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Room with a Past (1557A Third Ave., Walnut Creek, 925-933-1903) opens on Thursday evenings, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays with fresh vintage inventory and accessories, keeping true to the thrill of estate sales, which inspired the founders to offer finds to the public.
Scandinavian Designs (2101Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-8250; 1701 Arnold Industrial Pl., Concord, 925-827-4466) offers well-made furniture that's worth holding on to, and this chain is well stocked from bedroom to living room.
Target (various locations) is one big-box store that is actually fun to visit.
Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles (3742 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-763-3342), a nonprofit economic development project of the African People's Education and Defense Fund, is so full that furniture spills forth onto the sidewalk.
Bear Basics (2350 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-883-9050) features practically every piece of Cal clothing and paraphernalia ever made — in other words, it's the perfect hunting ground for gifts for your family back home.
Corazón del Pueblo (4814 International Blvd., Oakland, 510-532-6733, CorazondelPueblo.com) is more than just a cornucopia of imported Mexican posters, cards, clothing, crafts, and folk art.
Ellington & French (2942 Domingo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-8188, EllingtonandFrench.com) has practically everything in sight — from dishes to hand soap, linens to letterpress cards, necklaces to baby toys.
Heartfelt (6309 College Ave., Oakland, 510-655-9806) You'll delight in inexpensive crystal jewelry, little windup toys, stellar books, and clothes for kids, colorful kitchen supplies, wrapping paper and cards, and the famous "I hella [heart] Oakland" tees.
Ichiban Kan (10562 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, 510-528-5210) has a mesmerizing variety of Japanese imports, including Hello Kitty and friends knickknacks, beauty supplies, bento boxes and ceramic bowls, and snacks like Pocky and the sports drink Pocari Sweat.
Philippa Roberts (4176 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-0656, PhilippaRoberts.com) is best known for boasting a jaw-dropping selection of beautiful (yet not bank-account-emptying) brushed silver and semiprecious stone jewelry by its namesake designer.
Rockridge Home (5418 College Ave., Oakland, 510-420-1928) is a quirky store with a design arm, fun furniture, plush floor mats, trendy housewares, novelty books, baby products, green gizmos, and other relatively inexpensive items (bowls, glassware, plates, etc.) that make swell hostess gifts.
Sagrada Sacred Arts (4926 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-653-7196, Sagrada.com) offers pilgrims across many faith traditions everything from books on doctrinal esoterica and clerical vestments to prayer beads and rosaries to music and books.
San Quentin Prison Gift Shop (just inside the east gate of the prison, 100 Main St., San Quentin) features resident-made items like boxes, paperweights, and jewelry, as well as souvenir T-shirts and mugs.
The Treehouse Green Gifts (2935 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-204-9292, TreehouseGreenGifts.com) has something for everyone, regardless of whether you're shopping for a recycling fiend or a pal who could care less about saving the planet: stuffed animals sewn by rural women in Kenya; bags and wallets made from old leather jackets and other materials; reclaimed wood birdhouses; jewelry made from bark, buttons, typewriter keys, aluminum.
Urban Indigo (3339 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, 510-419-0451), a kitschy-cool shop, is crammed with unique treasures — jewelry, toys, stationery, candles, wallets, bags, hand towels, cards, candles — with surprisingly reasonable price tags.
Jewelry, Shoes, & Accessories
The 14 Karats (2910 College Ave. Berkeley, 510-644-1640, 14Karats.com), an Elmwood institution for thirty years, is an independent, pretense-free shop specializing in setting conflict-free diamonds and other precious gemstones in unique gold, palladium, and platinum settings.
A Step Forward (4018 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-339-0500) sets the bar for independent shoe shops with a stellar selection featuring brands including Aerosoles, Born, Diesel, Simple, Wanted, and Dansko.
Adidas Originals Concept Store (2333 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-704-1934) offers limited-edition and vintage-comeback shoes, sportswear, hats, watches, and other accessories.
Berkeley Hat Company (2510 Telegraph Ave. Berkeley, 510-549-2955, BerkeleyHat.com) has fedoras, Panama hats, Stetsons, fancy felt church hats, Kangol caps, hats especially for big heads, and more.
Bows & Arrows (2513 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-649-6683, BowsandArrowsBerkeley.com) is akin to a MOMA gift shop filled with sneakers.
Deliciouz (1354 North Main St., Walnut Creek, 925-933-7489, Deliciouz.com) has fabulous flats and heels by European and domestic designers that you won't find anywhere else.
District (2332 Alameda Ave., Alameda, 510-865-1640, DistrictFootwear.com) is a specialty sneaker boutique housed in a gorgeous old building next to the Alameda Museum.
Dr. Harlan Wong's (1928 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-4030) will give you a thorough exam and help you pick the ideal frames for your look as well as your pocketbook — styles start at $42 and stop at, well, Moschino.
Elmwood Village Shoes (2915 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-845-4054) has a small yet refined selection of stylish comfortable shoes — and incredibly attentive customer service to boot.
Hat Guys (1764 Broadway, Oakland, 510-834-6868, HatGuys.com) is another superstore where you can pick from hundreds of styles, including a particularly vast array of dress hats.
Lunettes du Monde (1799E Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-559-8181) combs the globe for distinctive, flattering frames made from the lightest, thinnest, most flexible materials.
M. Lowe & Co. (1519 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. 510-486-0613) carries a vast array of beautiful beads and baubles that range from not-so-pricey Indian silver to diamond necklaces that cost as much as a nice new car.
Moderne Eye Optometry (5802 College Ave., Oakland, 510-653-4242) may be pricey, but it boasts over-the-top customer service that's something of a local legend.
Pavé Fine Jewelry (5496 College Ave., Oakland, 510-547-7000; 1778 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-528-7300, PaveFineJewelry.com) has a crisp and shiny decor à la your typical high-end gem shop, but the affable employees are prone to grin at you rather than glare — and they'll help you find (or design) the jewels of your dreams.
Seven Days - December 9, 6:10 PM
Culture Spy - December 8, 6:10 PM
Seven Days - December 8, 2:33 PM
What the Fork - December 6, 3:51 PM
Seven Days - December 6, 9:52 AM