This month we’re highlighting our favorite stores for holiday (and everyday) shopping in the commercial districts near Piedmont. (If we overlook one of your favorite spots, let us know in the comments!)
Featured Shopping District: Rockridge
Rockridge — the stretch of College Ave between Claremont Avenue and Broadway — is a top East Bay shopping destination due to its eclectic collection of independently-owned retail stores and restaurants. You’ll still find a few pandemic casualties/empty storefronts interspersed among longtime retail destinations, but happily the area appears to be back and bustling.
This year a consortium of businesses — Bella Vita, Cole Hardware, Crush, Devan Gregori, Golden Bug Shoes, Nathan & Co, Open Mind Music, Taylor Jay Collection, and Tootsies — have launched a “Thursday Shop Late” initiative to entice shoppers to spend more time in the area. Participating stores will extend their operating hours until 8 p.m. through Dec. 21 and will offer a variety of enticements including refreshments, exclusive discounts, and raffles.
“Staying open late aligns with the proximity of our shopping district to BART,” said Nathan Waldon of Nathan & Co. “If it proves lucrative, we might consider additional late-night events next year. Our customers are thrilled; it alleviates the pressure of crowded stores, parking shortages, and offers a more relaxed shopping environment for everyone.”
The Exedra’s Rockridge favorites include:
Shop Atomic Garden for carefully curated “life essentials” — utilitarian Japanese kitchen wares, hand-crafted cutting boards and serving bowls, ceramics, neutral-themed soft goods and floor coverings; unique clothes and aromatic body oils and other face and body products. Their website shows just a fraction of their inventory: stop by Saturday, Dec. 9 for a food-tasting pop-up.
Next door to Atomic Garden, Sobu is a husband and wife-owned custom furniture store that also carries an array of off-the-shelf home decor and ceramics items. It’s fun to stop in, get decorating ideas, and leave with a ceramic artwork or cup from a local artist.
Maison d’Etre, the home goods store with a magical storefront display and European flair, is closing its doors on Dec. 31 after 30 years, much to the dismay of longtime patrons. But a store employee said this week that the business will reopen in a new incarnation next spring under new ownership. All sales are final now through closure. There’s still plenty to choose from luxurious soft goods, delicate jewelry, tableware, candles, and more.
Maison’s neighbor Nathan & Co. offers a wide range of practical, clever — and humorous — gift options. There’s something for everyone here — we gravitate to Nathan for seasonal decorations, party celebrations, barware, local-themed home goods, and their extensive selection of unique greeting cards.
If you know, you know: Family-owned Cole Hardware is so much more than a hardware store. The Karp family opened the Rockridge location in 2015, adding an East Bay location to its existing San Francisco stores. We challenge you to leave the store empty-handed: you can find Le Creuset cookware to power tools and everything in between. Fun fact: You can buy stamps or a new Clipper card, add cash value, or load passes onto your card here.
For children and babies
Bella Vita is a charming and whimsical boutique where it’s a pleasure to simply step into the door. You can find a one-of-a kind gift for a baby or young child … or a dress or sparkly holiday outfit for yourself. Golden Bug shoe store is another family-owned business in the area that’s a favorite of young families who live in the area. Shoes are the main story here, but you can also find a small but well-curated selection of clothing, toys, puzzles, and books for the littles.
The Market is a women’s clothing boutique started by Piedmonter Jen Rego in 2022. Her store features a mix of LA/NYC fashion brands and has fast become a local favorite with her fashion-forward followers. Follow Rego on Instagram to see what’s new in the store and how to style an outfit.
Conveniently situated next door to one another, Fit is where professional women shop for elegant evening wear or more stylish and practical casual clothes. (Fit also has a small consignment section in the back.) Leslie Evers’ cheerful, colorful designs are made in Oakland and a go-to for women of all ages — her wide range of sizes and comfortable fabrics are a draw. Evers herself is often in the shop trying out new designs and outfits.
Transports Run Swim: This community-minded store — owned by Piedmonter Bev Nakashima — is a a favorite haunt for our local runners and swimmers. Hoka and all the top-selling brands plus personal service keep the clientele loyal.
Tootsies Rockridge and Crush on College have been reliable sources for name-brand clothing and shoes since the early 2000s — teens, college kids, and adults are regular customers. Find a wide selection of fun socks in the shoe section.
Artists and makers: You never know what you might find in The Wardrobe Project — a vintage consignment store that specializes in 90s and early 2000s fashion.
Books and records
Pegasus has offered a unique mix of new, used, and remaindered books at its Rockridge corner since 1971. Find current bestsellers and books for kids without spending a fortune. We love browsing and stumbling upon a title from years past. If you’re a calendar person, take note: On Dec. 11 the store puts out all of its 2024 calendars at 1/2 price, with additional discounts each week through the end of the year.
East Bay Booksellers, located in the old Diesel Books location,, stands out in our minds for a couple of things: a stationery club subscription service made for lovers of pens, pencils, paper and all things stationery and their “Very Short Introductions” book series of books on a range of subjects — time, philosophy, political thought, city planning, insects, and more.
Music people are particular — you can get gift ideas from Open Mind Music which buys, sells, and trades vinyl and music memorabilia. Also stop by vinyl buyer/seller Stranded, the retail arm of archival label Superior Viaduct with locations in San Francisco, Oakland and New York.
Food and drink
Have you heard about Reup Refills? Ditch single use plastics and start buying bulk groceries here. Organic cooking oils, nuts and seeds, Straus Family Creamery dairy products, shampoos, and a lot more. Give a $10 gift card to an eco-conscious friend or family member.