Front of the White Building in Downtown Oakland

Front of the White Building at 339 15th Street in downtown Oakland, CA.

You may have already heard, this year we have even more reasons for shopping locally. For one, the ongoing issues with shipping, containerized freight sitting on ships that cannot dock, etc. And then of course how our earth benefits when we choose locally-sourced, how our community benefits when we support local small businesses, and how our souls benefit when we support local artists.

The building my firm is lucky to call home is the White Building, a registered historic structure in downtown Oakland, on the corner of 15th and Webster. Not only is it an architectural landmark, but also the current owners, Vida and Saied Karmooz, are lovely human beings, and as landlords, they attract just the best people. A number of new businesses have moved in downstairs in recent months, and I hope you will drop by our block and shop with them.

Left: Napang Boonpaung and Joseph Rivas, with their mentor ‘Doc’ Guthrie. Right: Memory Sign Co. storefront.

Left: Napang Boonpaung and Joseph Rivas, with their mentor ‘Doc’ Guthrie. Right: Memory Sign Co. storefront. (Instagram: @memorysignco &

One of the wonderful new tenants has already “made their mark,” painting the vintage-style window signs for the others. The warm, gracious, and talented couple behind Memory Signs, Napang Boonpaung and Joseph Rivas, specialize in this very specific sign painting technique, an art form that they learned from their mentor, ‘Doc’ Guthrie, and proudly carry forward in a world that is ever-changing yet maintains a love and respect for the beauty of the past. Their shop on 15th street is also base of operations for Napang’s pop-up-houseplant purveyor, Memory Plants.

Tosh of Saint Flora, and her wildly vibrant wares

Tosh of Saint Flora and her wildly vibrant wares. (Instagram: @saintfloraco)

To further augment beauty-present, next door at Saint Flora, Tosh offers not only bright and bold, unique floral arrangements, but also gifts and home goods, and all with a generous helping of love and spiritual resourcing.

The colors of Tosh’s arrangements are as vibrant and full of joy as the woman herself.

Instagram’s @fleur.boy demonstrating a purchase, via @saintfloraco. (Tosh loves to photograph her happy clients.)

Even getting a glimpse of Saint Flora’s front window is enough to give your heart a lift. Once inside, Tosh might just pause the transaction and hand you a card to read, with words on it that will touch your heart and possibly bring you to tears for the moment of grace that it invites. 

Dream Farm Commons

Ann Schnake of Dream Farm Commons, with a piece from the gallery’s current installation:

Up the block, a haven for creativity, Dream Farm Commons hosts rotating, thought-provoking gallery shows featuring local artists whose works instigate conversations that promote positive social change. Curated via consensus of a team of six artist-owners, the installations highlight themes of “radical imagination, art-making, social change, and creative production.”

8Ball Skateboard Art

Tayo Fasusi of 8Ball Skateboard Art (Instagram: @8ball_oakland)

And on the other end of the building, 8Ball Oakland is a soulful skate shop which similarly features art, under one’s feet on the boards, as well as all the necessary tools of the skate-trade, and cool, branded merch. This place is also a collaborative, run by a group of friends who are skaters and artists; a labor of love, creativity, and commerce. 

When we patronize these businesses, we share in the positive social impact they are having on Oakland. I write often in this column about buying local for my clients, and for myself. May we all follow through on the promise in the messaging, “Doing well by doing good.”

Photo Credits: Photos by Laura Martin Bovard, Tosh of Saint Flora, and Julie Feinstein Adams

A version of this article appeared in the Piedmont Post