All posts by Shift Local

Inspired by national support local movements such as Project 3/50, Independent We Stand and Cash Mobs, high school sweethearts Marc and Mari aspire to unite the East Bay communities into creating a long-term shift from spending at national chains to supporting local businesses. We hope to challenge and engage others and ourselves in developing a collaborative environment where East Bay residents and local businesses can partner up to build strong local economies. Marc grew up in Alameda and San Leandro. A recent UC Berkeley graduate, Marc is an aspiring social entrepreneur with experience in real estate, property management and banking. He is an active member of the community serving as the Financial Secretary at First Christian Church of Alameda, volunteer at food banks and tutored children with Autism. Mari is a Hayward resident who grew up in San Leandro. Mari is also UC Berkeley graduate and is now a third-year law student at UC Hastings, College of the Law. Since middle school, Mari has taken on leadership roles in student government and associations and continues to be involved in the community through volunteering in legal clinics and outreaching to underprivileged students.

Something everyone should know about on tax day

 A new study by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern Universities finds that America’s government policies reflect the wishes of the rich and of powerful interest groups, rather than the wishes of the majority of citizens.   Is it really surprising that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence”? (Source:

We hear more complaints about people “taking advantage” of the welfare system and not enough about how the richest 1% takes advantage of our tax system.  So we won’t be surprised that many will support Paul Ryan’s new budget which cuts medicare, education and food stamps because many of us believe that our interests are being represented.  But did you know that his new budget also cuts top federal tax rate?   Does it bother you that middle class Americans continue to pay more taxes than the top 1%?  If you think something wrong is with this picture, sign this petition.


walmart cartoon

What if Walmart paid a living wage?


Did you know that of the the US spent around 76 billion dollars in food stamps?  This video estimates that of that 76 billion dollars, around $300 million dollars goes to Walmart employees.

If Walmart really wants to “save money, live better,” they should just  raise its workers’ wages so that they no longer qualify for food stamps and save US taxpayers $300 million dollars each year!


McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission - Walmart and McDonalds showcase their power

Shift Local Recommended Watch: Upworthy Shedding Light on Big Box and Fast Food Chains

By now, you’ve probably heard of  McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, and how this removes the limitations on political influence by the wealthy.  This is absolutely terrifying!


How the ruling changes the game (From Justice Breyer’s dissent on page 15)

Before today’s decision, the total size of Rich Donor’s check to the Joint Party Committee was capped at $74,600—the aggregate limit for donations to political parties over a 2-year election cycle. After today’s decision, Rich Donor can write a single check to the Joint Party Committee in an amount of about $1.2 million.

Will political parties seek these large checks? Why not? The recipient national and state committees can spend the money to buy generic party advertisements, say television commercials or bumper stickers saying “Support Republicans,” “Support Democrats,” or the like. They also can transfer the money to party committees in battleground States to increase the chances of winning hotly contested seats.

Will party officials and candidates solicit these large contributions from wealthy donors? Absolutely. Such contributions will help increase the party’s power, as well as the candidate’s standing among his colleagues. Will elected officials be particularly grateful to the large donor, feeling obliged to provide him special access and influence, and perhaps even a quid pro quo legislative favor? That is what we have previously believed.

What does this have to do with shifting local? 

Robert Reich said,

“If wealth and income weren’t already so concentrated in the hands of a few, yesterday’s shameful “McCutcheon” decision by the five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous. But unlimited political donations coupled with widening inequality create a vicious cycle in which the wealthy buy votes that lower their taxes, give them bailouts and subsidies, and deregulate their businesses – thereby making them even wealthier and capable of buying even more votes. Corruption breeds more corruption.”


Supporting big box stores and chains only increases the top 1% wealth, and now with the McCutcheon decision, it could very much also increase their political power!

Did you know that between 2009 and 2012 95% of all new income generated in this country went to the top 1% (which includes the Walton Family, the owners of Walmart).   Did you know that top 1% in America owns 38% of the wealth in this country and the bottom 60% owns 2.3% of the wealth?

For an idea of just how much the extremely wealthy can influence politics check out this video of Senator Bernie Sanders asking a panel on whether the Waltons – family of billionaires who run Walmart and Sam’s Club – should receive government benefits such as medicaid, food stamps, and affordable housing.

Upworthy – Senator Bernie Sanders asks panel of experts to defend Walmart

Everyone in that panel except for Robert Reich is obviously “bought.” But big-box stakeholders aren’t the only ones who mistreat their employees and fight to keep minimum wage low, thus forcing their employees to rely on welfare benefits.

Stakeholders of fast food chains influence politics just as much.

Upworthy – What McDonalds would ask its managers to do to maximize its profits

Using our tax money so that their employees could survive isn’t enough for McDonalds. They have their GM’s and managers do the dirty work on their behalf: cheating their employees by forcing unpaid labor. They take advantage of having so much control in employment opportunities that they will cheat anyone and everyone so that they could keep maximizing profits.

The majority stakeholders of these big-box retailers and national fast food chains no longer have to be afraid of backlash. They’ve hoarded so much cash, and have so much influence on politics that even if all their employees organize strikes, we’re starting to feel like nothing will ever bring them down.

What else can we do?

We can tell Congress to stand up to McCutcheon.  Do you have any other ideas?


Marc and Mari



SF Bay Area Dates on a Budget: Wine & Spirit Tasting

Living in the SF Bay Area definitely has many perks – one being just a car ride away from the beautiful wineries of Napa and Sonoma.  I love making that trip as much as the next gal but there are so many options right in our backyard!  For example, Wine on Piedmont offers wine tasting for $5 (and 10% off one of the wines if you decide to purchase one you tasted).   To top it off, they also accept Oakland Grown cards so get your oak shares while you’re at it.  Marc and I checked it out on Saturday and we had a great time wine tasting and chopping it up with the Wine on Piedmont Staff.  It was definitely a fun date on a budget :)

If wine is not your thing, we recommend going spirit tasting at St. George in Alameda where you can enjoy a tour and spirit tasting for around $10-$20.  I celebrated my birthday there a couple of years ago and it was fun learning about the distillery process.  We got to see the different contraptions they use to make vodka, gin, bourbon, whiskey, absinthe etc.  The tour ends with a tasting at their bar and no joke, you should eat something before going AND make sure you have a designated driver because they’re pretty generous with their portions.  Here’s some pictures from our tour back in 2012.

We need to add a local brewery that offers tastings or tours to this list.  Let us know if you have a favorite one and we’ll check it out!

Love Mari

photo 5

SF Bay Area Date Nights on a Budget: OMCA

Upon  turning 30 (and accumulating a ridiculous amount of debt from law school), I  became obsessed about saving a nest egg.  It’s a bit of a conundrum because I also realize that life goes by so fast and let me borrow from the youngins and Drake by saying #yolo (no seriously, I feel too old to be talking like that).  So how do I reconcile the two?

Well one of the ways that Marc and I save is by looking into fun but affordable things to do on date nights so I thought, why not share some of our research with you.

On Friday nights from 5-9 pm, you can check out the Oakland Museum of CA (literally three blocks from our apartment) for half-price for adults, $5 for students (with a student ID) and ages 18 and under are free.  We only got to see one of the exhibits (we got there around 8) but you have access to the entire place! We checked it out last week and we had such a blast!  There’s also live music, dance lessons, food trucks, and local beer.  Our favorite though was the Makers & Tasters Series.  Last week, they had a mixologist teach us how to make an old fashioned and a delicious gin & sour.  We also got to see our favorite Retrofit Republic‘s exhibit on display!

Share with us your favorite date nights on a budget! Looking forward to your recommendations!

