The Soul Of A Village

WHAT DOES your town mean to you? Can it be just a soulless place to spend money? Or do you yearn for a village with sweet little shops that are the lifeblood of the merchants who run them. As Bob Dylan once wrote, “The Times, They Are A’ Changin.”

Small towns take on a different demeanor when chain stores move in. It may start with a video store, a company name that’s widely known. Then a big coffee shop moves in down the block, and a fast food chain. Pretty soon, your little town looks like a strip mall — a place where profit is king and nobody really knows your name.

Call me old fashioned, but I don’t want this to happen in Montclair.

There’s been talk that Cold Stone Creamery may move into the Village, where Travel Service Montclair was on La Salle.

The scoop from building owner Andy Namba (of the San Jose area) is that he’s been speaking with a wide variety of prospective tenants — including Cold Stone Creamery. But Namba has no written contract yet with anyone. “It’s way too early to speculate. No one business has been selected,” he shared.

For its part, Cold Stone Creamery spokeswoman Ann Christenson says the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based chain is looking to open an additional store in Oakland — but no lease has been signed for any site, including the one in Montclair.

Still, the buzz on the street is at fever pitch, and some merchants are worried.

Maurine Marie owns the Montclair Malt Shop. For eight years, she’s been carefully crafting the personality of her little ice cream parlor. She serves not just sweets, but nostalgic gifts like rubber chickens, Trolls and retro-style Pez candy dispensers.

Her shop is creative — and one of a kind. It’s the kind of shop that makes Montclair unique, and it’s been featured in TV and print, time and again. Cold Stone Creamery has stores nationwide. It’s trendy and hip — and the younger generation loves it.

The Malt Shop is a symbol of a more innocent time, and frankly, it’s an endangered species. And while I recognize that competition can be good for business, it can also be its demise. Do you see what I see? Do you care? Let me know how you feel.

Carpool sting

Just when you thought it was safe to pick up riders at the casual carpool area on Park Boulevard word comes that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department is slapping fines on motorists.

Rider Amy Graves says a car she got into recently was stopped by a deputy for blocking the bus lane. Rather than wait for the unlucky driver (who was getting a fat citation), Amy and her brother hooked up with me at the carpool stop on Park near Leimert. You can add “blocking bus zones” to your list of carpool no-no’s.

Tree takedown

If you like vistas, you’ll love what the East Bay Regional Park District has done to the corner of Shepherd Canyon Road and Skyline Drive. They’ve toppled a stand of scraggly Eucalyptus trees that were considered a fire hazard to the neighborhood, not to mention an obstruction to motorists at the junction of four ridge-line roads. The reviews are mixed. But as the stumps come out and the hillside gets green, folks are warming up to the idea.

Internet DJ

Oakland hills disc jockey “Audio Vidya” is on the air again. The former Live 105 personality has gone global with a radio station on the web called the Audiofile.

To hear it, follow the links from her Web site, She says she plays hits that were never hits, but should have been — alternative pop from strange-sounding groups like the Buzzcocks and Radiohead.

Even more interesting, you too can be an Internet DJ for just $9.95 a month. An East Bay company called Live lets you have your own “station,” download your own music and even add your own voice. How do they make their money? With commercials they drop in every few minutes — just like your traditional radio stations.


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