Culture shift is happening and we're doing our best here to keep up! To start with, we're shifting our weekday hours an hour later so maybe we can catch you on your way home from work or an early dinner out with the kids. Next week we'll be open Monday - Friday 11-7, Saturdays 10-6. Hope that helps you get the birthday or baby gifts you need while supporting local shops.
It’s back-to-school season and the shop is filled with the cute sweet accoutrements of the season: backpacks, lunch bags, pencil cases, and of course tons of options for new school clothes. I love the annual pep talks I offer moms facing their kids starting kindergarten: they are more ready for this than you are, and yes the years start going by faster from here but who they’re becoming next is so beautiful to watch.
Ruby began her sophomore year at Tech today. Back-to-school looked very different this year than it used to in elementary school. This will be her first year in more challenging classes toward college preparedness, so she was assigned summer homework packets to ensure she was up-to-speed. Of course it would’ve been smarter to tackle the 14-page algebra packet a little at a time over the entire summer break. But when I texted her last week, “Hey what’s plan for homework packet?” her reply was “Plan is to cry until it does itself.” So that’s pretty much what she did, except substitute “until mom forces me to do it, and then cry some more.”
Cal freshman move-in starts today too. My church is across the street from the dorms called Unit 3 where my mom and sister helped me move in more than half a life ago. Every year my church offers help and support to all those overwhelmed and confused parents with 18 year old kids that look so very young to me, yet just a few years ahead of Ruby. But for my own memory of that day, I was so ready and I knew everything I needed to know—ha ha! I can only imagine how my mom was feeling that day, maybe not unlike mom’s first-day-of-kindergarten feelings so many of us have already seen ourselves through. And so it goes, we think we know and yet there is always more to become, for both kids and parents.
It’s International Women’s Day and I have to give so many shout-outs to the women who have made Ruby’s Garden what it is today! I didn’t mean to start a feminist business but that’s what it has become.
I started Ruby’s Garden at a time when I knew I needed to create my own lifeboat, a means of making a living that brought life satisfaction I wasn’t finding from my home life. I wanted to use my work-brain again without losing the time I had to be with my daughter.
When I started looking for products for our shop, I found makers who were creating their own lifeboats too. They were mothers who had also left fulfilling (or not fulfilling) professional lives to stay at home raising their babies. They were using the ragged edges of their sleep-deprived days to create clothing and accessories for children that I knew my customers would love. They were parenting their children the best they could but also trying to pay attention to the voice inside that said: I’m a mother now, but I’m still also ME. Who am I and what do I need? What do I have to say and add to this world? I have loved carrying local brands from day one because I could see in these women a sisterhood I wanted to support and invite others to support too. Even though we’ve grown a lot since those early days, we’ve still managed to keep the majority of our sales going to local bay area companies, most of which are founded and staffed by local women.
When Mary and I opened our doors back in the tiny space on Shattuck, we didn’t have a mission statement that spoke to supporting mothers. However as two women who found becoming mothers one of the most challenging life changes imaginable, it was natural that a new mother stopping in who was tired beyond belief would find a compassionate ear in both of us. We live in an age and a place where the bar for parenting has been set so high as to create martyrs out of mothers. We would frequently encounter a mother at the end of her rope for all she has given up for her baby and still feels guilty she didn’t give more. We have always said in our shop we’re looking out for the mothers because everyone else is looking out for the babies. When mothers would come in to shop without the babies they usually had in tow and told me it was because she had a rare moment of childcare, I’d say “Then what are you doing here? You should be somewhere getting a massage or shopping for yourself!” Mothers seem to need permission for self-care and we will always be a voice to champion women getting what they need for themselves.
It’s never been more urgent that women stand up for ourselves and for each other, so we can model that strength for the girls and boys in our care. I’m proud to be a woman-owned and woman-powered business making a difference in our corner of the world.
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.