Love Mari


Throwback Thursday: Cash Mob SF Recap

Okay, it’s not really too much of a throwback but we had so much fun at A Runner’s Mind on Saturday!  Thanks to the 80+ participants and of course the various local businesses who also supported by donating prizes, refreshments and helping us publicize. 

Here are some of the highlights:

We gathered around 9sh and Marathon Mattgot the runners warmed up before leading the  fun but tough (IMO) 5-mile run.

After the run, the cash mobbers had a choice of joining the Pilates Clinic led by Mercury Fitness Pilates Center or participating in the Turkish get-up challenge by Advanced Wellness San Francisco.  

Refreshments and snacks courtesy of Black Diamond Brewery and Seventy 30 Juice and A Runner’s Mind were ready for us when we got back.

I didn’t get my free massage Pacific Spine & Joint Medical Group (but I heard lots of good things about them from our fellow cash mobbers) since Marc and I were having too much fun raffling off prizes from of Six Doors City Beer Runs, Therapydia SF and watching Goldilocks Training‘s plank challenge winner hold an 8 minute plank!

We’re always looking for an amazing local business to cash mob so if you have a favorite locally-owned business who you think deserves a cash mob, please nominate them!  Again, thank you everyone for helping Shift Local make this happen.  We can’t do this without your help!

It’s not just about buying local, it’s also about bringing our community together.  For those of you who missed it, please make sure to like our Facebook page and/or subscribe to our blog so you keep up to date with our next event or contest.

Marc and Mari




Cash Mob SF Update

And we are getting more and more support from amazing local businesses!

- There will be a post-run pilates clinic by Randy of Mercury Fitness Pilates Center
- Plank competition will be held after the run to win a 5 class punch card to Goldilocks Training!
- Turkish get-up challenge by Advanced Wellness San Francisco
- Raffle prizes and Injury Q&A by Therapydia SF
- Free Massage Station provided by Pacific Spine & Joint Medical Group

Also, big thanks to SF Gate for featuring our Cash Mob!

Keep up to date with the Cash Mob by RSVP-ing on Facebook.  See you on 3/22!

Marc and Mari


DON’T just do it, do it with PURPOSE!

We were frustrated with how difficult it was to find good, independent, locally-owned businesses in the SF Bay Area a couple of years ago.  You can only rely on Yelp so much since there are so many mom and pop shops out there that provide amazing products and services whose online presence are not quite as strong (which is one of the reasons why Marc founded I LOB Resources).  We started this blog just as a way to document our own experiences with our favorite mom and pop shops and we cannot believe how far we’ve come since starting this blog back in 2012.

We are in awe of all the support we’ve gotten from our friends and family since going to our first cash mob in San Lorenzo, organizing our own cash mob in Alameda, and creating social media contests such as Ideal Date Night in order to achieve our goal of making buying local HELLA fun.

cash mob kidsLittle Cash Mobbers  at Cash Mob Alameda

FRONTcardsize1-datenite10-2013Ideal Date Night Contest

We hope that you can join us again on Saturday March 22 to celebrate our second year anniversary and support an amazing independent, locally-owned business, A Runner’s Mind, located in the beautiful Presidio Heights.

Cash Mob SF

ARM was voted as the best small business to purchase shoes, clothing, and accessories for some serious running in the Bay!  So  if you’re in the market for some new running gear, join us on a casual 3-5 mile run led by Marathon Matt and enjoy some free Black Diamond Brewing Company’s beer while you browse ARM’s selection.  We will continue to update the Facebook event page as we get more details.

Marc and Mari


Nothing like Running for Beer on a Gorgeous Day in San Francisco

City Beer Runs

As I mentioned in my last post, Marc signed us up for City Beer Runs after our trip.  At first, I was dreading waking up early since we got back from Florida pretty late last night, but man, I was glad to have attended it. You know how it’s always so hard to get back into working out after taking some time off?  Fitness gurus always say to do what you love to make working out more enjoyable. Well Marc and I are avid runners and we love beer so City Beer Runs was a perfect way to get back at it.  There’s definitely nothing like running for beer on a gorgeous day in San Francisco!

Kyle of City Beer Runs organized a beautiful route.  The 5k course was along the Embarcadero.  We started off right across the Ballpark and proceeded to run down the Embarcadero, under the Bay Bridge and past the Ferry Building. 10003908_692675280782303_1433739708_n 1978767_692675344115630_1059283857_n It’s amazing how we’ve lived in the SF Bay Area for so long and yet, we never took the time to run here.  In fact I used to intern for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission‘s San Francisco office back in the summer of 2010 which is located on the Embarcadero. 1780615_692675127448985_1664250472_n

Speaking of the EEOC, I was happy to”run” into Edris (pictured here with his boyfriend Michael), a fellow former EEOC intern and one of my friends from UC Hastings today! 

It was a pretty nice day in the city, not too hot and not windy at all. When we got back to our start point, City Beer Runs not only hooked us up with beer but also happy hour priced tacos! 1186855_692675544115610_1987808735_n 1620870_692675454115619_520985127_n Kyle also gave away awesome prizes from other independent, locally-owned businesses in a raffle and I won a running scarf! I swear I never win anything so I was pretty stoked!

Cash Mob Update

We’re excited to do more fun races and we’d love for you to join us.  In fact, to celebrate Shift Local’s second year anniversary, we are organizing a free 3-5 mile casual run with Marathon Matt in conjunction with our upcoming cash mob.  We’re also excited to announce the target of the March 22 Cash Mob:  A Runner’s Mind SF.  For those of you who do not know what a cash mob is and why we volunteer our time to organize these events, please see our Cash Mob FAQs page. IMG_5509

When fellow “shifter” Catrine Machi nominated ARM SF for a cash mob back in December, we wanted to learn more about the store.  After meeting with owner Monte Keleher and attending a few of their weekly runs, and buying our new running shoes from them, we realized why ARM SF is a great independent, locally-owned business to cash mob.  Watch out for our next post on what we discovered about Monte and ARM SF!

One last thing I would also like to point out though is that in addition to the free 3-5 mile casual run, Black Diamond Brewing Company will also be providing beer to our cash mobbers!  We will also have folks like City Beer Runs raffling off one of their runs (and providing $5 off their runs to those who want to purchase City Beer Runs tickets with cash).  Again we will be posting more details soon so please keep an eye out for it.  Subscribe to our blog and/or like our Facebook page!



Shift Local Travel Edition: Miami

We are celebrating Marc’s 30th birthday in Miami (and Orlando) this week.  One of our favorite things to do when we travel is making time to squeeze in a run because it gives us a chance to sight see while burning some calories:


Running on Miami Beach Boardwalk


Classic car on Ocean Drive


Art Deco buildings on Ocean Drive



Taking a break 


Post-run juice at Under the Mango Tree on 6th St.

It’s a great way to discover an unfamiliar city and it definitely helps us feel less guilty about our caloric adventures.

lobster roll

Connecticut “Lobstah” Roll from Kelly’s Landing in Fort Lauderdale after the airport



Chicken empanada and Cafe con Leche from Las Olas on 6th after our run

cuban versailles

Roasted Pork Loin Au Jus and Appetizer platter (empanadas, croquettes, and yucca fries) from Versailles in Little Havana

craft cocktails broken shack

Craft cocktails from the Broken Shaker in Miami Beach


Griot from Chef Le Bebe in Little Haiti

I already know that at the rate we’re eating, we’re going to have to up our “fitness” game when we get back home. Marc discovered and signed us up for the March 9, 2014 City Beer Run (the day after we come back from our trip) which combines our passion for running and our love of beer.   We’re super excited to join them on a 5k run.  If you’re free and would like to join us, let us know!

city beer runs

If you can’t make Sunday, they are also doing a run on Thursday, March 6 (while we’re out of town) at ARM.  After the run, ARM will be providing BBQ and 10% off all merchandise.  Please see City Beer Run’s FB page for more information.

