Sewing Skills help Hills Draper


KITTY MUNTZEL HAS one of those jobs that would make a mother proud. For the past 17 years, she’s been sewing costumes for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The job of a draper means Muntzel spends hours each day measuring actresses, cutting patterns and altering costumes.

“It takes us six weeks to build a show,” she says, “from the time we get our sketches to opening night.”

And she’s not the only one at the Rep who paid attention to her high school Home Economics teacher. The costume shop is teaming with tailors and seamstresses and other artisans who handle everything from wigs to makeup.

“We do have a wonderful costume shop with a dozen dress forms, industrial sewing machines, overlocks and industrial irons,” says Muntzel, who feels at this point in her career, it’s important to pass on her knowledge. So when she’s not working, she’s teaching young girls to sew in her Laurel District home. It’s a timeless craft that seems to be making a comeback. And for women like Muntzel, it’s a ticket to a fascinating career.

HEAVENLY TRANSACTION: Rumors have been flying about the future of the recently vacated Montclair United Methodist Church. The building at Snake and Mountain is in escrow and the neighbors are hearing buzz about heavy demolition.

“Not true!” says listing Realtor Steve Moyer, an Oakland native who regularly handles the sale of churches. “We worked with many, many people who wanted to tear down the building,” he admits, “but the numbers just didn’t pencil for those types of developers — it’s too expensive to buy the property, raise it and build something new.”

Moyer says he’ll reveal the new owner and their plans (which include keeping the church sanctuary but modifying parts of the building) as soon as he can. And that’s the gospel truth.

LIBRARY RIP-OFF: Who would steal from a library? That’s what my kids wanted to know when they went in to collect their prizes for the summer teen reading contest last week. The money for the Barnes and Noble gift certificates had been stolen from a box in the back room of the Montclair branch library. Call it a crime of opportunity — you can’t leave cash, even petty cash, lying around these days.

DOG’S WORLD: They call themselves the Rockridge Mountain Bernese Club, a pack of six look-alike dogs in one Oakland neighborhood.

“Bernese have such distinct markings that it’s easy to spot one,” says reader Sharon Fletcher, who says her dog Jake is related to two of the canine cousins who walk the streets in a big furry pack, turning heads as they go.

“They’re such friendly and goofy creatures,” says Fletcher, who says the dog friendships have spawned great bonds between the human owners, too. The proof is in the pudding. People and pooches alike will be at Jake’s third birthday party later this month, where the preferred treat will be — Frosty Paws.

HAPPY HAUNTING: Everyone loves a good ghost story and the folks at Montclair’s Phoenix Rising Salon and Day Spa are no exception. In fact, owner Cynthia Black says they have their own ghost at the spa, whom they affectionately call “Bob.”

“He appeared within the first month of opening our business two years ago,” she says, recounting the various antics of the specter in the white lab coat.

“Various staff members would find that items were missing and then, within an hour, they would return,” she recalls. Then there was the show Bob put on as he playfully dimmed the lights in the treatment rooms. But what made Black a believer was when she saw a purple handbag fly off the shelf and onto the floor.

“There’s been no action, now, for eight months or so,” she laughs, adding, “Bob may have taken a hike but he’s welcome back if he wants to come back.”

Black is no dummy — she knows that a ghost can be good for business. Especially a ghost named Bob.

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