Oakland Supply Co. celebrated its third anniversary last weekend with a grand opening party at its new Jack London Square location. The store's move from 3rd Street a few blocks away is a short distance, but CEO Angela Tsay said she hopes the change in scenery will result in big changes.
"We were off the beaten path, and never getting the people coming to JLS events, because there's nothing else really over there," she told Hoodline.
"I think now is the time we'll see a real re-development of JLS. Big events can be detrimental to small businesses, so I'm hoping for a schedule of good, medium-sized events that will bring customers to the shop."
Tsay, who oversees the Oaklandish brand, said the move reflects a change in strategy that was brought on by the city's current housing situation, she noted.
"We need more housing," said Tsay. "Our neighborhoods don't have the density to support small businesses."
"A lot of our loyal customer base is being priced out," Tsay said. "With rising housing costs, there needs to be a value proposition for those who still live here and have expendable income. We still highlight local makers, but to be a viable business, we need to sell from Southern California, or other countries."
The pivot seems to be working: after Oakland Supply Co. began stocking Herschel bags from Canada, customers took an immediate interest, Tsay said.
"We want all apparel to be accessible to everyone. If people are getting them elsewhere, like Bay Street, we need to be able to give back," she said, adding that she looks for products with a price point that isn't "laughable to Oakland residents."
Despite her success, Tsay said she still faces the same challenges of a small business. Designers seeking to sell a new design can spend less by using screen-printing shops in cities with a lower minimum wage, for example.
"Not everyone wants to buy a T-shirt just so the sales tax can come to Oakland," said Tsay, who wants to make shopping less intimidating and more inclusive.
Her "welcoming, approachable, and accessible" store culture also extends to accepting people as they are: "I hate going into a store and being ignored for not dressing cool enough."
For aspiring makers who dream of having their projects sold at an Oaklandish shop, Tsay had the following advice: "I'm always looking for things that look more expensive than they really are. It's good to give a gift that looks expensive that you got a great deal on. Also, can you write an invoice?"
Oakland Supply Co. (510-817-4488) is located at 427 Water St. and is open from 11 to 7 on weekdays, 10–7 on Saturday, and from 10–6 on Sunday.
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