Love Mari



Save the Date: Cash Mob SF on Saturday, March 22, 2014

Can you believe Shift Local has been around for two years?  It all started when we supported our first cash mob in San Lorenzo back in March 2012.  We’re  celebrating it by organizing our third cash mob in San Francisco (our second one was in Alameda).


We’re still working out the details but here’s a hint: it involves one of our favorite activities! We hope you can join us so please save the date:


March 22, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Marc and Mari

arm store

Running on my mind

I’ve taken quite some time off from running.  My last half was pretty terrible (I was sick) and then I got busy at work (excuses I know!) and also from moving (yes, I am now an Oakland resident! Woohoo! More on this in another post).  It also turned out that I was training in shoes that did not give me proper support so I ended up injuring my right foot.  No fun!

I now live just two blocks away from Lake Merritt, one of my favorite places to run, and I kept telling myself that I need to get started again but I was definitely thinking about further injuring my foot.

20140224-125436.jpgWhen Marc and I discovered A Runner’s Mind, a locally-owned running store in San Francisco, I was super excited because they provide a free Gait Analysis, price match and guarantee shoes for up to 30 miles.  Talk about full service right?


shoesCheck out our new shoes!

We’ve attended a few of the runs that they organize on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings which have been been very encouraging especially for someone like me who prefers to run at a  slow, basically jogging/walking pace.  Everyone else seems to zoom pass me and my competitive spirit challenges me to TRY to keep up :)

armGetting ready for our morning run.

post run snackPost-run snack courtesy of ARM SF!

Anyway, I really want to sign up for another race in April or May.  Let me know what your favorite one is and maybe I’ll join you!

Also, we’re in the midst of organizing a running-inspired event in March so watch out for that announcement!

Love Mari

Michael Altfest of the Bay Area's Alameda County Community Food Bank accepting the donation from I LOB, LLC through Shift Local's Ideal Date Night contest

Ideal Date Night Donation to The Bay Area’s Alameda County Community Food Bank

Due to some minor prize distribution bumps, Mari’s 30th birthday, and the holidays, it took a couple months to finally drop off the $69 donation from I LOB, LLC to the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

Fortunately, thanks to the delay, this donation counted towards the Together We Can: Volunteer Fundraising Challenge. 

Gifts made by you -- our volunteers -- will be matched dollar-for-dollar—up to $50,000—to double the nutrition and hope for families in need. This matching grant has been made possible thanks to the generous support of an anonymous Food Bank volunteer!
An anonymous Food Bank volunteer is matching dollar-for-dollar up to $50k for this fundraiser challenge!
ACCFB is a Four Star Charity
ACCFB is a Four Star Charity

With the rise of charity scams throughout the U.S. it’s comforting to know that the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB) is dedicated to transparency. Their annual reports prove how effective their efforts are in alleviating hunger.

They have a fun Virtual Food Drive to showcase their bulk purchasing power. Therefore every $1 donated is equal to $4 worth of food! Technically – thanks to the fundraising challenge and ACCFB multiplier – the $69 donation turns out to be $552 worth of food!

I’d like to thank One Pacific Coast Bank for the free cashier’s check!

Brought to you by Marc

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Ugly Pants Holiday Party

We held our annual holiday party this past weekend.  We usually dress up in some sort of theme.  In the past we’ve done ugly Christmas sweaters, we’ve dressed up in “12 days of Christmas attire” – think turtledoves, french hens, swans etc. and a variety of Santa Clauses – all worthy of a separate blog entry! This year was no different and we dressed up in “ugly pants.”

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In our last post, I mentioned that we got some produce and desserts to bring to this get-together.  Our theme this year was Italian food and I’m usually the one that brings the salad.  This year, I decided to do a little twist on it and I ended up making what Marc started calling “basil boats.”  The basil boats were really easy to make (no cooking involved!).

What you need:

  • Basil
  • Fresh mozarella
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Minced garlic
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • toothpicks

All you have to do is slice the fresh mozarella close to the size of the cherry or grape tomatoes.  Then you skewer the two together.  Then you add the basil to it by skewering both ends of the leaf (creating a boat shape, hence the name, “basil boats”).  Lay the basil boats on a tray.

For the dressing, I just added olive oil to my balsamic vinegar and generously added the minced garlic.  When we got to the party, I poured it over the basil boats and voila! You have a fun and refreshing appetizer.

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My friends are amazing bakers but unfortunately, I’m not! LOL (Check out the homemade french macarons, chocolate truffles, chocolate dipped pretzels, mini cherry cheesecakes below!).  We bought this italian rum cake from Diane of Boniere Bakery instead.

232323232%7Ffp83232)uqcshlukaxroqdfv97 7=ot)23 7=49(=4 =XROQDF)2 ;97689;246ot1lsiThanks to Maya Bueno for the amazing photos! Shift Local wishes all of you the best holiday season and a wonderful 2014!

Marc and Mari


Baby it’s cold outside…

It’s always tempting to stay in bed under a pile of warm and cozy blankets when it’s so cold outside. It was tough to get myself out of bed on Saturday morning but Marc and I needed to get produce and desserts for our holiday potluck with our friends that evening.  We checked out Grand Lake Farmers Market on Saturday and ended up having an impromptu coffee tasting to warm us up.

We mentioned Bicycle Coffee Co. in our Savoring Oakland post and when we saw their stand at the farmers market, we had to try it again.

20131223-140638.jpgWe paired it with Starters Bakery‘s famous Kouign Amann (pronounced kween a-mon) which was like a croissant but so much better.  It was really rich probably because it is made by rolling out and folding together layers upon layers of dough with salted butter and sugar (amazing I know!).  Marc got the traditional one while I opted for the one with TCHO chocolate.


After walking around for a bit and picking up some of the things we needed, we noticed this really cute Ethiopian coffee stand, Anfilo Coffee.   What stood out to us was how they had a sit down set up and did not have disposable cups.  In other words, they force you to sit down, relax, and really enjoy your cup of coffee.  It was nice to take a quick break from the hustle and bustle of the Saturday rush and relaxing for a few minutes.

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We’ll talk about what we made for our holiday potluck and where we got our dessert from in a another post.  In the mean time, stay warm out there!

Love Mari


Savoring Oakland

savor-oakland-180pxLast weekend, Marc and I took Savor Oakland’s Oakland Chinatown Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour.  We thought, oh it’ll just be food tasting, so maybe we should get breakfast because we assumed the portions would be small.  We didn’t, thank goodness!  Our taste buds (and bellies) were in for a BIG treat thanks to Co-Founder Carlo Medina who took us to four local restaurants for a sit-down tasting.

Our first stop was Classic Guilin Rice Noodles where we sampled the classic guilin rice noodles of course.  I’ve never had this dish before and Marc and I both really enjoyed it (Note the restaurant is franchised, it’s a fast food joint in China).


Our second stop was Banh Cuon Tay Ho.   Owner Denise informed us that she uses locally-sourced ingredients “because I care about what we put in our bodies, I eat here too.”  You can really taste the freshness of the ingredients in the dishes that she served.  Since I’m allergic to shrimp (and there was a vegetarian in the group), she also provided a couple of vegetarian dishes.  Man that veggie spring roll was delicious!


Tay Ho 2

Denise is also an avid bicyclist and guess what, if you are too, bring in your helmet and get 10% off your meal!  It was also awesome that her coffee beans are from Oakland’s Bicycle Coffee Co.   She had us sample her Vietnamese coffee and it was so yum.


