Skip to content


Your cart is empty

Article: The Struggle of Being a Small Business in Oakland

The Struggle of Being a Small Business in Oakland - DEVAN GREGORI

The Struggle of Being a Small Business in Oakland

It is HARD being a small business owner, and unfortunately, it's even harder in Oakland. As an entrepreneur, you are responsible for everything - it's not only the actual designing and making of a product, but also the marketing, sales, operations, financials, events, and everything in between. Most of the time we are footing the bill with our own personal investment, and we are working either alone, with a very devoted spouse or partner, or maybe a small team. And we do all this because we believe in our mission fervently, we thrive on building and engaging with our communities and yes, because we are a little bit insane.

I love living in Oakland. I'm a Bay Area native that ended up making it my home (we are a rare breed). I went to high school in Oakland, and then went on to UC Berkeley, so Rockridge is my familiar stomping ground. I'm fortunate enough to live two blocks away from our storefront in Rockridge (we live in the house that my husband grew up in). I get to walk Stella to the store every morning and greet our neighbors and fellow shop owners as we walk by.

All that being said, Oakland has been struggling with an increase in crime over the past five years, and running a small business here is growing increasingly difficult. While all areas of Oakland have seen an increase in crime, the North Oakland and Uptown areas (for reference, our store is in the North Oakland area) have seen the largest increase in total crimes reported in 2023 compared to 2022 jumping 28%. It also saw the largest increase compared to the previous five year average at 59%.

I'm writing this now because three of our local businesses on College Avenue got broken into within the past five days. Think about that for a moment - three small businesses within a two-block span were smashed and robbed in less than a week. ⁠One of those businesses was our next door neighbor, Taylor Jay Collection, who has had to suffer not one break-in, but two, within the span of 6 weeks. I'm heartbroken to see these hardworking, passionate ambassadors of Oakland have their livelihoods ripped away from them, and I'm terrified that I'm next. 

That fear and sense of vulnerability is a major distraction. Instead of energy being devoted to tasks and projects that build and enhance the business, my mind goes into disaster preparedness-mode. I spend time on figuring out how to bolster security, or whether or not I actually can afford to do so. I pull back on my plans for store improvements because I don't know how long I'll be in this location if it gets broken into. I halt on bringing in new brands because I don't want to risk their product getting stolen either.

Fortunately, our store has been spared, but it's only a matter of time. Where is the support, or at they very least, the communication, from Mayor Sheng Thao and our Oakland city government on what is being done to combat storefront break-ins, auto burglary and assault (among others)? How are landlords proactively helping their tenants protect their storefronts so that they don't fold or move away? Where is the response from OPD when they are called?

I will continue to do whatever I can to keep our storefront on College Avenue because I believe in supporting our community and small businesses are an essential cornerstone to that. I will not let fear get the best of me, even though I lose quite a bit of sleep at night wondering if the store is okay. In return, I humbly ask that we all continue to shop and support our local businesses, that commercial real estate landlords work with their tenants to take measures to prevent property damage and retail theft, and that our city government finally takes some real action in combatting these types of crimes in Oakland so that we may keep our small businesses here and encourage new ones to grow.

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

All comments are moderated before being published.

Read more

Is Viscose Sustainable? - DEVAN GREGORI
Behind the Brand

Is Viscose Sustainable?

In the evolving landscape of sustainable fashion, one material that has gained some significant attention for its eco-friendly qualities is viscose. Often praised for its luxurious feel and enviro...

Read more