An Ode to SLO

If you know me fairly well, you’ve most likely asked me why I go to SLO so often. Did you go to school there? No. Are you visiting friends? No. (Also, if you know me, you’ll know that I have five friends, tops). Did you grow up there? Nope. Well, sort of. 15 years ago the aunt who took me to Disneyland every weekend moved to the central coast for what we all thought would be a short stint.

Lucky for us, it turned into fifteen years, SLO county turned into a second home for our entire family and a future home for many of us. Head to SLO for a week or a weekend and you’ll return feeling refreshed, charmed and extra grateful for small towns.

Here’s where to head if you’re planning on visiting San Luis Obispo county:Morro Bay Morro Strand Beach

Morro Bay

Morro Bay Taco Temple

Morro Bay: 13 miles north of SLO proper is the little retiree beach town of Morro Bay, where I honestly spend most of my time. Head to Morro Strand Beach with your dog or with your friends or family, take in Morro Rock from afar and collect real life sand dollars instead of buying them from the souvenir shop. Taco Temple has been around for a lot longer than we’ve been going there and that little California-fusion Mexican restaurant has expand their space but still serves killer seared scallop tacos.

Sunset Drive-in Theater SLO

High Street Deli San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo Classic Car

SLO Farmer's Market Bishop's Peak Hike
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San Luis Obispo: Ahh, my favorite city in the whole wide world (for now). I can spend hours in downtown San Luis Obispo reading a book, walking around, drinking a chai latte from Scout Coffee and shopping at all of my favorite shops like Len Collective and these other cute shops. If you’re feeling outdoorsy and have the urge to sweat, hike up Bishop’s Peak along with every other SLO county resident in town and their dogs and admire the view from the top. Afterwards, go to High Street Deli for the best sandwiches you’ll ever eat (just thinking about the Doobie Dip is making my mouth water rn). Just a bit outside of Downtown SLO is the Sunset Drive-in Movie theater, one of that last few in California. The best part about drive-ins? YOU CAN BRING ALL OF THE SNACKS YOU CAN AND WANT TO EAT.

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Los Osos: This tiny beach town with virtually no beaches is completely surrounded by coast—you pretty much can’t avoid looking at the deep blue sea the entire time you’re in Los Osos. Hike Montano del Oro to visit the tide pools (with actual starfish!) and eat greasy burgers and onion rings from Sylvester’s Burgers. 

A couple things about San Luis Obispo:

  • Everyone’s nice here, so don’t bring your city jerkiness to these people.
  • Always pack workout clothes and hiking shoes—you never know when you’ll want to pull over and explore.
  • Bring plenty of cash. This is the place where I discovered the joy of farmers markets, so discover them for yourself too!

Honestly, this (brief) travel guide to San Luis Obispo is really just a way for me to remind me of the place I love most. I hope you love it too!

West Coast Craft, Summer 2016


Another year, another West Coast Craft! West Coast Craft did it again with the bi-annual craft fair in San Francisco’s Marina neighborhood. This summer’s festival was packed with people checking out everyone’s wares and there were hardly any girls not wearing frayed-hem jeans. Here’s my wrap-up of the best of the best from the summer edition of West Coast Craft.

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After months of Instagram-swooning over her jewels, I finally met the maker herself, as well as her to-die-for Relic Collection that’s she’s been working on. Her ear cuffs, wrist cuffs and dainty rings with an organic feel were so, so beautiful. Also, Molly’s designs are set to be stocked in the previously featured Len Collective in San Luis Obispo!
I couldn’t help but stop by Corinne’s booth after seeing the minimalist color palette, plush fabrics and owner/designer, Susan Kim’s vivacious personality (seriously so, so nice!). Her latest collection of crop tops, pencil skirts (which I wish I picked up) and her super-soft tees are mostly crafted out of french terry and meticulously handmade in her downtown Los Angeles studio.
I love my sundresses, but now that I live in the city where fog and drizzle is the norm in the morning and sudden gusts of wind can blow through, I won’t be wearing those dresses for a long time. Gusts of wind also served as the inspiration to designer Kimber-Lee Alston, who dreamed-up the genius (and incredibly cute) playsuits. They look like a fit and flare mini-dress, but have a secret snap closure for those urgent trips to the bathroom. Plus, no breeze will be able to get through those.
I was pretty much starstruck when I met Instagram-darling, Aleksandra Zee. A one-woman woodworker showcased a special collection of her paneled pieces and her new exploration into hand-stamped fabric wares for her “Everything is Okay” collection.
Hailing all the way from Nashville, Ceri brought her leather goods to San Francisco. I was smitten with the cool colors and the minimalist shapes of her bags that still felt really usable. And those sandals came with a solid birch wood heel that perfectly complemented the buttery soft leather straps.