Tay Ho

Our third stop was Nature’s Vegetarian which I’ve been to before for lunch when I used to work in Oakland.  I think Marc said it best when commented, “Is there pork or no pork?  Nobody knows!”




By the time we got to Battambang Restaurant, we were stuffed.  We were served with a delicious plate of beef salad which was an awesome way to end our day of tasting.


In between the food tastings, Carlo told us about Oakland Chinatown’s historical landmarks and beautiful architectural detail of buildings that I swear we’ve walked past by a gazillion times but never stopped by to appreciate the beauty.  We also learned a lot about Chinatown’s history and how it became what it is today.

P1070573 P1070590

Downtown Oakland Toms Bakery

Marc and I definitely recommend taking one of Savor Oakland;s Food Tours – whether you have friends or family from out-of-town visiting or just because you want to take a stroll down your neighborhood.  We had so much fun.  The food was delicious and plentiful, we got some exercise in, and we met some really amazing people while learning a bit more about Oakland.  We can’t wait to take their Jack London Square tour.

Love Mari


Sometimes things are better left unplanned

One of our Ideal Date Night contest participants, VP (also my awesome cousin) mentioned True Burger  in his ideal date night post.  We’ve been planning to meet up for weeks and we finally did last weekend.  A few other friends joined us and what was suppose to be just dinner turned into a pretty epic adventure around the Bay.

true burger

IMG_5172True Burger’s Chili Cheese fries were BOMB!!!

After our delicious meal at True Burger (We also had the true deluxe cheesy burger topped with a crispy portabello stuffed with mozarella cheese not pictured because we devoured it!), , we decided to go to Conga Lounge.  We’ve been there  for our friend, Eugene’s birthday a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately, it was PACKED!  We ended up going to Old Oakland’s The Trappist instead.



So much beer selection at The Trappist.  Check out their Holiday beer specials!

At some point that night, we decided to make our way to San Francisco to see VP’s girlfriend Anne perform with her band (support your local artists!) at Foley’s.  That girl CAN SING!


IMG_5183 IMG_5177 IMG_5184

After Foley’s, we found ourselves starving and ended up at Los Panchos for late night pupusas.



Sorry for the grainy iphone pictures!  It really was such a fun night and it was great to hang out with these guys again.  Special thanks to VP for being our DD!  Remember kids, don’t drink and drive!

Love Mari


Flashback Friday: Alice in Wonderland Tea Party

Marc and I attended SBA and Oakland Grown‘s mixer last night.  It was really wonderful meeting with fellow “local lovers” and small business owners.  During my conversation with Lisa of High Spirits Event Planning about my Farewell to my Roaring 20′s party, I mentioned how I celebrated my 26th birthday by throwing an Alice in Wonderland Tea Party.  Hope you don’t mind a quick trip down memory lane!

My birthday was right in the middle of finals during my first year of law school and it was so wonderful to take a break from it and celebrate with my dearest friends.   Most of our costumes were purchased at local thrift stores.


10932_879256041693_3376476_n10932_879256016743_7519663_n10932_879256026723_6370026_n  10932_879255986803_5892774_nFor afternoon tea, we went to Katia’s Russian Tea Room in San Francisco and I remember the owner being so sweet about my large party and our insane outfits.  We really loved the service and of course the delicious food.

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Hope you enjoyed reminiscing with me! Special thanks to Maya  Bueno who took these pictures for me.

Love Mari


Local Eats Bay Area: Acqua e’ Farina in Downtown Hayward

Marc and I recently discovered a Bay Area hidden gem in Hayward.  I was craving Italian food and the other local spot in Hayward had a thirty minute wait so we drove around and found this cute little Italian restaurant that just opened.

Acqua e’ Farina is a  family-owned and operated restaurant located in downtown Hayward, and we were really pleased by the service.  The owners and staff make you feel not just welcome but more like at home.  We were also impressed by how passionate the owners were about their food and customers.

Acqua e' Farina Hayward Bay Area
Meet the 3 brothers and nephew of Acqua e’ Farina in Hayward!

I love how knowledgeable they are about their food and wine.  We don’t claim to be experts on Italian food but we know what we like to eat. I think sometimes that’s really all it takes since everyone’s palette is different.

I had the red snapper with white wine butter sauce (off the menu and recommended by one of the owners) and it was amazing.  Marc had the New York steak and it was very tasty.  My favorite item from that night though was the polenta.

food wine

Love Mari

Image - Dec 1, 2013 17.09.11

Farewell to my Roaring 20′s

We had a Great Gatsby-inspired celebration to say farewell to my “Roaring 20′s” over the weekend.

Image - Dec 1, 2013 17.07.44My friends and family are such great sports when I ask them to dress up and I’m so thankful for having such amazing loved ones.

Image - Dec 1, 2013 17.09.11The french macarons were homemade by my friend Ethel and the oreo cake pops and white cholocate dipped pretzels were homemade by my friend Shell.  I keep telling them, they should open up their own bakery because they were soo good!  The tiramisu cake was purchased at Mary’s Bakery in Fremont.

Image - Dec 1, 2013 16.53.02This picture highlights my awesome Great Gatsby- inspired tiara.  I bought it from a family-owned business online, HV Sterling Co.

tableIn addition to dressing up, we also had a prohibition-themed cocktail bar.

sp2After drinks, we had dinner at SP2, a San Jose restaurant that sources locally (the food was great!).  It was a great spot to book because they were so accommodating to such a large party.

Most of the pictures from the festivities are courtesy of my dear friends Jenn and Jeremy (check out their blog: BellyBound) and you can tell which ones were taken with my phone LOL!

  1471102_10102660074181823_783094258_n Image - Dec 1, 2013 17.05.111453425_10102660951204263_2008601691_nImage - Dec 1, 2013 16.41.56Image - Dec 1, 2013 17.04.17Image - Dec 1, 2013 17.03.29 Image - Dec 1, 2013 16.40.39 Image - Dec 1, 2013 17.08.15 Image - Dec 1, 2013 17.13.14

I had an amazing time at my party.  If you have any questions about the decorations, desserts and/or libations, let me know!  I couldn’t have pulled this together without the help of my friends and of course, the best boyfriend and my favorite Shift Local activist, Marc :)



Happy Plaid Friday!

Did you do a lot of holiday shopping today?  If so, did you shift local and support Plaid Friday? We’d love to hear more about your awesome holiday finds.


Marc and I will be hanging out at District in Oakland tonight representing Oakland Grown. Come see us for a chance to win prizes (and to get your Oakland Grown gift card if you don’t have one already!)

As we mentioned in a previous post, there will be lots of pop up stores in Oakland today for Plaid Friday!


Small Business Saturday is November 30, 2013

Small Businesses Saturday November 30, 2013

American Express continues the annual Small Businesses Saturday on November 30, 2013. Unfortunately they are only offering a $10 credit statement this year compared to $25 last year. This is still a great promotion that both consumers and small business owners should take advantage of!

Register Small Business Saturday
Click to register your American Express credit card!
Click to order a free mat and reusable bags for Small Business Saturday!
Click to order a free mat and reusable bags for Small Business Saturday!

Shift your holiday spending!

shift holiday shopping…and support your independent, locally-owned businesses!  If you need a list of awesome mom and pop shops in the SF Bay Area, check out Oakland Grown’s directory.  Another way to support is by going to Plaid Friday instead of Black Friday:

“The name Plaid Friday was conceived from the idea of weaving the individual threads of small businesses together to create a strong fabric that celebrates the diversity and creativity of independent businesses. Plaid Friday is the fun and enjoyable alternative to the big box store “Black Friday,” and is designed promote both local and independently owned businesses during the holidays.

