The walls are filled with jars of spices and burlap sacks line the bottom

One sense that can really transport you to somewhere else, even if it’s just in your imagination, is the sense of smell. The fragrance of lavender puts you in the middle of lavender fields in Provence. The freshness of Meyer lemons take you to your grandmother’s backyard. And perhaps the scent of vanilla takes you to the jungles of Madagascar.

Walk into the Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland’s Grand Lake neighborhood and there’s no telling where you may end up.

Opened in December by John Beaver, who worked for years at a spice store in Wisconsin, Oaktown Spice Shop is a quaint spice shop with the vintage touches of a small-town shop with the polished presentation of a high-end gourmet store.

A nostalgic feel is played up by this top shelf of vintage coffee cans

You’ll be mesmerized by the displays of colorful spice blends, hand mixed by Beaver, along with sights of drying peppers, Hawaiian salts, and an entire shelf of smoked paprika. You can purchase bottles of vanilla extract or sticks of cinnamon, or choose your own amount of herbs.

The store is located across the street from Lake Merritt near the Grand Lake end, on the same side of the street as the Sidebar restaurant. It might be a bit away from the slew of stores in the heart of the Grand Lake neighborhood, but everyone who walks in seem to be excited to discover this new neighborhood specialty shop.

Oaktown Spice Shop, 530 Grand Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.201.5400. Open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays). More information on its Facebook page.

Vibrant colors of spice blends at Oaktown Spice Shop

Owner John Beaver packs some spices for a customer

Equipment of the trade

I definitely will be back for more spices

I love the set up of this tiny store, so I asked Beaver if he’d allow me to shoot some photos, which he graciously agreed to. You can view more photos in this slideshow, which, as always, can be permanently found in my Exhibits section.

8 Responses to The Spice Route Leads to Lake Merritt

  1. Sandy says:

    Beautiful images, Ben! I have a love of flavored salts and will definitely visit to check out their selection ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ben Ben says:

      Sandy, they don’t have flavored salts, per se. They have different types of salt, but they’re natural, which means no added flavors. They’re just different by color, like they have a pink salt, black salt (from lava rocks off Hawaii) and grey salt.

  2. hungry dog says:

    What a cool spot! I’d love to check this out next time I get to Oakland.

    • Ben Ben says:

      HD, if you check out the store, let me know and we should get some brunch at Boot and Shoe Service or Sidebar! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Carolyn Jung says:

    What a cool shop. I didn’t even know it was there in Oakland. I love spice shops; you always discover something new that you can’t live without. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. vivienne says:

    hahah i wish the scent of vanilla would take me to the jungle of Madagascar ๐Ÿ˜› but as i haven’t been there before, vanilla just takes me to my kitchen hehe.

    great blog u’ve here ben…amazing photos and writing!

    i am going to hawaii in a few weeks time so hopefully can get some eating tips from you?! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Ben Ben says:

      Thanks for visiting Vivienne! (And I love your blog too!) I’ll email you some ideas for Hawaii bites! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I love walking in to spice shops, and this one has a nice ambiance. Not as “modern” as Penzey’s in Menlo Park but at least it’s clean and cozy compared to San Francisco Herb Company.