Yogurt Island

Another yogurt shop is on the way, in the 2300 block of Santa Clara Avenue. The positive: Another new business is always a good thing, yogurt is relatively healthy (depending on what goes in it on top of it) and it may mean a new job or two, which is very welcome.

The less positive: How much yogurt can we consume, especially when the warm season ends? There are currently at least 9 shops in town, including ice cream parlors, that serve yogurt dishes. We wish them all good luck; their success would also be our good luck, in terms of revenues for the city. Still, it would be wonderful to have a nice deli like the West End has, with roasted meat sandwiches and pasta salads. What businesses would you like to see come to town?


Don’t Pop Inn

The venerable watering hole on Park Street, the Pop Inn, has closed for renovations. A construction worker said the doors won’t open again until at least September. This adds credence to a tip from someone at a nearby business that the owners want to update the bar’s image. For a look at pictures of the Pop Inn go here.


Could merchant stamps help?

Books Inc. does it. So does Tomatina, Papa Murphy’s pizza, Borders Books and a handful of other businesses.

What they do is reward their customers, and themselves, by offering a discount or free product after a preset number of purchases. It’s the same kind of promotional strategy that once was part of shopping nearly everywhere in Alameda, when paper stamps were provided to customers. The customer collected the stamps in a little book and when the book(s) were full, they took them to any merchant in town who offered the stamps and redeemed them for products.

The stamp era ended in Alameda sometime around 1990. But maybe 2009 is the time to reconsider such a strategy. It’s good for the customer and it’s good for the business. And it’s no news that both groups are in very real need of help. Unemployment continues to grow in record numbers, forcing people to radically cut back on expenditures and in turn, forcing businesses to downsize or close, creating even fewer jobs and forcing even more people to watch every penny.

A town needs commerce, not just to feed and clothe its residents, but to generate sales tax revenues. Alameda has already lost its lion’s share of sales taxes from the exodus of car dealerships along the north end of Park Street. Add to that the recession, the threat of losing gas taxes to the state (which may partially or fully close three of our bridges) and jobs falling down the rabbit hole and it’s easy to understand why sales tax revenue is crucial.

Besides encouraging customers to return to their businesses, the stamps would also encourage residents to buy in Alameda whenever possible. Supporting our local merchants isn’t just a sentimental term, it’s a pragmatic, logical way to keep our town in running order. It’s a way to help maintain, even gain, jobs for unemployed residents. And it’s a way to bolster property values. Not many people are inclined to move to a town where the downtown is progressively boarded up.

We’re fortunate that new retailers are still moving here, helping fill the vacancies in our shopping districts. But we’ll need more than good fortune to get through this fiscal desert. We’ll need to be more creative than ever before, whether its stamps, contests or whatever we, as business people and as residents, can do to help support us all.


Alameda – love it or (want to) leave it?

People have pretty strong feelings, in both positive and negative directions, about life in Alameda. Here is a link http://www.yelp.com/biz/city-of-alameda-alameda to a few of those opinions. But there are plenty more points of view that haven’t been posted. Hit the comment button and offer your opinion of what it’s like to live here. Is the town too quiet, or is it great to be in a quiet town? What do we need more of and what could we use less of? (Did someone think nail salons? Did someone else think appliance/furniture store?) What’s great and not so great?


Don’t miss the MoW shindig this Sunday

Alameda Meals on Wheels, unlike other Meals on Wheels programs, doesn’t count on the county for funding. Every penny comes from fund-raising and for 36 years MoW has been delivering warm meals to anyone who is housebound. Unlike other Meals on Wheels programs, Alamedans who apply for the service need not be senior citizens.

Anyone looking for a good time in July will go to the MoW annual fund-raiser at Roseblum Cellars (next to the ferry terminal on Main Street) to nibble food from Alameda restaurants and taste test the wine from 15 wineries. Prizes will be set up for a silent auction and raffle tickets will win you prizes. This shindig is very popular, with hundreds of people coming each year.

Pencil it into your schedule: July 12, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

And to find out more about Alameda Meals on Wheels, and the partner program, Friendly Visitors, go to http://www.alamedamealsonwheels.org/about_amow.html. You may find yourself interested in one of the volunteer opportunities, or, if you’re housebound, you may find a way to get a warm meal. The cost for meals is on a sliding scale.


Alamedan co-authors kids’ book set in 2030

James Daly, one of Alameda’s many writers, has co-penned a book laying out in words and colorful drawings what a day in the life of a kid will be in 2030

Alamedan James Daly co-authored this book.

Alamedan James Daly co-authored this book.

. Let’s hope the eco-happy story comes true. But kids had better be careful on those magnetized skateboards. Hate to see skateboards stuck on walls of steel buildings. And the talking dog — well, it’ll finally be possible to really know what your puppy is pondering. (The book is available at Books Inc. on Park Street and at several online bookstores.)


Update from the school district superintendent

Thanks to school trustee Mike McMahon for sending along this letter from the school district superintendent about the issues the district is facing.  With the state’s sad financial dive, note the section about whether or not schools can survive solely on state funding.

McMahon also has an outstanding Web site that includes a number of resources for parents in addition to regular updates about the Alameda Unified School District.


Big wheels in town — even after the parade

A few months ago during a protest outside City Hall a curious onlooker passed by. While people waved their signs and chanted against the latest development proposal for Alameda Point, the onlooker slowed down his vehicle, which he moved forward and backward a couple of feet to remain relatively stationary so he could get a good look.

He was on a unicycle.

A few weeks later, while waiting for the light to change at Oak Street and Santa Clara Avenue, a guy wheeled quietly around the corner on the sidewalk and headed northbound on Oak Street.

He was on a Segway.

While driving down Fernside Boulevard, two adults and two children traveled along the bike path. All four of them were pedaling the same vehicle. I don’t know what it’s called, but it had a surrey on top and a bench seat in the front and back. It looked like a Rickshaw but without the sole peddler in a bike in the front.

And a few days ago, while police were busy directing traffic after a van rolled onto its side in front of the police department, a guy passed by on one of those bicycles with the huge wheels in front.

He was riding a high-wheeler.

Add to those eye-catching ways to get around the tiny, egg-shaped electric cars, the vintage Fords and Chevys and even the sprinkling of Model T’s that still make appearances on the streets.

It’s great to live here, for many reasons, but Alameda’s penchant for things quirky and fun must be equally great for people who don’t live here. I don’t recall seeing so many colorful means of transportation while visiting San Leandro, Oakland, Hayward or even Berkeley. Imagine being a first-timer in Alameda and seeing all of this alternative-to-autos action. You might think you missed an eco-parade and these were among the entries.

Whether or not these folks choose these vehicles with a thought about their non-polluting (both air-wise and noise-wise) qualities or they just do it for fun, seeing them is a bright spot in not-so-bright times. It’s easy to get bogged down from a relentless stream of bad news and to get rattled by so much uncertainty. But live scenes of high-wheeled granny bicyclists and unicycle riders and Model T drivers and families pedaling canopy-topped carriages are great distractions that we can really use these days.

Happy summer, everyone.


Visit Neptune Beach with Mr. Solo

With a slow news week (so far, so good) this is a pleasant time to take a peek into the past. In this case, the featured past is Neptune Beach, that big lug of entertainment with carnival rides, huge swimming pools and games and (occasionally) prizes. It was the 1930s, and Mr. Solo was there. Hear him talk about it and see a slide show of Neptune Beach here. Be sure to hit the toggle button for the full screen so you can see the photos more easily.