexican art posters and historical photographs, traditional clothing, pottery, and tin relief friezes, or repujado including Lopez’s own beautiful pieces. Many of her customers are schoolteachers, as was Lopez, who retired after 30 years with the Oakland School District, and she has made the store a focal point for Latino culture. The gallery space at the back of the store houses a rotating exhibit of artwork by local Latino artists, currently featuring Dia de Los Muertos themes.
Corazon del Pueblo, 4814 International Boulevard, Oakland, (510) 532-6733; www.corazondelpueblo.com.