Plaid Friday was conceptualized in Oakland, CA, a city known for strong shop local campaigns. Plaid Friday strives to bring back the days when shopping for friends and family during the holidays was a pleasurable and leisurely activity.

Help celebrate by wearing plaid while shopping at participating businesses on Friday, November 29th.   Look for the special plaid placards at your local shops. Many of theses businesses are offering specials during Plaid Friday.

Plaid Friday is not just and Oakland, CA event, businesses all over the country participate, email the shop local campaign in your area to find out if they are participating and encourage your small business friends to jump on board!”

Taken from

For more information check out:

Marc and Mari


The holidays can be stressful

keep calm

I love this time of they year because of the back-to-back holidays.  When I was a kid, I looked forward to getting presents and seeing family that we normally don’t see.  Now, I personally get super excited to hunt for the perfect presents for my loved ones.  I have to admit though that it gets super stressful especially when I wait to do my holiday shopping.

I have a pretty intense November and December schedule at work so I’m trying to get most of my shopping done this weekend.  It’s not practical for me to do ALL of my shopping at independent, locally-owned businesses but I’m definitely going to try to SHIFT some of my spending to help support our local economy.  Will you?  We’d love to hear about your favorite mom and pop shops and what unique items you find.




Bonus Prizes

Ideal Date Night Bonus Prize Winners!!!

For complete details on what the Bonus Prizes are, please check out our

Ideal Date Night Contest Page

Congratulations Amanda for winning your choice of 3 DIY kits from Global Grub! They don’t have spicy spaghetti yet, but we know you can’t go wrong with any of their flavors. Head over to Global Grub’s Facebook Page, Like them and message Carley (the awesome founder) for instructions on how to order your kits!

Amanda Chang Ideal Date Night Post

Global Grub

Noemi, you caught our attention with #bottomlessbeatstopless but you got extra artsy with your #cannotbeatsalsa dance moves! Email Lili ( for details on the prints you can get. We’ll message you about the $25 voucher from Patrick at Panorama Framing Inc. 

Noemi Gallardo Ideal Date Night Post


Doug’s was the place to go for breakfast when Marc pulled all-nighters back then, and we love going up Mission Peak! But what caught our attention was how hardcore boga yoga is. So hopefully you feel as satisfied taking classes at Hot Box Yoga, and you’ll fulfill your ideal date with a massage at Lolo Health! We’ll message you for redemption details.

Mia Armas Ideal Date Night Post


We can tell if someone really wants a prize when they include it 3x in their ideal date night. But you were really creative in the usage of #beerysweet so we’re gonna hook you up with a complete meal at Croll’s Pizza & Beer that includes 2 pints of local microbrewed beer! Whoever your next date is will be extremely lucky :D We’ll message you about redeeming the meal.

Christine Start Ideal Date Night Post


Realistically? You made us #laughoutloud with your ideal date night. So gather up 5 friends and head over to watch one of Comedy Oakland’s shows. Try to catch a show that features Samson Koletkar the “world’s only Indian Jewish standup comedian” He’s super funny, and hooked us up with some swag when we last saw him perform!

Walter Wong Ideal Date Night Post

Beery Sweet ROFL Captions with Sam

Thanks to all the Independent Locally-Owned Businesses that provided us with awesome prizes! Thank you contest participants!! We hope you’ll enjoy your prizes. Please take pictures and share them with Shift Local so we can feature them on our Facebook Page :) At Shift Local, we want everyone to win, so we’ll have another update tomorrow on special prizes!!!

Yep, we hookin it up! B

Phat Matt Bacon Beastie

BBQ So Good It Makes You Want to Kiss Phat Matt

When you get chosen to be on Destination America’s United States of Bacon, you need to be able to bring the goods. There’s no doubt Phat Matt’s BBQ in Oakland did just that! Check out the episode they were featured on, and let me know if you agree :)
Phat Matt started barbecuing back in Chicago, a great city with awesome local small businesses. His famous BBQ sauce is ketchup based , and in order to meet the dietary needs of his wife Charlotte, all of the rubs and sauces he makes have no added salt. It’s not like you can tell, given how flavorful the food is at Phat Matt’s BBQ.
Meet Phat Matt and Charlotte
Meet Charlotte and Phat Matt

Charlotte is another example of an open-minded and forward-thinking business owner, responding to my tweet when I asked some business owners to step up and donate to the Ideal Date Night contest. She is the “jack-of-all-trades” at Phat Matt’s BBQ, handling everything from cashier duties to managing all the social media accounts. What makes her special, is her accessibility: despite all the work she has to do for the business, she takes the time to respond to people. This creates genuine interaction between business and consumer. No wonder Phat Matt’s BBQ has a thousand likes on Facebook and nearly two thousands followers on Twitter. Then you see that they maintain a 4 star rating on Yelp with over 270 reviews, and you know that you just found a restaurant to add to your “must go” list.

Q & A with phat matt’s bbq

Answers provided by Charlotte Gonzales 


Local means you live here, work here, play here, and do the majority of purchasing here (60 to 70%).


We chose Oakland because of the above reasons. Our home was purchased in Oakland and it made sense to have our business here too. We LOVE Oakland!


We contribute a variety of ways both personal and business. As a business we donate food for various events (some charity), quite often when we have food left over we give it away to homeless in the neighborhood. We participate in neighborhood programs both at our home and business, ie. I started a walking program for my neighbors where we live so that we could get know each other better and stay better informed as to what’s going on in another block. At the business we look out for all of our neighbors both businesses and people that live there, trying to reduce the crime in the neighborhood. These are just a few of things we do.

You gotta try it to see how accurate their tagline is!
You gotta try it to see how accurate their tagline is!

What “Local” Means to Oakland Grown Members

As we enter the last week of the first ever Ideal Date Night contest, I’d like to introduce four more female business owners who are open-minded and forward-thinking. Plus they all accept the Oakland Grown gift card, and someone’s about to win a shopping spree this week!

Q & A with Laurel Bookstore

Answers provided by Luan Stauss

4100 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland, CA 94619 510-531-2073
4100 MacArthur Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94619
Like them on Facebook
Tweet them on Twitter


Local is my community. Most of it is within a mile or so of my store, but also Iconsider anywhere in Oakland local for who I believe my customer base is. And when I think of local authors and illustrators, local is anywhere in the bay area as we’re rich in talent.


I chose Oakland for my business for the same reasons I choose to live here; the diverse community. As a bookseller I greatly appreciate the amazing mix of education levels, cultures, ages, and interests that make up Oakland. It’s a challenge but also an amazing joy and privilege to serve such a diverse customer base.


My business provides a place where people will run into their neighbors, meet new friends, talk about issues of the day, commiserate about issues, and delight in each others’ triumphs. It contributes to the sense that if you pay attention, our neighborhood is a small town where people take an interest in each other, work for a better city, and appreciate the diversity of our people. Books are just the beginning!

Q & A with marion and rose’s gift shop

Answers provided by Kerri Johnson

Like Marion and Rose’s Workshop on Facebook

Follow Marion and Rose’s Workshop on Twitter


Local is your community, supporting and connecting to what is happening around you.


I love the vibrancy and supportiveness of the small business community in Oakland.  Oakland is my home and I want to contribute to making it stronger and keeping it unique.


My business supports the local makers, artists and designers that I showcase directly with monthly sales.  Indirectly my business adds to the local economy by choosing to buy from other small businesses and keeping my money in the community.

