From Pop Inn to Churchward Pub (Part II)


Well. thanks to the Churchward family and DJ Alex Mejia, the place was hopping last night on Park Street.

There were regulars and new faces.

And as one patron said, “It’s amazing what a coat of paint and some crown molding will do to a place.”

DJ Mejia, an Alameda native now living in Los Angeles, is one of many Alamedans supporting Dance for a Cure, set for November 14 at Eagles Hall. (The event’s online fundraising auction is already doing lots of business.)

Meanwhile, organizer Millie Luz says that Alameda merchants are coming through on a daily basis with new donations and support for the event, which aims to raise funds to benefit breast cancer research. And T-shirt sales for the event are also going well.


A Friendly Book Sale at Alameda Point

It’s October, and that means it’s time to head to Alameda Point — to the Al DeWitt Officers’ Club at 641 West Redline Ave. — and go book shopping.

The Friends of the Alameda Free Library says it takes 800–1000 boxes of used books to every sale, so there are hundreds of items in every category. Most books are priced between 50¢ and $2.00.

This is a three-day event, October 16-18. There’s a preview sale on Friday evening from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and admission is $5 admission. The shopping on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. is free, as is Sunday’s clearance sale from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

During the clearance sale, you can get one bag of used books for $3, two bags for $5 and 1 box for $4.

It’s a book-lover’s paradise.

And for those looking to donate books to the cause, come by the Alameda Free Library on Mondays.


Peet’s Keeps It Fresh


What goes into a good cup of java? Plenty of hard work and talent, judging from the latest Peet’s event.

Suzette “Sooz” Hammonds of El Cerrito, who works at the original Peet’s Coffee & Tea location on Vine Street in Berkeley, is the winner of the Second Annual Peet’s National Barista Competition, which was held on Monday, October 12, in Alameda.  Congratulating her is fellow East Bay finalist Sean Coutts, who works at the Domingo Street Store in Berkeley.

Sooz was one of only four finalists in the competition, which included 400 baristas nationwide. Peet’s has 195 stores and a total of 4,000 baristas serving its tasty beverages across the U.S.

Rich Avella, the head judge, says it was a fierce competition. The baristas had to meet 31 criteria in terms of their technical skills and 19 criteria in terms of their sensory (i.e. service) skills.

About 180 people attended the event in Alameda. And now the finalists can compete in external national and global contests if they want to.

“The quality of Peet’s coffee is really important,” said Avella, “and the barista is a key link in the quality chain.”

Peet’s, which started in Berkeley in 1966,  broke ground for its 138,000 square-foot artisan roasting facility in Alameda on Bay Farm Island in 2006. And the roasting facility went into full production on May 30, 2008.  (Also in 2008, the Alameda roasting facility was awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the first LEED certified coffee roasting facility in the U.S.) The Peet’s facility now supports the work of about 800 employees.

Many thanks to James Oller for the photo!


Convenience Store on Park Get Thumbs Up

The Alameda Planning Board met last night, October 12, and approved the request for a permit to open a convenience store at 1623 Park Street — despite the fact that more than 400 letters and comments had been received opposing it in August and again in September and October .

You can find some of these opposing statements online, including a letter from the Starland Music Center, at 1631 Park.

However, the owners of the building that will house the convenience store explained that the space has been without a tenant for about half of the past 10 years.

The main tipping point, as far as the city is concerned, is that there is no city limit on the number of convenience stores (or nail shops, for instance) that can be located within the city.

Note that the only reason this convenience store had to go before the Planning Board was due to the fact that it is within 300 feet of a residence.

The good news for some community members is that while the store was aiming to focus on tobacco products, these products will now take up only about 10 percent of the retail area — less than planned.

According to the city, the building that will house the convenience store is not historic and has been vacant. And while there are several convenience stores nearby, that is not enough to limit or restrict further convenience stores from opening.

With a minimal expected impact on nearby residents, in its view, the Planning Board approved the use permit for the convenience store four to one.

