Wednesday, March 27, 2013

[Photos] Umami Mart's Lease-signing Party

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Downtown Oakland has a bad reputation, but the times are a-changin' thanks to shops like Umami Mart  and proprietors like Yoko and Kayoko. Until six months ago, Umami Mart existed only as a Japanese-centered food and lifestyle blog in the virtual world. Now, it's a got a storefront at 815 Broadway in Oakland, a short five minute walk from the 12th St. BART station. 

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Until last week, the Umami Mart flagship store was a pop-up store which, like handful of other stores on the block, was part of a neighborhood initiative to revitalize downtown Oakland called Pop Up Hood. Essentially, Kayoko and Yoko had six months of free rent to test the waters. If things went well, they'd have the opportunity to sign a lease, which they did just last week. After hanging out for awhile at the lease-signing party, it became pretty obvious why the store is such a hit. 

First, the physical space reveals an arresting mix of Scandinavian and Japanese design aesthetics.

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The shelves are stocked with high-quality Japanese food and beverage related merchandise. The barware, like everything else, is imported directly from Japan.  Bartenders from both San Francisco and Oakland buy their gear at Umami Mart. 


As well-wishers began to pour in, I realized that beauty of Umami Mart is not confined to the space. Yoko and Kakyoko are skilled not only at running a business but also at contributing to a growing Downtown community. They have such warm, fun personalities that you feel immediately welcome in the store. 

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Loads of loyal customers and business owners from the neighborhood showed up to celebrate, and it was clear that Kayoko and Yoko cultivated more than business relationships––they actually brought people together.

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When it came time for the celebratory toast, I could actually feel the support in the room. Everyone wants this business to thrive.


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No Japanese celebration is complete without completing the Daruma ritual––drawing in the eyes to signify that you've accomplished a goal. Above, Kayoko is learning the history of the Daruma doll. Below, mission accomplished.

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There are so many reasons for you to check out Umami Mart. The ladies are fantastic fun. The merchandise is worth way more than they sell it for. The spot is beautiful. AND they sell bento boxes every Tuesday and Thursday lunchtime.


miki said...

awesome pictures and text, Noelle!!! makes me want to go...

miki said...

oh SORRY, josh :P

Yoko said...

Hi Josh! Thank you so much for these amazing photos and a thoughtful writeup. We are so lucky to get support from people in the community -- these photos bring tear to my eyes! I look forward to following your blog.