Q & A with The 25th Street Collective

Answers provided by Hiroko Kurihara

477 25th Street, Oakland CA 94612 Like them on Facebook Tweet them on Twitter
477 25th Street, Oakland CA 94612
Like them on Facebook
Tweet them on Twitter


Local is generally seen as economic activity and exchange occurring within a 150 mile radius, however, from a global context, local can be regional and relative.  For example, if I’m producing a product for the European market I would do better to work with a worker-owned, profit-sharing collective in India or Hungary, right?


It’s where I live and have lived for a quarter of a century!  Oakland represents a proving ground of multi-faceted vibrancy and verve!


The 25th Street Collective offers the space to sustainable artisan producers of wine eco-shoes, re-fashioned garments, fine woolen home furnishings and hand-blocked hats a place to thrive and grow the Creative Economy in Oakland.  We offer residents the opportunity to witness and support craftsmanship and “making in the making” and take part in workshops like “Re-Purpose with Purpose” where creations are made and then shared with our young friends at Oakland Elizabeth House.


Answers provided by Kirstin Lindquist

Like Energy Matters Acupuncture and Qigong on Facebook


Local is home.


Oakland is my home. 25+ years. I never considered any other city.


We help people become more of who they are, so they can go out and do more in the world.

Gondola Ad

Ideal Date Night Weekend Update # 2

#Idealdatenight Double Date

The second week of the contest had twice as many ideal date nights shared compared to the first week. Hopefully this gives us momentum to reach our goal of 100 date nights, $100 to the Alameda County Community Food Bank and $300 loaded to the Oakland Grown Gift Card.

Our leader board As of 10/21/2013 8:30pm

  1. Brizielle dejesus with 49 likes

  2. Maya Bueno with 47 likes

  3. Patrick Sun with 17 likes

If we chose bonus prize winners today

What are the bonus prizes?

  • Noemi Gallardo #yougovangogh with your salsa moves!

  • VP Porciuncula is #beerysweet :D

  • Jennifer Obana, we agree #theresnoplacelikehome

  • #letsgetphysicalphysical and take a walk at Lake Chabot Candice Yu!

If we were to choose a winner of a free photoshoot with iworkthelight, courtesy social media implementation by I LOB Resources and half off high spirits event planning today, it would be….


As a thank you for all those who participated so far, we have special prizes for you!

They will contact you soon!

alan datenightGladys datenightFrances datenightVP datenightWaldo datenightEdris datenightJenn datenightBrendan datenightEmily datenightNoah datenightAlfred datenightAC datenightElaine datenightSheila datenightJessica datenightHenry datenightNoemi datenightMadel datenightEntrez datenightCarolAn datenight

If the 400 just shared a bit more, then no one would be hungry and homeless

Shift Local Recommended Watch: Inequality For All

“This movie is critically important. It exposes the heart of our economic problem.  Something that’s been getting worse and worse for over 30 years. Widening inequality.” – Robert Reich

The Disappearance of the Middle Class

Inequality for All stars Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Currently Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley (GO BEARS!). TIME Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He explains that

“There’s no way you can sustain the economy over the long-term without a strong, vibrant and growing middle class”

The flatline of American middle class wages
The flatline of American middle class wages

The middle class… probably the class where most of the people you know fall in. But what exactly makes you a middle class American?

Is our social status based on net income, or maybe the size of our house? Should we factor in how much debt you have? Education plays a role too, but we all know how meaningless degrees are becoming in today’s economy.

The Importance of the Middle Class

  • A strong middle class promotes the development of human capital and a well-educated population.
  • A strong middle class creates a stable source of demand for goods and services.
  • A strong middle class incubates the next generation of entrepreneurs.
  • A strong middle class supports inclusive political and economic institutions, which underpin economic growth.
The Great Prosperity should last forver
The Great Prosperity should last forver

Inequality for All focuses on explaining what lead to the ridiculous income inequality of the the richest country in the world. Basically, the 2008 economic crisis we all lived through mirrored the Great Depression of the 1930′s. So yes, history does repeat itself!

The Great Prosperity that America experienced ended in 1977, six years after the Powell Memo was first published. Back then, UC Berkeley offered free tuition. Isn’t that why it’s called a public university? Now Mari and I have to worry about school loans for many, many years…

Robert Reich’s Impact in Our Lives 

Robert Reich now chooses to be an educator, that’s how he feels he can make the most difference. His amazing intellect and humor makes him a great speaker, and thanks to him, the 99% has a slightly louder voice.

So Why Shift Local?

Those brave enough to start and grow a business that provides living wages, and contributes back to the community are ran by open minded and forward thinking people. They are fighting for the middle class by creating jobs and paying their fair share of taxes. If history repeats itself for another 30 years, then we should reach a point in which income inequality is at the lowest levels in America. If that happens, we might have a decent future for today’s kids.

Brought to you by Marc


Shift Local: Travel Edition – Chicago

We went on a trip to Chicago for Steven and Joma’s wedding.


In between the ceremony and reception, Marc and I picked up a cute card at Papier Girl in Glen Ellyn for Joma and Steven.  It was such an adorable little store:

IMAG1148It was pretty obvious that we were looking for a wedding card since Marc and I were a little too dressed up for “shopping”

IMG_0262We had such a wonderful time at the beautiful couple’s wedding.

In addition to seeing family and friends, we were excited about checking out Chicago’s amazing food and drink scene.  As we mentioned in other Shift Local: Travel Edition posts,  we are not only committed to enriching East Bay communities but we are also dedicated to sustaining local economies everywhere to go.

Here are some of our favorites:

Hema’s Kitchen

Marc and I met Hema’s Kitchen’s Chef and Owner who informed us that she also grows her own produce which she uses in her dishes! Talk about fresh!  We agree with Centerstage’s review that “Hema’s Indian restaurant brings four-star cooking (both vegetarian and meat) to the budget-minded.Hema’s Kitchen caters to everyone from the hardcore vegetarian to the meat-craving maniac.”

Hemas kitchen

Owen & Engine

Serves locally-sourced ingredients and have a variety of beer on tap.  We recommend going on Tuesday nights for their Burger, Bourbon and Beer special.

Russian Tea Time

The last time we visited Chicago was right before I started law school back in 2009.  We went to have afternoon tea at Russian Tea Time, a locally-owned and operated business in Downtown Chicago.  It was our first time going for afternoon tea and we were hooked.  We just had to go back this year and it did not disappoint.

IMG_6465We hope to see you soon again Chicago!

Marc and Mari


Ideal Date Night Weekend Update

Thanks to everyone who has participated so far in our #idealdatenight contest.  


pat mike 10.13.13


JasonCandace Lisa



As of 10/13/13 at 7:30 pm, our leaderboard consists of:

  1. Patrick Sun with 13 likes

  2. Brizielle De Jesus with 9 likes

  3. Jason Frando with 7 likes

Please continue sharing your post and get more likes.  Also encourage your friends to post as well because the more people who join, the bigger the prize!  As of right now, we have 10 people who joined which means the grand prize gets a $30 Oakland Grown Gift Card on top of the 50 minute tour for two on a gondola ride around Lake Merritt from Gondola Servizio, passes to Grand Lake Theater and $30 restaurant voucher (TBD!).  So if we get 100 posts, the grand prize winner can get a $300 Oakland Grown Gift Card!

This also means that I LOB Resources is donating $10 to Alameda Food Bank ($1 per contest entry!)  So let’s get more entries and get $100 to Alameda Food Bank :)

Those who don’t have quite as many likes, don’t fret, you may be in the running for the bonus prizes!

Walter Wong you we sure #laughoutloud, Katrina Romero we thought your post was #beerysweet and Maya Bueno, we loved how you ended your night because #theresnoplacelikehome.

How to share your contest entry

There are two ways to join: (1) post on our timeline; (2) post a comment on our Official Rules and Prizes post.