The business owner, Abdulmalik Harbi, now has to get a business license and certifcate of occupany before he can open the shop, to be called Better Trade Discount.

The lesson for Alamedans who don’t want convenience shops or more salons opening up is that a major change in city policy is needed. There are many East Bay neighborhoods that have a large number of similar businesses crowded into one area, so Alameda isn’t alone in this respect.

But those hoping for more commercial diversity on the Island have to make a broader case — and a big fight — if they want to bring about such change.


Another Convenience Store?

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Tonight, the Alameda Planning Board is set to vote on a permit for a convenience store at 1623 Park Street (at Pacific Avenue, one block east of Lincoln Avenue).

It will be interesting to see how this vote goes.

Flyers asking for residents to request that the permit be denied were found at the 7-Eleven at Lincoln and Oak over the past weekend. The arguments on the flyer were that the area has enough convenience stores and that more crowding on Park Street isn’t desirable.

While we don’t know exactly what the convenience store would look like, it is true that Park Street needs more business. But any business? Maybe not.

Generally speaking, Alamedans wants businesses that they are comfortable frequenting and proud to have in their neighborhood. And as is the case in many areas of town, convenience stores fulfill a very specific need and aren’t the pride or the most desirable aspect of the neighborhood.

Park Street has a great grocery shop and market area nearby — at the Marketplace. So this shop might not be very likely to stock lots of fruits and vegetables, though the market at Park and Lincoln does sell a bit of fresh produce.

More beer, wine and cigarettes? In this economy, such a store might be one of the most likely businesses that can succeed. But long term, it might not represent the grand desires of the Park Street community, which is hoping to make the area near the Park Street Bridge as interesting and inviting as possible.

With the car dealerships gone and a few used-car merchants hanging on, though, these are tough times. And without other merchants clamoring to open their doors at 1623 Park, the entrepreneur behind the proposed convenience store may get his thumbs up from the city.

Stay tuned to see how the planning board votes.


From Pop Inn to Churchward Pub in Alameda (Part I)

Churchward Pub in Alameda

A look at the new Churchward Pub, aka the Pop Inn, on Park Street in Alameda.

The Pop Inn’s turned into the Churchward Pub, at its old location, 1515 Park Street.

It’s got three new TV screens and a lot more to offer locals, regulars and visitors from all over, says owner Joe Churchward, a 1996 graduate of Alameda High School.

Joyce Holsman (pictured above) still tends bar.

“I want to do this with a more European style and as a tribute to Alameda, ” says Churchward, who adds that historic photos and other artwork will be put up soon.

The place already celebrates happy hour and also has a DJ on Saturday nights.

The whole Churchward family is involved in the effort, according to Joe, such as his sister Lisa.

“This area has so much to offer, so I wanted to make this place really nice. I’m pleased that people have responded so well so far.”

With its official grand opening on October 3 behind it, the pub owner hopes that more of the old clientele and new guests will stop by for football games on Sunday or during other times.  

The Churchwards trace the roots of the Pop Inn to 1927, when it was allowed to sell liquor for medicinal purposes. But the real origins need further research, Joe explains.

Meanwhile, he is pushing the new bar online, at MySpace and Facebook. Cheers!


Take the Ferry to Fleet Week

Alameda Ferry Terminal by Flickr user Nathan Jongewaard under Creative Commons attribution license

Photo of Alameda Ferry Terminal by Flickr user Nathan Jongewaard under Creative Commons attribution license

For those Alamedans looking for a fun, easy way to get to Fleet Week, try the ferry!

The Alameda/Oakland Ferry Service has added ferry service for the Fleet Week weekend, October 10-11.

The annual Fleet Week celebration, which features weekend air shows and the popular Parade of Ships, is expected to draw thousands of spectators to the San Francisco waterfront. To accommodate anticipated demand and provide the best views on the Bay, the ferry will run 18 roundtrips per day, compared to the usual nine.

The Air Shows take place on Saturday and Sunday from 12:30-3 p.m., with the Blue Angels scheduled from 3-4 p.m. Their will also be practice shows on Friday, October 9.

