Jessica Poitevien
Feb 2021

Across the bay from San Francisco, Oakland prides itself on a population as diverse as its progressive history. From the first Chinese-American woman registering to vote in 1911 to the founding of the Black Panther Party, Oakland’s multiculturalism has nurtured the minds of many, including current Vice President Kamala Harris. This environment has also fostered an ecosystem of Black-owned businesses since the early 20th century, when Oakland was known as the Harlem of the West. “Oakland is rooted in culture and history, with Black businesses that contribute to a sustainable economy,” says Nicole Felix of the Oakland African-American Chamber of Commerce. 

With the heightened awareness of racial injustice, Felix has also noticed increased support for Oakland’s Black-owned shops—many of which have been threatened by gentrification. “We see a lot of people becoming more intentional about supporting Black businesses,” she says. From Marcus Books to It’s All Good Bakery, Oakland contains some of the oldest and most revered Black-owned businesses in the Bay Area.

Credit: Shameika Ejiasi

Marcus Books

Founded in 1960, Marcus Books is the oldest Black bookstore in the country. Prominent figures such as Malcolm X, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison have visited the shop both as customers and authors. Today, this community-focused bookstore is run by Blanche Richardson, daughter of the founders.

Credit: Shameika Ejiasi

It’s All Good Bakery

This bakery relies on family recipes to whip up desserts such as the 7-Up pound cake, made with creamy butter and real soda. Though the bakery is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the history of the building goes back even further: In January 1967, it became the original office of the Black Panther Party. Today, founder Kim Cloud—once a beneficiary of the Panthers’ school breakfast program—keeps a collage of Black Panther news clippings at the front door.

Credit: Shameika Ejiasi

The Towne Cycles

Working out of a garage along a popular cycling route, Towne Cycles founder David Boone has served Oakland’s biking enthusiasts since 2009. Offering much more than just repairs and maintenance, Towne Cycles builds custom bikes, focusing on each customer’s specific needs. When not functioning as a bike shop, the grease-slicked place typically hosts Tiny Garage concerts featuring local musicians.

Credit: Shameika Ejiasi

Hip Hop Juice Box

Merging his passions for juicing and hip-hop, founder Eric Turner created a laid-back space for people to listen to music, admire hip-hop memorabilia and sip hip-hop-themed drinks in Emeryville. Come for the Ging and Juice, with refreshing pineapple, orange, ginger and lemon, or the Mo Berries Mo Problems smoothie—but stay for the old-school rap albums on vinyl.

Courtesy of Magnolia Street Wine

Magnolia Street Wine Lounge & Kitchen 

Named after the street where chef Leilani Baugh grew up, Magnolia Street Wine Lounge & Kitchen combines recipes from her grandmothers: one a Chinese immigrant and the other a Southern housekeeper. She calls it Casian-Creole cuisine, with dishes such as peach-cobbler lumpia and crab garlic noodles. Baugh also offers a variety of vintages from Black winemakers across the country.

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