“Please feel free to jump on the Fatboy,” says Marie Deleris, owner of Entrez! Open House, a gifts, housewares and furniture boutique in uptown Oakland. I try to suppress my revulsion at the thought of crushing an overweight toddler, but my face betrays me. She notices and quickly adds, “it’s a beanbag chair!” Relieved, I go inside under the pretense of perusing the store’s offerings with every intention of double-checking the oven behind the front counter to make sure Hansel isn’t peeking out at me. Now, fully pacified, I am able to relax and take in my surroundings. Upon taking my first glance around Entrez!, I was afraid I had just been poked in the eyes with a kaleidoscope—in a good way. The store erupts with color and wild designs, shelves are stocked with neat gadgets, and there is a kitchen in the showroom, the island of which serves as the checkout counter.
You’re probably thinking, “Man, that store sounds nuttier than squirrel poop.”
Maybe you’re right, but the pervading thing on my mind while there was, “This place is so cool! Why don’t I have more colorful stuff decorating my place! Why haven’t I been shopping here!?” It sounds like my sentiment is in line with Marie’s customers’, from whom she hears at least once a day that her store is a “getaway” or a “sanctuary”. Entrez! has become the place for many toiling in downtown Oakland to escape from the workplace and let off some steam. This is a result of many things, all of which add up to one very cool, very unorthodox, design store.
Marie Deleris came to America from Paris six years ago to improve her English, and she never went back. While looking for opportunities that would allow her to extend her visa, Marie’s friends would keep commenting on her knack for design. She took their compliments to heart and ran with them, the result being Entrez! Open House. Marie comes from a family that was always interested in interiors, and she says it’s very important to have a good home, a relaxing place to return to at the end of the day. Her store is a microcosm of the environment Marie envisions for her customers. At Entrez! you are allowed to pick up and touch everything, and sit on the furniture. Besides being important to test drive a chair before you buy, this really makes the store much more homey and friendly, a stark contrast to other design galleries where the pieces are reserved strictly for visual enjoyment.
Marie wants her customers to feel at home in Entrez!, the kitchen on the showroom floor helps, and her trust in her customers has been rewarded—in three years only one piece has been broken. This is a testament to the durability of the products that Entrez! carries. Marie likes the idea of things that will last forever, as the most sustainable products are the ones that never need be replaced. One of the most popular lines at the store is Elbow Grease Designs, currently a selection of bags made from recycled convention banners and other recycled materials, made by Oakland’s own Jenny Hurth.
Along with the home and the environment, community is also important. When Entrez! first opened, Marie would see the same people walking past her doors every day on their way from their lattes to work and back. Three years later, the neighborhood is a host to joggers and families pushing strollers on the weekends, and there are new faces coming through to check out all of the cool new stores that have opened on the block. And now those people who trudged past Entrez! every morning are the regulars who stop by to relax and have a coffee or eat their lunch on the tables out in front. This trend in revitalization has not gone unnoticed, as Entrez! was named the Neighborhood Dynamo Oakland Indie Award winner for the Uptown district in 2007.
To help lure people downtown, and probably more just for fun, Tammy at Entrez! hosts Neighbor Knit Meetings twice a month, and Marie holds a French conversation night monthly; every October Entrez! invites people to its pumpkin carving extravaganza, with the one rule that pumpkins must be cleaned out on the sidewalk and the innards disposed of before moving the pumpkins inside to carve.
This summer, Entrez! is also holding a summer design series so that anyone interested can learn more about design and design companies. The first of three lectures, given by a representative from Alessi, has already past, but you can still make it out for the last two: Entrez! will be hosting Kartell on August 13th, and Iittala on September 4th. Click here for more information on the summer design series.
With so much going on at Entrez! Open House you should definitely stop by and check it out for yourself. Marie and her staff are a lot of fun to hang out with, so drop by and share your lunch hour with them, and please, feel free to jump on the Fatboy.
To learn more about Entrez! Open House, visit their website. And to see more independent Oakland businesses online, check out the Oakland Unwrapped website.