The expanded schedule offers hourly departures beginning at 9:00 a.m. and concluding with a 10:30 p.m. East Bay departure to San Francisco. In addition, there is service to Angel Island State Park on both Saturday and Sunday. There is no weekend service from Harbor Bay Island.

The Alameda/Oakland Ferry operates between the Alameda Main Street Ferry Terminal, Oakland’s Jack London Square, the San Francisco Ferry Building, and San Francisco’s Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf. In addition, the ferry provides service to Angel Island State Park on weekends.

The Alameda Ferry Terminal is located at 2990 Main Street, and free parking is available adjacent to the terminal. The Oakland Ferry Terminal is located at 530 Water Street, near the intersection of Clay Street and the Embarcadero, in Jack London Square. Tickets are purchased onboard the ferry.

One-way fares are: adults, $6.25; juniors ages 5 to 12 years old, $3.25; seniors and disabled persons, $3.75; and children under 5 years old, free.

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Time to Toast Alameda Reads!

Angela’s Bistro & Bar, at 2301 Central Ave., and several local vintners are full of good cheer in October.

The restaurant and bar, located near the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex, is donating proceeds raised from wine tasting this Friday, October 9, to the Alameda Free Library’s adult literacy program, Alameda Reads!

If you try two 4 ounce glasses of wine, or an 8 ounce glass, for $10 between 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, you will be helping Alamedans to improve their reading skills.

Angela’s did the same wine tasting and benefit last Friday, October 2, and is calling such events “Friday Night Flights.”

It’s great to see local winemakers, merchants and community groups come together for such a great cause and in such a creative way.

According to staff, the restaurant is named for the daughter of manager, Maria Zafari.


Home Tour de Force


The latest Alameda Legacy Home Tour was a big success — with several hundreds of visitors from around the Bay Area touring some of the Island’s finest homes.

The event, which took place September 27, is a big fundraiser for the Alameda Museum and the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society.

This year’s event was sponsored by the Little House Cafe at 2300 Blanding Ave. (The building, owned by Perforce Software, resides in a 1904 Colonial Revival residence constructed in 1904 and restored by Perforce.)

This year’s tour included six historic homes in the Queen Anne, Arts & Crafts and Storybook styles.

On Central Avenue, tour participants got to visit an 1895 Queen Anne now owned by Alan Teague. It was built for a lumber merchant and designed by Denis Straub & Son, according to historian Woody Minor.

Teague has put in a small labyrinth in the backyard.

Alameda residents Brian McDonald and Keri Spalding enjoyed the tour and were also responsible for putting up posters around town to promote it. This is their 10th tour. McDonald says his family has had two homes in Alameda and like the TV character Gilligan, the family “doesn’t go off the Island.”

Mae Wade, Sharon Stone and other family members come together from all over the East Bay to take the tour each year; many of the Wade-Stone family members grew up in Alameda. “We always do the tour,” said Cecilia Wade, “and we really enjoy it.”

Next on the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society’s agenda is a historic look at Alameda Point, set for 7 p.m. Sunday, October 18, when local architect and Navy veteran Dick Rutter presents a talk: “The History of the Naval Air Station Alameda.” The venue is the First Presbyterian Church at Santa Clara and Chestnut. There is a fee of $5 for those who aren’t members of the AAPS.


What’s Up at Lincoln and Oak

Pardon the dust around Gim’s Chinese Kitchen, off Park at 2322 Lincoln Ave.

The kitchen is getting a makeover (see below), and the new equipment should be up and running by this weekend, according to management.


The popular take-out spot is right next to the Alameda Free Library, and is also across the street from the Goodwill thrift store and the Saint Vincent De Paul Society thrift store.

The Saint Vince De Paul shop will soon have a tenant. Starting on Wednesday, October 7, it is leasing part of its space to ReliaTech computers. The computer retailer and repair service bills itself as “low cost, high quality.”

Employees at Saint Vincent De Paul say the thrift shop will remain open, as well.