TIP: If you post on our timeline, share our page and ask friends and family to like your post. Note that you cannot see posts by others on a mobile device so instruct people to go on a computer.

TIP: If you post a comment on our Official Rules and Prizes post, people using mobile devices can see it.

Our suggestion is to post both on our wall and comment on our Official Rules and Prizes post just in case :)  We will add up the unique likes.

Hope that clarifies things for you guys.  If we miss a like, please bring it to our attention by emailing us at


Ideal Date Night Contest Starts Today!

photoToday is the first day of the #ideadatenight contest.  We hope you take the time to join!  Check out Marc’s post on as a guide:

marc ideal date night

We are excited to have #idealdatenight prizes from Croll’s Pizza in Alameda, High Spirits Event Planning in El Cerrito, Six Doors and Balboa Green Garden in San Francisco.  Although these businesses are not located in the Lake Merritt neighborhood, the owners generously donated prizes to our contest because they understand the importance of supporting each other to help spread the message of shifting local.

Shifting local is crucial because independent, locally owned businesses make a tremendous impact in our community.  Here are a few examples:

1. Independent, locally owned businesses sustain our local economy.


How?  After the sale is made, independent, locally-owned businesses return almost 45% of earnings right back into the community where you live versus 13% when you shop big box or chain stores.  Plus, independent, locally-owned businesses create local jobs and pay local taxes.  They are also more likely to support other local businesses.  For example, Croll’s Pizza sources its ingredients locally and serves beer from local microbreweries.

2. Independent, locally owned businesses are more likely to provide community service.

Lisa of High Spirits Event Planning
Lisa of High Spirits Event Planning

Local businesses on average support non-profits at a higher rate than big businesses. They are more likely to give back to the community and encourage entrepreneurial growth.  One example of this is how High Spirits Event Planning owner Lisa is an active board member of Oakland Grown, a non-profit that is dedicated to support the growth and development of independent locally-owned businesses and artists.

3. Independent, locally owned businesses are more likely to cater to a community’s needs.

They find a need and fill it.  Unlike national chains that bases product choice on a national sales plan, a local business provides consumers a more interesting selection and satisfies the unique needs of the neighborhood.

Balboa Green Garden is a perfect example of this.  When I talked to Richard about his family’s flower shop, he told me that his father, a former engineer, carefully listens to the requests of customers that comes to the shop.  They get a lot of wedding flower arrangement requests with elaborate designs.  With his engineering background, he is able to create a beautiful and sustainable design.



Answers provided by Richard Kim.


Supporting local businesses means supporting the American dream envisioned by many immigrant families.


San Francisco was the perfect location for a flower business. The city protects small business owners and its lively residents love flowers for all occasions. The large volume of pedestrian traffic is perfect for a flower store that will catch your eye.


Our flower store has a large Bay Area Korean customer base. The Korean community often supports Korean businesses and that has given us the opportunity to pass on savings to customers by providing an excellent product at reasonable prices with a mom-and-pops smile.

A bad run is better than no run

I ran my second (well third if you count Spartan Race) half-marathon last Sunday and man did I have a tough run. I was feeling a little under the weather and I was struggling most of the way.  Mile 7-12 was a blur and I just kept telling myself, “don’t pass out!”  I also kept repeating to myself “a bad run is better than no run!”  It was so bad that if it was my first race ever, I probably would not race again!

Lessons learned:  hydrate, get lots of rest and DO NOT GET SICK!

Thank you to these ladies for keeping me motivated through 13.1 miles.  Couldn’t have done it without you guys.


Running is not my favorite activity (even though I LOVE running races…usually) so  I’m happy to take a couple of weeks off running and get back into my favorite, hot yoga!  I am currently practicing at Hot Box Yoga where I met my amazing teacher, Gabriela.  Here are pictures of Gabby taken by photographer extraordinaire Allan of iWorktheLight Photography (who also took our pictures for the Ideal Date Night Contest):



Yoga has totally changed the way I see fitness because it is holistic.  I love that I can be focused in that moment and just be present.  If you know me well, you know I cannot sit still :).

Anyway, Hot Box Yoga has graciously offered passes to give away as a bonus prize to our ideal date night contest so make sure you post your ideal date night between 10/10/13 and 10/31/13!

Love Mari

Jessica Hope Commerce

Putting the Trust and Transparency in Payment Processing

oaklandgrown-card-logo-shadow-tiltThe Kiss Me I’m Local post highlighted the biggest prize we are offering for the Ideal Date Night Contest: the Oakland Grown Gift Card. Every post submitted for the contest will add $3 to the gift card (max $300). The technological back-end responsible for the gift card is Hope Commerce Solutions. I had the honor of meeting Jessica Nowlan, founder of Hope Commerce Solutions at Awaken Cafe in Oakland (thanks Emily!). We discussed about the need of an alternative payment solution for small businesses, since Visa and Mastercard does not care about the success of small businesses.

I learned rather quickly how the lack of information provided to business owners was used by many payment industry professionals as a way to inflate prices and negotiate unfair contracts, ultimately hurting the small businesses that drive our economy and creating distrust between the business community and the payment processing Industry. - Jessica Nowlan

How much more income do these corporations need?
How much more assets do these corporations need? – thanks Wiki

We all probably have the Visa or Mastercard logo in our wallets or purse, and that’s fine. They provide convenience, protection, and for the savvy consumers, rewards points. But with dominant market shares and shady business practices, we as consumers need to understand that each time we swipe our cards at independent local businesses, there is a huge fee that takes away from a business’ bottom line. And contributes to the billions in assets of these payment processing companies.

Q and A with Hope Commerce Solutions

Answers provided by Jessica Nowlan

What is your definition of Local?

Local is my community, where I live, work and play. Shopping local means supporting independent businesses and artists because together we are building and strengthening our community and contributing to a better world.

Why did you choose Oakland as the home of your business?

I chose to do my business here in Oakland for many reasons. The first is because I live here, I am raising my kids here and after being pushed out of San Francisco during the first “.com” boom, Oakland was welcoming and became our home. I love and believe in the diversity Oakland and as a business owner I strongly believe that it is my responsibility to embrace and understand the communities in which we do business and do everything in my power to help strengthen our community. To me that means building a service business that supports other local businesses vitality and growth,  to create opportunities and jobs in my own business for Oakland residents and to be a leader in the business community that encourages hiring local residents and people with barriers to employment.

What does your business contribute to Oakland?

My business, Hope Commerce Solutions, provides a platform for a city wide shop local program, the Oakland Grown Card. In addition to the card and platform itself, we provide consulting and marketing services to the non-profit organization, the Sustainable Business Alliance on how to run a successful card based shop local program.
In addition to city-wide campaigns like the Oakland Grown Card, we also work with neighborhood based merchant associations providing consultation and training on areas of marketing,  social media, and community engagement, and we work with individual local businesses on marketing and loyalty programs, payment processing, and merchant services.

Local Here, Local There, Local Everywhere

The word “local” is more prevalent than ever thanks to advancements in technology and the bigger role the Internet plays in our daily lives.  Many websites and apps request our location in order to help find or show anything that’s around us.  Exploring and learning more about our neighborhood is fun and exciting, but more importantly, “local” could make a positive impact on our community once you insert words before it such as: buy, shop, support, shift and eat.

Emergence of the pro-local movement

Thanks to non-profit organizations: American Independent Business Alliance and Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, the pro-local movement is gaining popularity with its assurance of sustainability and economic stability.  For-profit campaigns such as Independent We Stand and The 3/50 Project are growing their business directories while raising awareness of the many benefits of purchasing locally-sourced items from independent locally-owned businesses rather than large nationwide retail chains.  However, similar to when “organic” became a hot marketing trend, stores of all sizes are cashing in on local.