I continuously walk by this one desk at the office that always has two mugs perched on the desk in an on-trend boob print (yes, boobs!) and a rustic brown and low-profile mug. Turns out, they’re handmade by my coworker and ceramic artist, Gopi Shah. She also keeps a really great online journal, which you’ll spend a good chunk of time reading after checking out everything she makes.
Now do yourself a favor and support these makers and movers and shakers! I’ll see you next time West Coast Craft!

Cute Shop: Maple Street Denim, Oakland

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So you should be fairly familiar with Old Oakland by now. A few weeks ago I stopped by Marion & Rose’s Workshop and weeks before that (on the same day) I walked by Maple Street Denim. Just like I did with Marion & Rose, I pressed my entire face up to the window, peered into the store and saw rows and rows of denim lined up. Plus, I laid eyes on a charcoal gray crewneck that had “Girl Gang” emblazoned on it in large block, white letters. I knew I had to have it.
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Eventually, I popped over to Maple Street Denim not even knowing that I wanted a new pair of jeans. The gregarious and knows-her-stuff owner of Maple Street, Julie Harleman, made me so excited to be trying on jeans (something I truly hate) and introduced me to brands I had no clue about, like Naked and Famous (which apparently all the uber-cool kids love).

 

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Julie, as she puts it, fell into denim by accident. As a student at UC Berkeley, Julie’s friend introduced her to Slash, an Elmwood denim shop specializing in vintage Levi’s. As the shop grew, Julie grew with it and subsequently, fell more in love with denim. Towards the end of her time there, she was a full-time buyer and manager of a new section of the store until a small fire occurred and sent Julie towards a crossroads of where her denim future would go. This is where Oakland lucked out. With the help of Kerri Johnson (see, I told you everyone in Oakland is great!), Julie was introduced to her storefront on 9th Street which would eventually become the tight-knit epicenter of small businesses that I crush on today. Julie says it herself, “Downtown Oakland is just this really special place and I always want to scream it from the rooftops!”.

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Walk into Maple Street Denim and you’ll be genuinely greeted by Julie, not in a I-want-to-sell-you-something sort of way, but in a I-love-what-I-do, earnest way. As you browse through her selection of Paige, Citizens of Humanity, and Made & Crafted Levi’s all of which fit in with the modern and simple aesthetic that aligns with her store and her customers, you’ll learn that all of the brands that are brought in because of their commitment to manufacturing and sourcing their materials and labor in a sustainable, ethical way. Not only in the materials they use, but also in how their employees who assemble your jeans are treated. The jeans you’ll find in her shop will last for years and years to come as you break them in, make them your own and let them fade in the most perfect way.

Speaking of denim, Julie asserts that skinny jeans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But what we can expect are expanded styles of denim—think higher waists, easier fits and heavier fabrics for sturdy, long-lasting denim. Another denim surprise? Overalls are back in full swing and the Naked and Famous overalls that Maple Street carries can barely keep in stock. Trust me, I’ve worn my black pair more than two hands worth of times.

Maple Street Denim 

465 9th Street
Oakland, 94607

Cute Shop: Len Collective, San Luis Obispo

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Several months ago my aunt mentioned a small shop located in an old creamery building just off Higuera, San Luis Obispo’s main drag. Once again, I discovered that she had kept another a total gem hidden from me for many, many years. The second I walked into Len Collective’s old, shop with exposed bricks, bags from Baggu and watches from Cluse, my heart melted and I was smitten.

