Marisa Mason, a shop in Oakland, CA’s “Temescal Alleys,” is a prime example of not rushing your business into growing. For the past six years, Marisa Haskell has been able to grow slowly, learning what she needs in time, how she wants to expand, and even having the opportunity to take on a connecting space in her latest location. Marisa began her business in 2011, after leaving the design/build industry after the recession left her with limited hours and job options. Without much to lose, Marisa saw this as an opportunity to try her hand at owning her own business. Having always loved making jewelry and feeling ready to venture out on her own, she made the jump to sublet a tiny studio in what’s now known as Temescal Alleys (a shopping area that’s connected by two pedestrian alleys featuring beautiful local businesses) after a friend had an art studio there years before. Her friend moved on, but Marisa never forgot the space — or the potential she imagined the alley having.
With the two alleys being tucked off the street, it’s created a sense of community for the shop-owners, where they’ve been able to bounce ideas off each other and learn from the growth and advice of their peers. This element happens to be one of the things Marisa is most grateful for in her space, which was originally horse stables for the Oakland Fire Department in the 20s. When Marisa took over, it was a storage shed with corrugated metal doors as the facade. The positive was that it was a blank slate for the latest Marisa Mason shop, and her husband is a builder, meaning they could be even more ambitious in the space. While Marisa was able to make all of the design decisions without a previous owner’s designs getting in the way, she did want to be sure to incorporate some of the original character of the building, and not be hemmed in by making it feel solely like the Bay Area.
One side of the shop was rustic with brick walls, concrete floors, and exposed dark wood ceilings. The new side was drywall with chipboard wood floors. The couple decided to rip out the wood floors on the new side so that both sides would have cement, and they painted the wood ceilings on the original side white to better blend with the plaster they added, and to brighten the space. Now, with the arched doorway and clay walls, customers have likened the shop to Morocco, Mexico, or the Southwest. Marisa’s goal was to have the shop feel like a vacation, where you’re transported to another place, no matter how briefly. With the expansion of the shop now completed — which happened to coincide with the couple having a newborn — they can revel in their hard work paying off… and dream of some new display cases and furniture elements that Dave can build with his company Jacob May when they have the time. Below, you’ll get to read about how Marisa and Dave conquered connecting the two spaces to make them feel cohesive, and what makes their shop unique. —Rebekah
Image above: “The back room is a few inches lower than the front room, so we had to make a ramp to connect them,” Marisa explains. “We used the same redwood for continuity and it makes a satisfying sound when you walk on it, like crossing an old bridge.”