Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 20, 2014

Mind your own business

Filed under: Alameda, Business — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

You all are on Alameda Peeps on Facebook right?  If not, you can always hit me up for an add but honestly if you have a low tolerance for complaints you should probably pass.  There are several threads which generally hit the same overarching theme: retail shops.  Most people are not pleased that there are too many chain stores, or nail shops, or yogurt place, or [insert despised retailer of choice here].

And I know I’ve written my own numerous responses to these complaints about the “wrong” kind of retailers in Alameda.  But because people are freaking out about the chain retailers at Alameda Landing and then picking on local whipping boy: the nail salon, it’s probably a good time to write this.

First with regard to Alameda Landing.  According to the deal agreed to years and years ago, in order for Alameda Landing to not decimate the Webster Street corridor there was an agreement that the retail spaces for Alameda Landing would all have a larger square footage.  That way, the small mom and pop shops needing smaller footprints (think Cookiebar) could find a suitably sized home on Webster Street and wouldn’t be tempted to move to shinier digs at Alameda Landing — because all the spaces would be too big.  However, because the spaces are bigger the natural tenant that would be able to invest in a larger footprint would be a chain retail store.   And not any chain retail store, typically chains that are owned by a corporation and not your friendly local franchisee trying to make a living as a small business.  That’s why you’ll probably only see some larger scale chain business at Alameda Landing.  Because it’s there by design.  Naturally your artisan shop selling handmade baby sweaters knit by blind Tibetan nuns would be welcomed, but the demand is probably not high enough to keep it in business despite people declaring that they want unique items and not “junk from China.”

Second, about those nail shops.  Again, these shops are generally small owner operated businesses which I thought we are all supposed to be in love with and want to support.  And typically owned by people of color — mostly my peeps of color: the Vietnamese.   If no one wanted to get their nails and toes done or their eyebrows waxed all of these businesses would go out of business.  That’s the way that business generally works.   If you are able to make a profit and the business is still popular, people stay in business.  If no one visits your store and buys your products or uses your services, you close up shop.  Despite people’s head scratching as to how all these shops manage to stay open, they do, and it because people get their nails done and their eyebrows (and other parts) waxed.  Until the day that the unibrow comes back into vogue and the natural look is in for nails, people are going to visit these nail shops and I guess people will continue to bitch about them like they’re selling arsenic laced candy or something.

Third, if people don’t shop at these awesome stores we currently have and just lookie-loo through them and then go home and buy the products on Amazon because it’s cheaper, there is NO WAY these awesome boutiques can stay in business.   So people can say all the time “oh I wish there was x, y, z in Alameda” but if the market, aka the people from Alameda, can’t support that business then they are not going to come.   You aren’t going to see a restaurant selling $4 toast in Alameda probably ever because Alameda can’t support it.   As classy and hip as we want to be in Alameda, we still love us some hamburgers and all those hamburger joints know that and want to cater to us.

Fourth, for god’s sake people do realize the Subway and restaurants like those are franchises, right?   That means that some family has saved up enough money to plop down some cash, or taken the risk through a small business loan,  for the ability to live the dream as a small business owner.  Maybe you are too good for a $5 foot long (I don’t think this deal exists any more though…) but these are folks just trying to make a legitimate living.

So you can sit there and blame the powers that be and the City mothers and fathers so foisting chain stores and nail shops on us, but the power to bring business to Alameda and keep them here doesn’t lie with City government.  The power is with people’s pocket books.  If you don’t support the businesses that are here, then they will leave and they won’t be replaced by some hip and happening business full of handmade baby sweaters.



  1. I believe, however it’s worded, the issue is less “what kind of business?” than “do we really need to fill every available space of the city with crap generic retail and housing?” It is quality of life: If we had wanted to live in San Leandro or Emeryville, we would’ve moved there in the first place.

