There's nothing like an anniversary to make you look back and look forward. Ruby's Garden celebrated eleven years in business this fall and it is indeed hard to believe. Every year that passes I can think of the children that have been born into our little community here, nursing at our red couch, wearing our booties and onesies, becoming crawlers then walkers then choosing their own favorite dresses and shirts or playing at the toy table, then finally outgrowing the clothes on our racks. We have been host to first steps, first potty, and oh so many first pairs of shoes. It has been truly a privilege to witness your children grow into their big-person selves.
When we opened in 2006, we sold flowers and graphic tees out of a tiny 250 square foot storefront at the other end of the building that now houses Sacred Wheel. We were the first to occupy that building on Shattuck Ave which had remained vacant or nearly vacant for as long as I had lived in Temescal (there was just that Jamaican Jerk Chicken place. I think it was pink).
When we opened in 2006, Ruby was three years old and headed to preschool. I was just coming out of a daze that was being a stay-at-home mother. I had been an architect before baby but I knew I would not go back to it. I had so many questions about the life I would make in the years ahead; I only knew I longed for a more fulfilling life both personally and professionally.
When we opened in 2006, Temescal was a different place. Home ownership was still attainable to people earning less than six-figure salaries. Our neighbors were artists, writers, and many other professionals working from home with interesting side-gigs. Many of us were able to afford to not go back to work when we had children if that's what we wanted. This was who made up the community at Ruby's Garden, stay-at-home moms who needed a place to feel welcome during the long and lonely days of babyhood.
In 2017 we still have a strong beautiful community but many families and nearly all the businesses who were our neighbors just eleven years ago are gone. The times have changed and are still changing with a speed that makes it hard to catch a breath sometimes. Which makes it a challenge to look ahead and plan toward anything coming out the way you pictured it. But still as a business we are only viable to the extent we meet the needs of our customers.
So what do you need, Oakland? Parents around here are working harder than ever to make a life here for their families to thrive. Time is precious and so is money when housing costs are stretching us all. But we stay because we love it here. We love the sense of community in our corner of the Bay Area. We want our kids to grow up around the richness of cultural diversity. We want to connect with humans in real life every day to navigate this strange moment in America feeling less alien and maybe even find some hope.
While this may sound like a tall order, because it is, it is also the stuff of what happens every day at Ruby's Garden. Every day, if I'm paying attention, there are people sharing their stories and themselves in staggering acts of generosity and kindness. I myself have been privileged to hundreds of conversations with customers over the years that I would say changed my life in some way. And so we re-launch our blog in the spirit of sharing stories as we do in-store. Our intention is to reflect on the real-life on-the-ground snapshots of parenting, working, and the general crafting of big lives. I've spent months trying to lay out the path but this week I was told to just start. Which is all we have to do every day.