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Readers’ Choice 2014: Shop Till You Drop

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Don’t have a gift to bring to the bar or bat mitzvah this Saturday? No need to panic. These Judaica shops have been recommended by readers for their selection of sacred objects, special books and Jewish gifts.

Dayenu is conveniently located inside the JCC of San Francisco. The store, in business more than 10 years, understands its customers’ needs and offers a variety of Jewish ritual and holiday items made by Israeli and American artists. The staff strives to find a balance between artistry and affordability. In addition, “we offer freshly baked challahs every Friday and on the eve of Jewish holidays, as well as lulav-etrog sets,” says CEO Hiroko Nogami-Rosen.

Afikomen Judaica is Berkeley’s one-stop Jewish shop, with everything from toys that teach children how to live Jewishly, to candles used to commemorate lifecycle events. “We are proudest of our capacity to educate and support customers from all across the spectrum of Jewish life in making purchases that are meaningful to them,” co-owner Nell Mahgel-Friedman says. Works by local and Israeli artists, Fair Trade Judaica items and more than 100 tallits all bring to life the store’s motto: “Live. Shop. Shmooze.”

Alef Bet Judaica in Los Gatos has been meeting the Judaica needs of the Silicon Valley since 1993. The store represents more than 45 artists from Israel and the United States, with 85 percent of the merchandise handcrafted, according to the store website. The collection of modern and traditional items, along with Jewish books and toys for kids, makes it easy to find gifts for friends and family, as well as items for the home.

San Francisco

Dayenu Gifts and Books

JCC of San Francisco

(415) 563-6563


East Bay

Afikomen Judaica


(510) 655-1977


South Bay/Peninsula

Alef Bet Judaica

Los Gatos

(408) 370-1818



If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then these Bay Area jewelers must be her favorite place to hang out. From custom designs to vintage finds, these jewelers bring the sparkle.

Ben Shemano is a San Francisco estate and custom jewelry dealer, specializing in buying and selling jewelry, watches, diamonds and other precious stones. His training in gemology covering diamonds, gold, precious and semiprecious stones allows him to help clients in their decisions on what to buy and when to sell. “That happens when they are well-informed, treated respectfully, and provided with honest options and choices,” his website says.

Jeweler Michael Endlich, founder of Pavé Fine Jewelry, specializes in creating custom pieces at his two East Bay locations. He and his team use recycled metals and ethically sourced gems to create original pieces of jewelry. The stores are family-owned and the staff of six works with clients from start to finish to ensure a process that is mutually rewarding. “We are most proud of our ability to create custom jewelry from pencil sketch to finished product. Bringing to life a piece of jewelry at first only imagined by a client is an intimate process that is so rewarding and deeply satisfying, both for our clients and for us,” Endlich says.

Since 1931, the Gleim family has been buying and consigning jewelry from private collections on the Peninsula. The store also has its own line of fine diamond and gemstone jewelry. Gleim will help customers find unusual pieces of vintage jewelry and new pieces to last decades. The Palo Alto store also values giving back to the community. “As much as possible, we will donate to fundraisers of local educational and charitable institutions,” the website says.

Yifat Bareket is an Israeli jewelry designer who sells to Bay Area clients exclusively through her website. A graduate of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, she has participated in exhibitions all over Israel and sold her jewelry in her home country and abroad. “The jewelry I create is meant to embrace a woman’s strength and femininity, along with her beauty,” Bareket says on her website.

San Francisco

Ben Shemano Jewelry

(415) 362-7777


East Bay

Pavé Fine Jewelry Design

Berkeley • (510) 547-7000

Oakland • (510) 528-7300


South Bay/Peninsula

Gleim the Jeweler

Palo Alto

(650) 325-3533


North Bay

Yifat Bareket Designs


Shoe Store

It’s been said that with the right pair of shoes you can conquer the world. But it isn’t always easy to find the perfect shoes — a pair that combines comfort, style and convenience. Readers say these stores help customers look and feel great.

Footwear enthusiasts have been going to the “foot health store” On the Run in San Francisco since the late ’70s. “We want every customer to leave the store with happy feet,” the website says. Instead of customers picking shoes to try on, staff will evaluate an individual’s feet and recommend shoes to suit his or her lifestyle. The store seeks to reduce foot pain by selling orthotics and otherwise meeting specific footwear needs. “Ailments such as plantar fasciitis, hallux rigidus or metatarsalgia can typically be accommodated with an orthotic device and a good pair of shoes,” floor manager Ben Collison says.

Shoes on Solano “offers quality fashion shoes that feel as good as they look,” says president and owner Carol Fabretti. The Berkeley store strives to carry brands that have “a philanthropic or ecofriendly philosophy in their own business and products,” meaning customers can wear their shoes pain- and guilt-free. The decision to sell only women’s shoes grew out of a frustration the owners experienced when shopping at other women’s stores that had male shoe buyers.