    I see the thread you savage on Alameda Peeps as less a request for different kinds of commerce in that generic shopping center and housing project than more a mourning for the things that once made Alameda unique.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — August 20, 2014 @ 6:31 am

  2. Quality of life is supported by revenues generated by the city residents. Without growth/change of retail/housing in a city then city can not possibly provide the services like schools, parks, well maintained streets, and safety services.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — August 20, 2014 @ 7:42 am

  3. Speaking of franchises looks like a battle loyal in Sacramento over corporate say over local franchises:

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — August 20, 2014 @ 7:55 am

  4. If there was not a demand for those types of land uses, those “crap generic retail” businesses would dry up and that housing would remain unrented or unsold. It’s one thing to say “oh it would be nice to see retailer x, y, z” which always seems to be some sort of request for a chain store, but it’s a bit elitist to be openly scornful of small businesses that are trying to make a go of it and are filling a niche that needs to be served.

    Comment by Lauren Do — August 20, 2014 @ 8:42 am

  5. Lauren – Well said.

    We try to “buy local”–and spend our money here. I think our biggest expenditures are for food–mostly at the Tuesday Farmer’s Market–and I think that counts as “local,” too. Lots of our transportation budget–which is not really “discretionary spending” in our household, BTW–is spent at Stone’s Cyclery (est. 1943 by Dennis Stone’s father) and Alameda Bicycle (est. a bit later by Gene Oh’s parents), and when we eat out we go to locally-owned restaurants 99% of the time…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 20, 2014 @ 9:03 am

  6. Some of the people on that Alameda Peeps string about the “horror” of nail shops are now complaining about Capones and how awful it will be and how they hate the name, the man,,blah blah..way to support new businesses in Alameda. Alameda Peeps started out as a valuable resouce but should be retitled Alameda Whinefest sometimes …went downhill pretty fast. and yeah- I am always amazed when they talk about the businesses that they want here and then list a obvious chain store and don’t seem to understand that it is a chain store. I have seen dozens of mom&pops go in this town in 20 years because people talk big/ whine loud about Alameda’ uniqueness and then order from Amazon instead of going to a local place and paying more.
    I am not a big fan of dozens of nail shops, bubble drink stores, hair salons galore etc personally but some people keep saying that rents should go up because the market will bear it and that makes it ok – same rules for nail shops- if the market will bear it- better than rows of empty store fronts which Alameda also has a bunch of these days.

    Comment by librarycat — August 20, 2014 @ 9:11 am

  7. Mind your own business
    by Lauren Do

    Mr Mc Mahon the City can afford to pay for everything on your ,
    that is assuming we are not paying staff to go fishing on the San Leandro estuary and busted by the Oakland PD as the officer thought they were stolen vehicles , or paying for a painter to sleep in his van after reading His newspaper for hours at the time everyday in the dead end alley by the Corning glass factory until I finally brought it the OPD Officer on that beat {Officer Smithy} who went thru His van His ID etc {that is after 2 years of watching Him laying bacon . There is a joke going around town about that bird , apparently I was not the only one getting P.O} while teachers are scrapping the lucky jar to buy their coffee while it is in your budget at the school district office . Along with donught or parties .

    Please, prove me wrong post the AUSD expenditure in this blog……not the budget , show us the cost for the going away party {s} for the superintendent .
    That would be embarrassing in an election year wouldn’t it , nice thorn , institutionalize waste I call it the Teachers are not to blame , they are ion the receiving end of nothing.
    Would anyone in this blog pay 2 1/2 to 3 times the recommended retail price for audio visual , I gave the retailers recommended price list to the purchasing .
    These are 3 examples I am quite certain there are far more out there as I recall a landscaper cutting the grass while it was raining , I thank Him for it to which He replied and this was funny , everyone else is in the shop because of the weather????? Paden School 1990’s .