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A vagabond gypsy by heart born and raised in SLO, owner Shannon Len began making jewelry when she was living in Kauai. After realizing that she needed to get her hands on more materials, Len moved back to California and continued her jewelry business which then expanded to the point where she needed an actual workshop, then a brick and mortar shop to sell her designs. Her passion for small batch, handcrafted and minimalist, yet rustic-esque design from artisans eventually gave her the idea to bring other brands into the shop as she supplied the home where everything lived.  When the store first opened it’s doors, The first brand she brought in was P.F. Candle Co., the LA-based candle crafting duo whose signature brown glass candles can be seen everywhere from Urban Outfitters to CB2.

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Since my first happenstance meeting with Len Collective, they’ve moved into a newer and larger space in downtown SLO and stocked the shop full of much-loved brands including Herbivore Botanicals, Ursa Major skin care and BCE Jewelry. Just like other Cute Shops that have been featured here, mostly everything sold at Len is American-made, with some of it being local to SLO county like Oak and Flower soaps, and of course, Len’s own designs.

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Most of the customers who visit Len Collective are conscious shoppers looking for something unique, well-made, crafted with quality and supportive of U.S. makers and artists much like Len herself. Aside from sourcing most of the brands in the store through Instagram (the perfect at-home platform when you’re a busy shop owner and mother), Len also makes it a point to cut out the middleman and work directly with the artisans when ordering new products or restocking.
Over the past 15 years, SLO has managed to carve a big spot in my heart which only grows bigger when I see small businesses like Len thriving (and beating the big players) downtown. As SLO continues to grow, Len also plans on growing with it, continuing to share heirloom-worthy pieces, all while introducing shoppers to their next favorite small brands.

 

722 Marsh Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Cute Shop: Marion & Rose’s Workshop, Oakland

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When people shake their heads and say, “Isn’t Oakland, like, really dangerous?” I’m at the point where I do a huge eye roll, walk away, and cut all ties with them. I’m totally kidding. Truth be told, I was once one of those people back when I was a fresh Bay Area transplant and OC ex-pat. Those who shake their heads at Oakland should stop. Right now!

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Oakland has and is going through a remarkable renaissance and redevelopment phase, especially when it comes to food and small businesses. This week’s Cute Shop is about Marion & Rose’s Workshop, a small store located right off of bustling Broadway Avenue in the historic Old Oakland district. Four years ago, Kerri Johnson opened Marion & Rose, following years of running Blank Space gallery, whose home was also in Oakland. After years of running the gallery and hosting revolving pop-ups, Johnson thought it was time to open a brick and mortar store to serve as home to the burgeoning maker movement that was continuing to develop. Serendipitously enough, the building owner for their current shop was offering six months of free rent to attract new tenants to the then quiet section of Oakland in exchange for cultivating the neighborhood into a more bustling locale for residents and visitors.

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Everything in the store is American made, and most often, by small businesses scattered throughout the country.The United States mural that’s painted behind the counter also serves as a showcase for where some of the artists are based out of. Growing up in a family and within a community of union workers, Johnson saw neighbors and family members lose their jobs as manufacturing was outsourced to other parts of the world. Opening Marion & Rose was a way for Johnson to bring back small manufacturing and support the community that she was surrounded by here in California.

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Johnson specializes in what I have dubbed (in my mind), thoughtful shopping. Even if the price point’s higher, it’s about investing in goods that are well-made, in small batches and made in America by artisans and curators who are passionate about what they do, rather than immersing themselves in something they despise doing just to make a buck. When you walk into her store, you know that you’ll be able to find something made by someone who loves what they do, gave thought to what they made, and probably worked really hard to make impeccable. For Marion & Rose, the quality over quantity mantra rings insanely true.

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Since the store opened, a beautiful community in the Old Oakland part of town has been cultivated and bred. As fellow store owners walk by outside the shop, Kerri waves and notes that it makes her happy to have such strong relationships with her neighbors. Right by the front entrance of the shop are flyers promoting other stores in the neighborhood. Johnson also chats about how she’s often introducing and trading brands to other shop owners in Oakland.

Staying true to her gallery roots, Marion & Rose will be hosting artist Michael McConnell on Thursday, May 12th from 5:30-8:30 p.m. If you’re in the hood, maybe plan out a dinner at Swan’s Market, then a stop at Marion & Rose for some cool art by McConnell and quality, American made goods in this character-rich neighborhood of Oakland.

Marion & Rose’s Workshop
461 9th Street
Oakland, CA 94607