Three years ago, when we were first looking at retail spaces in north Oakland, we knew what kind of shop we wanted to open, but hadn’t agreed on a name. In the spirit of not spitting, I wanted to call the shop ‘Swallow’ but that didn’t go over with the rest of the gang. When we were considering a space in the Temescal Alley, our friend Stefan suggested ‘Back Alley Alcohol Solutions’. Also not a keeper.
We settled on ‘Oakland Yard’ after researching the neighborhood and finding that, for a good part of the previous century, it featured an enormous train station spanning our block, called the Oakland Shafter Yard. We would continue the history of the site, we thought, as a public place where all walks of life converge, and where connections are made.
The name was not already in use by another business - excepting a youth athletic club in Waterford, Michigan – so we registered our DBA and went to work on Oakland Yard. Since then, I’ve fielded only one call from a mother hoping to sign her son up for soccer camp; otherwise little confusion there. At least one sales representative has typed ‘Oakland Yard’ into their GPS and somehow wound up in the West Oakland train yard.
Daniel came across this headline right before Halloween last year: ‘People Find Severed Head In Oakland Yard, Take It To Police.’ I guess the assumed lowercase ‘y’ should have given us some comfort, but we were rather disconcerted, until we read on... ‘Police investigators on Monday were trying to determine whether a decaying human head found in an Oakland backyard belongs to a recently discovered headless corpse.’ Okay, still disconcerting, but at least not in our Oakland Yard.
My favorite shop name mix-up happened last year, when I answered the phone one afternoon: ‘Hello, Oakland Yard, this is Max’ and the fellow on the line said, ‘Yeah, is this the Yard Master?’ I thought about it, and smiled, unknowingly, ‘um, sure, I guess you could call me that.’ and he continued “I was driving number two-seven-four this morning on track five…’ and then I cut him off, ‘Oh no - I’m sorry - you’ve got the wrong Yard Master.’
TONIGHT: Thursday Night Flights! FRENCH GAMAY OR SPANISH WHITES: Wines from Beaujolais, Cote Roannaise, Rioja & the Penedes - $12 tasting flights from 4 to 9pm.
SATURDAY 4/20: FRENCH SYRAH tasting flights – Perfect pairings for your Easter lamb: Syrah with Grenache & Syrah unblended, from the Rhone Valley, Provence & the Ardeche - $15 tasting - Flights from 2 to 6pm & wines by the glass until 9pm.
EASTER SUNDAY 4/21: LOIRE VALLEY tasting flights – whites & reds from the Touraine, Muscadet & Bourgueil – $15 tasting – Flights from 2 to 6 & wines by the glass until close*.
*Holiday Hours: Sunday 12-6pm
The Yard Master