College Avenue: The Soul of Rockridge

There are few places in the East Bay that have as much buzz as College Avenue.This  wonderful shopping area is the heart and soul of Rockridge. Below we've begun to chronicle in both movie and photo formats some of the various shops and restaurants that line College Avenue. We've focused on some of the iconic places that have been here for decades but also included new places that clearly add to the Rockridge mystique. With so many wonderful businesses still not yet included we have a lot of work to do, but for now here's a taste of Rockridge.

OLIVETO

It wouldn't be exaggeration to say that Oliveto was one of the restaurants that was the genesis of what we now think of as Rockridge,

31 years and still going strong

Started 31 years ago by Bob and Maggie Klein, Oliveto has provided consistently amazing food both in the more formal upstairs restaurant as well as the cafe downstairs. They continue to this day to strive to find new challenges and are constantly involved with making dining at Oliveto one of the premiere experiences in all the Bay Area.

The movie just scratches the surface of their journey as they are truly the pioneers of Rockridge.

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TOOTSIES

It's mostly about celebrating your feet! This longtime Rockridge shoe store has a wonderful array of shoes and accessories. Having supported the local school community in their fund raising endeavors for years it is great to have them on College Avenue.  

With wonderful attention to their customers this is one of those places you can go pretty much anytime of the year and find something you'll want.

A College Avenue classic. Go in and revel in all things they have to offer.

Click to see photos

SOBU

Sometimes a newcomer comes to Rockridge and the fit is just right. This is the case with Sobu, a shop near Hudson and College.

Husband and wife team of Alessandro and Laleh Latini put together a charming store filled with furniture and art and all kinds of things that you'll want in your home.

The coolest part of their collection is the fact that they design much of the furniture for sale. Dining room tables, sofas, desks, and the list goes on. That's pretty special.

And they also are tied into the Bay Area art scene and rotate local artists and artisans work throughout their shop. Click the video button and let meet Alessandro and Laleh.

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ATOMIC GARDEN

This is one of those special shops that you can only find in a place like Rockridge. It's filled with marvelous and slightly eclectic collections of just about everything.

From clothing to pillows, candles to hand made wall hooks the only over riding theme seems to be that they are all wonderful. It's probably best to go in without anything specific in mind and come out with things you weren't thinking of but wonder how you've gone so long without.

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BELOTTI

When it comes to food, Rockridge residents can be a pretty tough crowd. The level of excellence is such that restaurants that don't "bring it" are soon seen closing their doors.

That was why when new comer Belotti opened, it quickly became impossible to get a table without a reservation. It is that good.

In his cozy restaurant, Chef Michele is making northern Italian magic. He claims it's the cooking his mother taught him, and those of us who are lucky enough to get a table are thankful to her.

It's a great story and he and his wife Joyce tell it best. Click the video button to hear them tell it.

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CRUSH

Crush is the sister store to Tootsie’s. Where Tootsie’s is mostly about shoes, Crush focuses on the rest of you.


Here you'll find everything from that perfect party ensemble to pajamas, always with a helpful staff member to assist you.

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PAVE

One of the wonderful things about Rockridge is the variety of choices one has just strolling up and down College Ave. Everything from fancy to funky can be found on every block.

One of the great examples of this is Pavé, which sits right next to the venerable Rockridge Cafe. For 36 years Michael Endlich has been designing and crafting award winning high end jewelry for appreciative patrons. This is especially true of Rockridge clients who would have to go to San Francisco to get anything close to the excellence of design and variety of choice that you can find at his magical store.

Hopefully the video will help you see how excited Michael is to be able to live his dream.

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COLE HARDWARE

It's one of those moments that most homeowners face: your faucet won't completely shut or something similarly simple and the choices of what to do next are agonizing. You can call a plumber (if you know one), wait a day or so, and spend a hundred bucks or more. Or drive down to Home Depot and wander around the aisles looking for someone who can find the 80 cent gasket you need. Only to get home to find out they sold you the wrong size.

Enter Cole Hardware. Here's the perfect solution to those of us who just need a gasket, or some paint, or a pot holder, or a snake to clean a drain, or any of the myriad of  things that homeowners need. And best of all Cole has a friendly staff who knows which screw or gasket or valve you need.

It's a invaluable resource that's right there on College with pretty much anything you can think of. Pretty cool.

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FUTURE

There are a plethora of beauty salons, nail salons and every combination of these that sprinkle the entire length of College Avenue.

I chose Future as my personal salon years ago and have never been disappointed. Owned by Catherine Sawyer, she has put together a crack staff of master stylists and estheticians who have at their command the latest techniques and styles.

If you're struggling to find the right spot to spruce your look, give Future a ring or just walk in and introduce yourself. They're really friendly and will make you feel welcome.

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WISTERIA

Flower vendors are one of those shops that usually have the flowers but not necessarily the knowledgeable flower designers that make the flowers come alive. That's whats so wonderful about Wisteria. Their flower selection is top notch but their staff has the ability to make their arrangements sing. Don't know exactly what you want? Again the Wisteria staff will usually figure out something truly breathtaking.

On Mothers day and all the other special days you can expect long lines, but it's great to have a place that's there on the days where you just want to add a little sparkle to your home or give a rose to someone special "just because".

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MAISON D'ETRE

Maison d'etre is one of those quirky, wonderful shops perfect for finding the one or two things that are too much fun to do without.

If you're stuck trying to think of a gift for somebody special, here's the answer. From soaps to towels to toys to outerwear to lawn furniture there is something magical here for pretty much everyone.

Located right next to the Bart station, you owe it to yourself to give this lovely shop a gander.

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ROCKRIDGE CANDIDS

When you wander around here long enough you see some great images. It's all part of what living in Rockridge is all about.

This section will grow faster than the other ones dedicated to a specific venue so be sure to keep an eye out.

Click to see photos