Fantasy Pick Comes True: Hummus

A while ago, we were looking at Montclair Village’s prime storefronts that were “for rent” and made fantasy picks about new food and non-food occupants.  Among the fantasies, we wanted someone to “offer Middle Eastern takeout, including authentic falafel, hummus, tabouli, salads, etc.  Why wait for the falafel stand on Sundays?”

Over on Moraga Avenue, that fantasy pick is coming true.  We took snapshots of Amba, which plans to serve up all the good stuff – namely falafel, hummus, salads and fries. The store posted their “opening soon” sign along with construction permits received last May.

Amba - Soon

We noticed activity near Amba, and peeked inside to see construction underway.  The counter features cool green-aqua-white tiles.  Also the place seems large enough to have tables and chairs inside, which the Village needs.

Amba - Construction

The workers, who were pulling wires today, didn’t know very much about the place.  Based on the building materials scattered around, there should be some walls going up soon.  While it’s hard to read tea-leaves about Amba’s opening day, I’ll guess less than a month or two.

We originally made our fantasy pick to replace the old Jamba Juice location.  However you won’t hear any complaints, at least from this corner, about the proper location for Middle Eastern morsels – it’s terrific to have this fast-food option in the Village.

Oakland, The Manufacturing City Of The West

You could say that Oakland’s searching for its next identity.  Are we aspiring to become the Brooklyn or Amsterdam of the West?  We have some momentum in these directions.  While the jury’s still out, one thing we know is that our old, heavy manufacturing glory days are behind us.

Nearly a hundred years ago, Oaklanders were actively promoting their industrial charms and grasping for that manufacturing brass ring.  We recently unearthed a 1920 publication that’s meant to lure more business to Greater Oakland – and is called Oakland, The Manufacturing City of the West.

Oakland Metro - Intro

Oakland Boosters In Full Swing

Current Oakland boosters might recognize this kind of hard-sell pitch, complete with bragging rights about our perfect weather.  Though we don’t believe you need scientists to “state that 59 degrees marks perfection.”

The grandiose language reflects a different time, though.  Come join “the industrial center of a State larger than the Kingdom of Italy.”  Come join a “city of world possibilities, a city of leadership and service – a city of destiny.”  These declarations are a bit much!

Oakland Metro - Products

Big-Time Manufacturing Here

By 1920, there were so many different goods manufactured here.  We knew about the food and shipbuilding businesses, but were surprised to learn that artificial limbs, violins, washing machines and adding machines also came from local factories.  It’s hard to imagine that 18,000 products were manufactured in 2,000 industrial plants.

War-time shipbuilding became a major source of employment and the Moore Company loomed large.  Others like Bethlehem Steel showed up for a short time as well.  But Moore had staying power by extending its tendrils everywhere and, between wars, firing up ancillary businesses to support building construction.

Moore - Paramount Balcony

The Manufacturing Legacy

Moore always commemorated their projects with photographs of employees and other VIPs.  My favorite image is their huge steel girder (above), ready for the Paramount Theatre balcony.  When the girder was manufactured in 1931, Moore claimed it was the heaviest and largest piece ever built on the West Coast:  105 tons and 120 x 9.5 feet.  Some eighty years later, that balcony continues to support theater-goers.

Oakland’s manufacturing heyday is long gone, and those 2,000 plants have vanished without much trace.  Production and transportation don’t have to be in the same place anymore.  Our 2009 aspirations aren’t exactly clear, but it’s probably a good thing to diversify – get known for some things, get other things fixed.

More info:  Thanks to the National Park Service’s Maritime Library.  After I searched their old-fashioned card catalog, the librarians delivered materials and also gave permission to xerox and share images online.

Thank You, Dimond Post Office

Did you hear the good news?  The U.S. Postal Service has decided their post offices located in Dimond and Montclair will remain open for business – and all is right with the world.

Montclarions should tip their hats to Dimond community organizers, who zealously signed up everyone they could to save their district’s office.  They rallied to the cause!  We’re convinced that some of their pixsy dust was shared with Montclair, too.

U.S. Postage Stamp, 1947

Of course, local residents and merchants were very, very upset about the prospects of losing our village post office.  One way we gauged concerns?  At Today in Montclair, our late July posting about this potential closure was one of the most-viewed postings ever!

This reprieve was first reported by District 4 Council Rep Jean Quan last week, and she also mentioned it during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.  The Montclarion dug out some more of the news and facts, too.

When all was said and done, the Dimond and Montclair locations were status quo.  Unfortunately the fates of three other Oakland spots – Mills College,  Station B (Franklin Street) and Kaiser Center – remain unclear now.  And Mills was given that post office and unique zip code by U.S. President William McKinley, or so we heard during a campus tour.

In Montclair, why not stop by our local P.O. and congratulate the workers there?  When discussing the situation with them earlier, they were justifiably worried about their jobs and encouraged more business to prove their worth.  Well things worked out for everyone, and it’s nice to share a little good news.

One Last Parking Deal In Our Village

Ever since the meter rates increased, we have made a habit of using the Montclair Village garage, sandwiched between Medau Place and La Salle Avenue.  After all, the City of Oakland charged only $1.25/hour there!

This week, the City inevitably got around to raising the rate which now matches the $2.00/hour meters.  I still believe the garage is very handy because you don’t have to futz with time limits.  Plus that cashier with the cool, long fingernails is very nice.  Is that enough?

Monthly Parking Only

Well, there’s one last parking deal in our village. Our garage offers a monthly rate, though I don’t know how many people take advantage of this flexible deal.  If you spend at least 45 hours parked in Montclair, then it makes sense to plunk down $90/month.

We like the idea of paying for nearly unlimited hours, but don’t spend sufficient time to achieve break-even.  However for “parking flakes” who forget the time and get nailed with fines, this $90 monthly fee might be a better kind of ticket.

Waiting For Messiah, Tony Batts

I, Anthony Batts, solemnly swear or affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United States, Constitution of the State of California, and Charter of the City of Oakland and, truly and to the best of my abilities, perform the duties of the office of the Chief of Police.

At tonight’s Oakland City Council meeting, Mayor Ron Dellums performed a ceremonial “swearing in” of Tony Batts.  His loved ones were there.  San Francisco’s Police Chief George Gascon showed up.  And a contingent of Batts’ Long Beach cops traipsed north for this ceremony.

Praying For Messiah

Of course, the City Council welcomed our new chief with open arms.  My favorite comment came from Council Rep Rebecca Kaplan, who was up first and declared that “we’re going to hold off on the swearing at you for as long as possible.”  Isn’t that great?

Other Council reps also shared their expectations, and were hopeful about what Chief Batts could accomplish in Oakland.  Here are a few curated points from their welcome statements:

  • My sense is that you will do really well.
  • This time next year…crime [will be] lower.
  • I will entrust in you, to build the confidence.
  • There’s a lot that’s on your shoulders, and we’re in good hands.
  • I can’t wait until you have rolled up your sleeves.
  • We’re counting on you.
  • You have a contract.  I believe you are up to the task.
  • We are one voice, and now it’s entirely up to you.
  • We all have very high hopes.
  • Take the department to the next level.

We know that Tony Batts brings some great experience from down south, and clearly took this job to “do good” for Oakland.  Let’s wait and see whether the new police chief really is the next coming of the Messiah!