Big chains utilizing "local" in their marketing ads
Big chains utilizing “local” in their marketing ads

With large national retailers capitalizing on the local trend, the definition of local is growing ambiguous.  Big-box retailers and national chains often receive criticism for their relentless pursuit of maximizing profits.  Not only are these large companies capable of setting consumer trends, they have an ability to adapt and modify their marketing campaigns to take advantage of “the next big thing.”  The nation’s largest retailer Wal-Mart began a program in 2010 to sell more locally-grown produce and defines local as “that grown and sold in the same state.”   Target partnered with local boutique owners from around the country but these items don’t necessarily sell at the same state they originate from.  In an effort to clarify this confusion, I figure we can do a little bit of homework.


The USDA regulates the use of organic but unfortunately there’s no standard definition for using local.

According to local is defined:

  1. a) Of, relating to, or characteristic of a particular place

b) Of, or relating to a city, town or district rather than a larger area

  1. Not a broad or general; not widespread

Based on either definition are you able to associate local with Safeway, Supervalu or Kroger?  They are touting their produce to be locally grown even if it has commuted for hundreds of miles.

Let’s examine how these three major national grocery chains in the US stretch the definition:

Safeway seems to understand what local means the most since it only considers produce locally grown if it hasn’t been driven for more than eight hours.  So based on a 65mph speed limit, produce can still be local even if it travels around 520 miles.

Kroger (much like Walmart) believes they can label produce locally grown as long as it is grown “in the same state or within the same region of the country.”  If we just consider the same-state rule, we can take the smallest and largest state, Rhode Island and Alaska respectively, then measure two points across its borders.  By definition, local can range from approximately 37 miles (East to West of Rhode Island) to 2,200 miles (East to West of Alaska).

Supervalu adds even more to the confusion as it varies what is considered locally grown depending on which of their chains – Jewel-Osco, Albertsons and Lucky to name a few – are advertising “local.”  This allows them to label produce as locally grown even if it is harvested from neighboring states.

To some extent, it’s a good thing that national retailers are consciously making an effort to purchase more locally since some small farms and shops will benefit from the increased exposure and business.  But as you can see from our small sample, the meaning of local is very broad and not taken seriously.


If the focus of promoting local is merely to satisfy shifting consumer preferences for more profits, then the benefits of the pro-local movement will ultimately be lost.  Not only are national retailers intentionally confusing consumers on what constitutes as local, they are diluting this marketing opportunity for the small businesses that are more deserving.

Independent business owners who actually live near their company have a stake on the well-being of the community they reside in: they have a mortgage; this is where their kids are growing; neighbors are their customers.  Although they don’t have the backing of national marketing campaigns, there are nascent tools available on the web that embraces localness.

Local Harvest is a resource hub with over 20,000 members that maintains a “definitive and reliable ‘living’ public nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets, and other local food sources.”

Eat local Grown is also a directory but their focus is more on reviews, claiming to be the Yelp of locally grown food.

Obtaining financial help is one of the main problems for independent owners but a slew of crowdfunding platforms focused on connecting entrepreneurs with their neighbors is paving the way for vibrant local economies.

Gondola Servizio

Gondola Servizio Adding Romance to Oakland’s Date Night Scene

My mom and dad riding The Venetian's gondola tour in Las Vegas
My mom and dad riding The Venetian’s gondola tour in Las Vegas


I’ve known about Lake Merritt since I was a kid, accompanying my sister to pick up my mom at work. My mom worked at Lake Merritt Child Care Center (now the location of Cafe Lakeview), and it was right across Lake Merritt. But I never jogged around the lake until earlier this year. That’s when I noticed a couple on a gondola tour. That reminded me of my visit at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

Gondola Servizio began providing tours around the lake since 1999. April Quinn and Angelino Sandri founded Gondola Servizo to reflect their love of Venetian culture and rowing. They provide authentic gondola rides, complete with Italian melodies, skilled gondoliers , and of course, the lovely scenery at Lake Merritt.

Q & A WITH Gondola Servizio

Answers provided by April Quinn


Local to me – -what I think most people feel is important about being supportive of our community – -being LOCAL – -is living, working, shopping and playing local. For us, that’s Oakland. But our business services (415), (925), and other nearby area codes as well. We are a local service for the most part. We do get some visitor traffic. Most of our customers return or tell a local friend.


We chose Oakland for the beauty, and because it’s a major metropolitan city. Where else can you find a large urban oasis within the boundaries of a bustling city?


Gondola Servizio has contributed more to The City of Oakland than I can even begin to write. We were part of the support and planning for the DD measure that voters passed and is used to improve our lake and walk ways. We reduced crime around the lake being in operation at night. Our image has been used by countless entities including property developers to sell Oakland as a destination. We have been part of the renaissance of Oakland, The City and OCVB use our image to reflect these changes. We offer a wonderful service that people love. We give access to the Lake for people. We support countless charities, schools and more. We are a positive voice for Oakland. I alone act as a concierge in Oakland. We bring business to Oakland. We are a business in Oakland. We employ in Oakland, so much more….

Infusing Romance to the Grand Prize Package of the Ideal Date Night Contest

Six Doors Kiss Me I'm Local Bag

Kiss Me I’m Local

If you aren't having fun running your business, what's the point? TY iWorkTheLight
If you aren’t having fun running your business, what’s the point? TY iWorkTheLight

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Mari and I initially planned to run a smaller contest to give out movie tickets. But thanks to the power of Twitter, I got connected with Pascal Levy-Garboua, founder of the app SixDoors. This app aims to “make it easy to shop local.” For now it’s only available at the Apple App Store, so those using Android, or Windows, will have to wait.

I have a lot of praise for the women entrepreneurs that stepped up to contribute towards the $300 Oakland Grown Gift Card prize. But there are plenty of open-minded and forward-thinking men as well, including I LOB Resources’ Jason Frando and yours truly :)

Q and A with SixDoors

Answers provided by Pascal Levy-Garboua

Who is founder/s and what lead you to start this company?

We are two founders – Thorsten (CTO) and Pascal (CEO) – but you could extend the founding team to the four people you see on our website.

Thorsten is the CTO, and SixDoors is his third Company. He started a mobile gaming Company when there were no smartphones, one of the largest European social gaming publishing Company (Plinga), and has been the CTO of the largest German dating site.

Pascal is the CEO, and SixDoors is my second Entrepreneurial venture. Previously, I co-founded VirtuOz, a software Company that does “Siri” for the Enterprise (and was acquired recently by the people who power Siri!). I also started a company that launched a few local search products in France.

SixDoors started the day where I was fed up spending hours at local toy stores trying to find a gift for one of my kids’ friends and sending my wife pictures so that she would tell me what to buy. I was busy with work and spending 2 hours on that, there had to be a better way!

Do you have any plans to add independent grocers? Or farmers market vendors on SixDoors?

We will have a few independent specialty grocery place (mostly selling fine foods from specific countries) but our core use case right now is around products you would bring for a party or around gifting. This is where we can really make a dent in a differentiated way.

Is an android app in the works?

Not for now. We want to get things right on iPhone first and then we will move to the web and Android.

What does “local” mean to you?

I have always been a strong supporter of buying local (ie. in your city from neighborhood stores with store owners [whose kids] go to school with your kids), and both Thorsten and I are big city guys: we love cities for their stores, cafes, restaurants, where you can walk to etc… That’s what make cities exciting and unique.

Talking and working with stores, we realized how hard it was for them to compete in an Amazon world. We hope to bring them the edge that will allow them to keep expanding, first locally, and then who knows ;-)

New Addition to Contest Prizes