Years of Service by Merchants: Part 2

Friday, October 3, 2014

Have you ever noticed that lime-green building just south of the Rockridge Branch Library? It's the entrance to McNally's Irish Pub, the first bar in Oakland to open its doors after prohibition ended in 1933. Opened by Bill McNally, long-time owner who died in 1973, the business has passed through several owners, but the decor and facilities have remained almost the same: no food, small bathrooms, and walls adorned with pictures of JFK and FDR among other historical items of importance. Stop in at McNally's at 5352 College and say hello to "Tony" who has been there 28 years and counting. I couldn't understand a "Tony" working at McNally's, but he explained that his mother wanted to make sure he got to America so she wrote "To NY" on his forehead, and the name has stuck ever since.

  • Hazara Rug Gallery, 6042 College Avenue, was opened by Mohammad Zavvar in 1986. He specializes in fine quality tribal weavings. These tribal rugs tend to be smaller, both for ease of use in daily prayer and to facilitate frequent moves as the nomadic tribes searched for new grazing areas for their herds. Mohammad and his son Baback continue their family tradition, learned in Iran and now shared with repeat customers in the Bay Area. They also buy and sell on the Internet to a much broader audience. Now, they are launching an online auction service that debuts October 18. More than 170 items will be available for purchase. If you are interested in this fascinating field of decorative fine art, stop in and discover the history and enjoyment these rugs bring to their owners. And, check out their online auction catalog:
  • Have you wondered why Eddie's Drive-In Liquors at 5491 College has such generous entrance and exit driveways for its parking lot? Before 1964, the site held a gas station, then was purchased and modified into the familiar building we know now. Current owner Wayne Johnson started working there about 25 years ago. After several years, he bought the business; now, son Adam has followed in Dad's footsteps. Soon, you'll see more healthy choices, as well as more than 300 different beers with more local selections coming in every week. The store is a reference point in many conversations, because everyone knows where Eddie's is.
  • A few doors down from Eddie's is Rockridge Royal Cleaners, 5455 College, which opened for business 29 years ago. Sunny has been the owner for the last 16 years, and can be found there just about every day even though she has six other employees. It's hot and hard work inside but she takes pride in delivering this service. Alterations are also done on-site.
  • Moving north on College, we find the Rockridge Cafe at 5492 College, opened as a small counter-only cafe in 1973 - the same counter you can see now. Ten years later, owner Bill Chung expanded the layout into its current configuration and served breakfast, lunch and dinner. In 2005, the menu changed to breakfast and lunch only. That decision appears to have been a good one, judging by the lines on any Saturday. Daniel, the assistant manager, started 25 years ago as the dishwasher and just enjoys working in the neighborhood he lives in. Try the Chorizo and Cheese Scramble if you want a little spice in the morning. The cafe is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Rockridge Barber was founded by Domiano Tamburrino about 1921 and has been owned by Marty Hatton since about 1986. Twenty-eight years later, his hair is longer (I envy him) and greyer, but the service is just as good. Marty was recovering from surgery a few years ago and closed the shop at 5409 College for almost nine months. When he returned to work, he found a long line of apparent hippies waiting for him: customers who had waited until he was well. That is customer loyalty, and a tribute to Marty. Look for the wooden barber-pole outside (only during open hours) thanks to John, who had it made just a few years ago. However, the chairs inside go back to the '30s. Waiting customers can study the collection of early barber tools, or, since Marty's a baseball fan, listen to the game that's sure to be on the radio. Just what you'd expect. Call for an appointment: 652-4010.
  • Specialty Antique Rug company The Levant, 5450 College, does repairs, cleaning and sales, and has been owned by Albert Keshisian since 1964. The building and next-door parking lot were once a Safeway store, the second largest in Oakland at the time. Albert, a lively 87 years old, is a man of many interests; an appointment is necessary as he is often out on business. Blessed with a great memory, that gift came to the rescue of many of his clients who lost valuable rugs during the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire. Albert was able to describe and document many of their purchases and assist in the insurance claims. He was also active in the roller skating, bowling and movie theatre businesses located where Market Hall now sits. Albert learned the rug trade from his father starting at about age 7. He graduated from Claremont Middle School and recalls getting his first haircut at the Rockridge Barber in the early 1930s. If you are lucky enough to have a conversation with Albert, you will remember it for a long time.
  • George Carpenter and Walt Trube first opened a restaurant in 1931 where Market Hall now stands and called it Troop's Cafe. After a good measure of success, they sold the property to Albert Keshisian (see Levant, above), built their current location at 5445 College in 1945 and renamed the restaurant George & Walt's. The establishment was known for steaks, seafood (abalone was a favorite) and good wine. It continued offering dinner under various managements into the 1990s when Barbara Stelzriede, George's great-granddaughter, stepped back into managing and steered the business into a "sports bar" that will again be serving "pub food" in the fall. The bar has a strong neighborhood following from both men and women, is very busy on the weekends, has well-behaved clients and spotless premises. Rose is the bartender and ladies are always welcome.

Following is the second in our series of businesses that have been in business on College Avenue at least 25 years. There are more still to come. If your business has been on the Avenue (or adjacent to it) that long, email We want our readers to know about you and to stop in to see what you offer.