History, Landmarks, Local, Restaurants & Drink, Retail

Stags & Stacks…A Cloudy Day In Downtown Oakland

El Nino is here.  Our days are filled with clouds, rain, and an occasional punctuation of sun.  We can’t complain, it’s what we need.  So lets focus on ways to enjoy these dreary days.  A bookstore and a warm, indulgent sandwich were the ways my sister and I chose to spend a recent cold & cloudy Friday.  I was in need of a new book to read, so a trip downtown provided the opportunity to pop into Laurel Bookstore’s new home in the historical Lionel J. Wilson Building.  A stroll through the neighborhood then took us to Stags Lunchette; a cozy little spot serving up oozy deliciousness in sandwich form.

Founded in the Laurel District of Oakland in 2001, Laurel Bookstore continues to offer a great selection of good reads for both young and old.  As of 2014, the shop is turning out titles from a bigger space in the historic Lionel J. Wilson Building on Broadway in Downtown Oakland.

The Lionel J. Wilson Building, originally known as the First National Bank Building, was completed in 1908.  The building was renamed after Lionel J. Wilson, Oakland’s 1st African American Mayor who served 3 terms from 1977-1991.  The eight story building is said to be a miniature version of the Flatiron Building in New York City.  Note the unique shape, while it was built to accommodate the street pattern, it also bears a resemblance to an old cast iron shape.

Lionel Wilson Old Pics

Laurel Books building

Laurel Books Building_1Laurel Bookstore is a welcoming spot, a nice place to pop into to browse and stay warm on a cold day.  As they state on their website, they have “a little bit of everything and the ability to get the rest”.  The store hosts all sorts of events from readings to fundraisers, offering book lovers a spot to learn, share, and just chat about favorite or future reads.  The children’s room is wonderful; my 18-month old Molly spent time with her aunt in this cozy corner, playing with stuffed animals and pulling things off shelves while I puttered around taking a few pictures and looking for sometime to take home for my nightstand.

Laurel Books Kids

Laurel Books Welcome Art

Laurel Books Bag and store

Laurel Books New 2016

Laurel Books TreeAfter picking up Molly’s trail of toys and grabbing a copy of The Girl on the Train, we headed back out into the cool morning and wandered down 14th Street to Webster and turned left.  On my drive in I had stumbled across a new market that piqued my interest.  Sure enough, the corner of Webster & 17th Street is home to not only an amazing piece of Oakland architecture, but a pair of businesses and an eye catching mural that draw you to a stop on this colorful corner.

Opening just last week, Howden Market is the new companion store to Spice Monkey Restaurant & Bar which sits next door.  Both businesses are housed in the historic Howden building, a tile lovers mecca.  Built in 1925, the Howden Building was a commercial showroom for Robert Howden & Sons, which sold mantles and grates, as well as wall & floor tiles.  The building’s facade features Spanish Baroque & Moorish ornamentation.  Covered in orange, white, and black tiles which were said to be installed by the original owner himself, the building is not to be missed if you are in the area.  It’s nearly impossible to miss it with the large mural covering the south-facing wall, the work of artist Zio Ziegler.

Howden Exterior 2

Howden Market Exterior 1

Spice Monkey

Spice Monkey 2Howden Market is a lovely take on a corner market, offering delicious and healthy choices to either grab a meal on-the-go, or a bag of ingredients for your weeknight dinner.  In addition to their their deli and grocery selection, they also offer artisanal coffee if you want to pop in for your morning cup.  I chatted with the owner and she said they currently offer about 85% organic, and are sitting at about 45% locally sourced with the goal to raise that number even higher.

Howden Market 2

Howden Market 4

Howden Market 3

Howden Market 1After our impromptu stop at the market, we turned the corner and headed down to 362 17th Street and popped into Stags Lunchette to warm ourselves inside and out with a hot sandwich offered up in a cozy, lodge inspired space.  Stags has been in business for 3 years, and I am ashamed to say this was my 1st visit.  With a menu that rotates weekly, the counter order restaurant is knocking it out of the park with sandwiches such as the “Beef Schmitter” (think sirloin + fried salami + cheese, tomato, and aioli goodness) and in my case a butternut squash & pasilla pepper panini.  I did confirm that they keep 2 classics in their place of honor on the menu, the Pastrami Reuben and the Grilled Cheese (with a few additions offered…whiskey bacon chutney or tomato jam anyone?).

One thing I will note since as you know, I am a Momma, I would not call this spot super kid-friendly.   They do not have high chairs and all but one table are high with tall stools.  We got lucky with the one small table with built-in benches so Molly was able to plop down next to Auntie L and eat her blueberries, while we ate her grilled cheese.

Stags 2

Stags 3

Stags 1

Stags 4

Stags 5

Stags 6All in all, it was a nice way to spend a cold and cloudy day with my sister and daughter.  I continue to find newfound appreciation for my town and have enjoyed these outings as a way to bring a bit of Oakland love to you.  I hope you enjoy and I look forward to bringing you more as we step further into 2016.



Laurel Bookstore is located at 1423 Broadway Oakland, CA 94612
Hours: Mon-Thurs 10:00am-6:00pm / Fri & Sat 10:00am-7:00pm / Closed Sunday

Howden Market is located at 1630 Webster Street Oakland, CA 94612
Hours: Daily from 8:00am-9:00pm

Spice Monkey is located right next door at 1628 Webster (visit www.spicemonkeyrestaurant.com for more info)

Stags Lunchette is located at 362 17th Street Oakland, CA 94612
Hours: Mon-Fri 8:00am-3:00pm (breakfast is only served until 10:45am) / CLOSED WEEKENDS / they also offer to-go service which is something to consider if you have little ones in tow.
Their website is currently under construction, visit their Facebook Page for more info and weekly menu updates.


All Photos by Adrienne Schell
Historic Images of the Lionel J. Wlison Building were sourced via Local Wiki and Pop Up Hood.  Information about the Lionel J. Building also came from the same Local Wiki Page.  Information on the Howden Building came from Local Wiki as well, see this page for more info.




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  • Reply Susan Magnolia January 22, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    My partner works in the Howden building (at Know Yourself) and he showed me pictures of the interior of the building that are hanging on the wall of Spice Monkey. Very fascinating to see how the building has adapted over the years. Neat post!

    • Reply oaklandmomma January 22, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      It’s an amazing building, I still need to get into Spice Monkey and I will take a look at the pics you mentioned. Thanks for visiting!

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