    You have the money you are squandering it away , nothing different than any other school as we installed very elaborate presentation system at san Francisco State , I waited at least 2 hours in the hallway by the “maintenance office to get access to the room” they were watching soap opera, finally someone passing by asked me what I was doing , my reply was ” I am milking the university at $35 dollars an hour while for these idiots to finish watching all my Children and it’s ok with Me I wait my shift end in 2 hours take away 1/2 hour for clean up , another 1/2 to find my vehicle , I might as well go home now or actually why don’t I stay Home and you send me a check for every hour I wait the project is delayed by a day , the key for the elevator appeared like a Giny out of Alladin’s lamp …” the lifer freeloader said while handing it to me of these lifer freeloader said , I don’t know why you are installing that junk “$500 000.00t” the building will close for earthquake retrofitting , we will have to put everything in storage for a couples years .
    As I question the IT they said we were awarded those fund , we have to spend it .

    Would anyone reading this blog use a 2 year old computer fresh out of storage , No it is outdated !

    This is the tragedy in many public school , however I found a very different business approach at Stanford , San Jose State , Cupertino , de Anza , Salinas , Sacramento and countless other when we rolled in , they wanted the job finished ASAP in the bay area you be lucky to get in the building after 9 AM .

    You may not like my poor English ,these are facts .

    Dave I do apologize for the long post but as a tax payer you are entitled to know how your taxes are spend.

    Comment by Joel Rambaud — August 20, 2014 @ 9:35 am

  8. people have been writing letters complaining about another Wallgreen’s on Park. It’s curious to me also that Wallgreen’s has invested so much money in yet another store only a dozen blocks from the one at the mall. The CVS is a couple notches down from Long’s but the pharmacy service is much faster than Wallgreen’s at South Shore and there is no drive through at CVS. BTW-our son told me that drive throughs are prohibited in the city of San Louis Obispo which is not exactly Berkeley. Anyway, back to Wallgreen’s. Maybe CVS will be driven out of business, but at least the Wallgreen’s building is reasonable facade. A recent complaint was that Wallgreen’s corporate has been threatening to go off shore. That practice by corporations is bad, but the complaints seem to imply the City government is at fault. Also heard Wallgreen’s had reversed on that. I don’t purchase from Amazon, especially books. I know how great Kindle is, but so is making a living by writing books. The world is so much more complicated than it used to be. Impossible for a person who is highly principled to live without breaching some rule or other.

    You can buy this read at Books Inc.

    Comment by MI — August 20, 2014 @ 9:38 am

  9. Niche filling….I admire a small business which brings something to Alameda we don’t already have. But I question your sanity when you want to open the 50th nail shop or yogurt place when there are already 49 here. If the niche is already filled, why are you trying to overflow it? It just doesn’t make sense that so many of the same businesses would survive on an island barely ten miles long. Is there some “plow under” subsidy for underpatronized nail shops that I don’t know about?

    Personally, I just assume many of these duplicate businesses are just being used as fronts for money laundering, prostitution, narcotics, or some other nefarious business. Remember that guy with the personalized license plate on his RollsRoyce who ran a “check-cashing business” out of the Fosters Freeze…?

    Comment by vigi — August 20, 2014 @ 10:11 am

  10. At each Board meeting, AUSD expenditures are published. From the August 12th meeting:

    The going away party for the Superintendent at Eagles Hall was paid for by the Board members and Senior Staff out of personal funds.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — August 20, 2014 @ 10:39 am

  11. I don’t see anything wrong with chain stores if that is all we have to fill the space. I would like to see Gap/Banana Republic which are headquartered in SF…so they are sort of local. There is no place to buy men’s clothes here unless you go to Target, Kohl’s, Ross, TJ Max or Old Navy which are all chain stores. Webster St. I haven’t noticed all the nail places or yogurt places, but there are a lot hair places.

    We don’t really go to the Farmers Market because there is no parking in the area. The street parking is full unless you want to circle blocks for 20 minutes. The Farmers Market at Jack London is great because they have a lot of room and parking. They have that produce place by Alameda Theatre – I would like to see something like that at Alameda Landing but the rent probably would be to high. Maybe on the base they could build a Berkeley Bowl or Whole foods in the retail space.

    Other than that I don’t see any niche things we need. Maybe a candle store…maybe there is some room for niche. Our house is full as it is. We just buy food, shoes and clothes.