The Walk Shop has been an institution in Berkeley since 1978, offering a wide selection of European- and American-made shoes for women and men. Brands featured include Ecco, Clarks, Merrell, New Balance and more. Walk Shop staff first measure for length and width, then examine feet for any problems that need to be taken into account when finding the right pair of shoes to suit an individual’s lifestyle.

Footwear etc.’s website puts the company’s philosophy plainly: “If it’s uncomfortable, we simply don’t sell it.” With a focus on remedying foot and leg problems in customers, the staff at the store’s many Peninsula locations will fit customers with fashionable and comfortable shoes. The selection at Footwear etc. ranges from outdoor shoes to slippers and everything in between for men, women and children.

San Francisco

On the Run

(415) 665-5311


East Bay

Shoes on Solano


(510) 525-3832

The Walk Shop


(510) 849-3628


Peninsula/South Bay

Footwear etc.

Various locations

(800) 720-0572


Toy Store

Toys are an essential part of childhood, helping kids to learn while they play, nurturing their brain development and social skills, too. Puzzles, dolls, balls and more all have a place on the shelves of these Bay Area toy stores.

The Ark has two locations in San Francisco, plus one in Berkeley. The store opened to provide toys and games that met Waldorf School standards but has since expanded. With everything from outdoor games to wooden toys, musical instruments and construction sets, it now specializes in “all-around fun toys that challenge our imaginations and expand our capacity to think and grow,” the website says.

“We are a children’s toy store that specializes in toys that promote open-ended, creative play,” says the co-owner of Mr. Mopps’, Devin McDonald. The Berkeley store carries specialty toys at all price points that serve as an alternative to mass-produced toys found in large chain stores. McDonald hopes to expand in the fall to include a children’s book store a few doors down from the shop in Berkeley.

A collection of more than 1,000 items at Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World means that classic, educational and active toys will always be in stock. The store has been serving Palo Alto since 1930, providing educational and fun toys to children of all ages. A new website makes it even easier to shop for toys and sporting goods, which can be shipped directly to the buyer’s home.

San Francisco

The Ark

(415) 440-8697

(415) 821-1257


East Bay

Mr. Mopps’


(510) 525-9633


Peninsula/South Bay

Palo Alto Sport Shop & Toy World

(650) 328-8555


Department Store

Nordstrom swept this category for two main reasons: high-quality merchandise and stellar customer service.

Bay Area shoppers trust Nordstrom to provide a positive shopping experience, with its well maintained and appealingly laid out stores. Everything from formal to casual wear is available for men, women and children, with designer products displayed alongside moderately priced items. Nordstrom also boasts a relaxed return policy, taking the stress off buying.

Bay Area


Various locations

(888) 282-6060



As the Billy Crystal character Fernando once said, “You look mah-velous.” But that look has to start somewhere. These Bay Area boutiques have the clothes and accessories to help you look great so you can feel great, too. Make that marvelous.

Ambiance has four San Francisco locations, and while each is tailored to the aesthetic of its neighborhood, the boutique continues to be the city’s “famously romantic store with a modern edge,” owner Donna O’Leary says. Customers can make appointments with stylists to receive wardrobe advice for no charge. The store is known for its vintage dresses, premium denim and pieces from brands hard to find anywhere else.

At Urbanity, an upscale consignment boutique on Berkeley’s Solano Avenue, customers can enjoy a sustainable shopping experience while browsing the store’s collection of designer consignment clothes, shoes and accessories. Resale merchandise is available in the store, online and at Urbanity’s eBay store.

Readers recommend Francesca’s, with several locations in the Peninsula/South Bay, for its variety of clothing, accessories and trinkets. The inventory is restocked regularly so customers can expect to see new, fashion-forward items each time they visit.

San Francisco


Various locations


East Bay



(510) 524-7467


Peninsula/South Bay


Various locations


Record Store

iPods, iTunes and other music delivery systems may become obsolete sooner rather than later, but Amoeba isn’t going anywhere. This funky Bay Area retail record store draws customers who still savor the experience of browsing through vinyl LPs, CDs and more in the company of fellow music lovers.

Amoeba opened its first store in Berkeley in 1990. The San Francisco location opened in 1997 on Haight Street, and the Hollywood store opened in 2001. Each has grown to accommodate Amoeba’s collection of rare vinyl. The store also sells 78s, 45s and turntables, as well as “everything from DVDs, Blu-rays, LPs, CDs, posters, pop culture books and music books,” partner Joe Goldmark says. All are available in the store and on the website.

Amoeba prides itself on supporting the local and global community, raising money for a variety of causes. It also sponsors several free in-store concerts a year, Goldmark says, featuring such artists as Tenacious D, Elvis Costello and Steve Earle.

The store is known for its customer service and dog-friendly vibe. “We’re the counterculture megastore,” Goldmark says.

 San Francisco & East Bay


San Francisco • (415) 831-1200

Berkeley • (510) 549-1125


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