Saddest Intersection In Village

What’s the saddest intersection in Montclair Village?  That’s easy, it’s Mountain Boulevard and Medau Place.  When the long-lived Montclair Wines closed a while ago, we assumed this coveted spot would get snapped up.  Instead, the corner quickly took on a lovely, abandoned look.

Here’s the shuttered shop these days, flanked by holiday banners on the light poles.  A few weeks ago, the leftover shelves and contents were cleared out and blinds were mostly drawn closed.  Now it simply cries, “take care of me!”

What will the future tenant want or need here?  When you get up close, maybe things aren’t all that bad.  The empty building looks pretty decent, the sidewalk’s fixed up, and there’s even a little (very little) greenery.

The renter surely will get rid of this lovely graffiti-art that’s so prominent.  Come to think of it, why isn’t the defacement removed already?  It might help to market this location and space better.

We hope some retailer sees this location as a diamond in the rough, and makes it shine soon.  Maybe our fantasy picks, like a scrapbooking shop/studio or spa goods place, would fit the bill.  The place is so forlorn and lonely right now!

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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We originally made our fantasy pick to replace the old Jamba Juice location.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.

Re4m: New Gift Shop Without Guilt

One of the newcomers to the Village shopping scene this past week is re4m, pronounced “reform.”  It’s a place with high ideals, to “re-claim, re-source, re-invent and re-commit.”  All I know is that the shop features great gifts for friends or family, and nothing would destroy my budget either.

re4m location

The shop feels a wee bit like a museum store, as items have been carefully collected and curated from places scattered around the globe.  Currently the display window features handbags made from tire inner-tubes, which says re-use loudly.  Inside the shop, small handbags made from soda can pop-tops look surprisingly beautiful.

My favorite pieces are made from telephone wires (!) transformed into colorful, old-fashioned basket weavings.  If you’re not ready to commit to these pieces, then re4m offers a few cute wire animals created by the same artists.

Additionally, re4m carries some interesting Japanese do-it-yourself paper art where you make little sculptures from paper tubes.  There are greeting cards which can be planted for their wildflowers.  Some nifty kid-things are placed near the back.  All the items have a story from their makers.

Owners Ashesh Patel and Lisa Tana are very passionate about what they are offering to locals, but not overbearing in their green-first sensibilities.  The artistic aura of the place likely comes from Tana, who previously ran Desa Arts in Oakland.  Plus everything feels cool – it’s hard to describe so check it out during your next coffee or bagel run.

More info:   re4m is a sustainable living shop conveniently located at 2054 Mountain Blvd, Montclair Village.  You can reach them at 510-339-re4m (7346), and their website will be created shortly.

Fantasy Picks For Montclair Village

While making the regular stroll around the Montclair Farmers Market yesterday, it hit me that four prime storefronts are currently available for rent.  They are located on Mountain Blvd and La Salle Ave, right in the heart of these Montclair streetscape plans.

What a perfect opportunity for fantasy picks!  Even in this recession, there must be some kinds of shops we would embrace.  Given our penchant to travel to other Oakland districts, Berkeley and distant points, there are many possibilities.

Vision of Montclair (MVA)

Drumroll please…here are Today in Montclair’s fantasy picks to fill the open storefronts.  We have suggested different food and non-food options, and wonder if they could fly.

1 .  Vacant Jamba Juice store

  • Food – Offer Middle Eastern takeout, including authentic falafel, hummus, tabouli, salads, etc.  Why wait for the falafel stand on Sundays?
  • Non-Food – Open a store which sells specialty soaps, creams and other affordable spa goods.  Beyond the brand-name  items, local soap maker  Montclair Soaps and other regional suppliers would be prominently featured here.

2.  Former Knitting Basket shop

  • Food – Stock an old-fashioned store filled with specialty nuts, designer popcorn, spices, penny (dollar) candy, honey and syrup, etc.  We should have something besides chocolate in town.
  • Non-Food – Create a regional gift shop with items similar to what’s sold at Chabot Space & Science, the Oakland Zoo, East Bay Parks, etc.  This shop would have a green vibe, with all kinds of eco-friendly items too.

3.  Place next to A Great Good Place for Books

  • Food – Open a small  grill which sells Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian-style beefs.  This place would be unique in the area, and perhaps attract some non-Montclarions as well.
  • Non-Food – Ride the scrapbooking wave, with a shop/studio where you could draw, paint, decoupage, work on books, etc.  There’s already a mosaic shop in the village, which seems more arcane than this hobby.

4.  Old Argento Jewelry location

  • Food – Fill the Greek food gap by selling lamb, gyros, moussaka, pastichio and some great desserts.  The place could have a few tables but be supported by takeout, somewhat like the Flavors of India nearby.
  • Non-Food – Open a small store where everyone gets their electronics and phones fixed, with an on-site geek who really knows his/her stuff.  Batteries and other key supplies could be sold here too, for when things fail on us.

To burst the fantasy, these open storefronts may be with us a bit longer than anyone would like.  There must be retailers who seek out a nice, thriving village.  We would even patronize (gasp) chain outlets beyond these fantasy picks.