    If we need something for the yard or house we go to the Home Depot…I dislike the hardware stores in Alameda. We really don’t shop online either. We bought our mower online, just because Home Depot was out of the cordless electric and our patio umbrella because I had a gift certificate.

    Comment by Joseph — August 20, 2014 @ 12:11 pm

  12. 9. how about Scandinavian furniture on Park? The same furniture can be purchased in Berkeley for much cheaper. We’ve never seen anybody shop there, but they’ve been there since we moved here. When we moved here Alameda was also known for meth dealing ( before the epidemic). I once joked to Don Roberts that the furniture store was a meth front, he laughed. There has always been at least one high end women’s boutique on Park languishing. They take turns going out of business. Alameda, the money laundering capitol of the East Bay. At least the landlords get rent and the store fronts aren’t vacant.

    Comment by MI — August 20, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

  13. 11. former City Manager Jim Flint tried stealth plan for heart lung transplant to Park Street with national development team out of Texas, Trammel Crow. It would have brought stores like Gap, Restoration Hardware and a Borders to the Alameda Theater site. Thanks to John Knowles (?) investment in 1300 block and patience we’ve emerged from the early 1990s where the restaurants choices were Ollie’s and The Courtyard ( which was not bad), and we had the infamous Silver Building, etc. It ain’t all bad.

    Comment by MI — August 20, 2014 @ 12:25 pm

  14. MI you are talking about Park St. We have lived here 9 years and probably have been to Park St. 9 times not counting the Theatre. We live on the West End…there is no reason for us to go to Park St. except Alameda Bicycle. I do like the bagel shop for breakfast bagels next to Starbucks on Park St., but now they have Levy’s Bagel’s over here on Webster St. also next to Starbuck (although it is not as good).

    I do like Restoration Hardware also but have never bought anything from them, but we did get some ideas from going into the store on 4th St. in Berkley.

    Comment by Joseph — August 20, 2014 @ 1:07 pm

  15. 14. I was speaking to your remarks about chain stores in general. Webster was completely asleep when Flint rolled out the Trammel Crow plan, and the fallout resulted in a charrette for revitalizing Park Street. Some thought Trammel Crow was a rare opportunity, which if not acted upon would leave Park Street loping along for decades. The consultant for the charrette reported that theaters and restaurants are symbiotic, but critical mass of restaurants by themselves trump a theater. It’s not about East or West, but about the diversity of options in any location. Chain stores mostly appear in malls, but that was a plan for infusing a group of them right in the middle of “downtown” shopping area, thus my “heart lung transplant” reference. .
    West Cafe may have the best latte on the island, and don’t ask why. Also have to give a nod to Blue Dot in central Alameda as a nice spot. In 1991 there was barely any reason to go to Webster Street unless you wanted a tattoo at Ricky’s or to hang out at a bar, and Croel’s has always had something going on. Park Street has always had the juice, with City Hall, the main library, and now the theater, a book store and critical mass of restaurants, many of them good enough to return.

    I think there are a ton of things which continue to differentiate Alameda from San Leandro of Emeryville, but Alameda Landing may not be one of them. Let’s hope the housing portion is less islotaed and weird than the stuff at 40th and Telegraph.

    Comment by MI — August 20, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

  16. I must apologize to all getting all has it’s inconveniences then you get a burst of fresh air . Lauren you are complaining about rent and cost of leaving , do you recall not too long ago when you all said it was part of gentrification ….
    You can’t have it both way , Sorry!

    Comment by Joel Rambaud — August 20, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

  17. ah gentrification. It’s pervasive….

    Comment by MI — August 20, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

  18. MI – I don’t see anything wrong with gentrification or some chain stores. We didn’t move here to see it stay the same or that “small town feel”, it is one of the largest cities in the Bay Area at least a few years ago when I checked. 9 years ago we move here because of the location and the house. We probably will be staying here at least until our mortgage is paid off and we are retired. If I wanted to stay in a small little city which never changed I would have stayed in Oregon, but that is just me.

    Comment by Joseph — August 20, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

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