"The coolest thing in Oakland is Umami Mart. It is run by Kayoko Akabori (a former Camino bartender) and Yoko Kumano. They sell a combination of Japanese barware, kitchen equipment, beautiful teaware and you can pick up a Peko Peko bento box on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I bring one to my 87-year-old mom every week!" - Chef Russ Moore of Camino
"It's a Japanese barware shop owned by two young ladies. I really love the experience. I love Japanese pottery and tea cups and coffee cups and the attention to detail on all things Japanese. Combine that with the gentleness of the ladies that own it and it's really amazing." - Bartender Scott Baird of Trick Dog
By Bartender / Boutique Owner Kayoko Akabori
Umami Mart started out as a casual and international food blog in 2007. My business partner Yoko was living in Tokyo and I was living in Brooklyn and we were sharing our food stories about restaurants and recipes.
Yoko and I both moved back to the Bay area in 2010 and we got an import / export license to sell some housewares on the website. In the beginning we were selling just five items and one was a cocktail mixing glass that became a huge hit. From there we decided to sell more and more barware. In August of the same year we opened the brick-and-mortar shop as part of the Popuphood, which is an initiative in Old Oakland to bring in independent retailers to the neighborhood. We really felt like the area had never seen anything like this and it would be a great place to try it out. Oakland reminds me a lot of Brooklyn, specifically Williamsburg 12 to 15 years ago. Not everybody from the city is coming out, but it’s really friendly for burgeoning small businesses. Oakland wants small businesses to come in and it has all of these initiatives. There’s also a great art scene. We get customers from all over the Bay Area checking us out, people who’ve been following the blog for a long time.
About 75% of what we sell is from Japan with the rest from local artists, as well as our collaborations with local artist to create original products. Yoko goes to Japan twice a year and we have a supplier in Japan. When we opened the store, we launched with a travel mug that has all of these little doodles on it. It really is the spirit of Umami Mart. Anders Arhoj, a design director from Copenhagen, designed the cup and then he ended up designing the entire shop. We actually manufactured the entire product.
I love the Sori Yanagi kettle. It’s just a really well designed product. Even though it’s one of the more higher priced products in the store, I recommend it to customers all the time. Because it’s got a wide base, it heats up the water faster and it’s really light. As a bartender, I really enjoy all of our barware. It’s all really handy, useful and high quality.
We have a mixing glass pitcher protector that a couple of guys from a bar in San Francisco called Rye designed. It’s a carrying case for the mixing glass and it has been a really good seller with bartenders. They’re carrying around their mixing glasses in their bags to go to work and it was always breaking, so they created this protector for it.
UMAMI MART - 815 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607 | T: 1.510.575.9152 | umamimart.com
Kayoko Akabori of Umami Mart
Kayoko Akabori is the co-owner of Umami Mart in Oakland. You can find her slinging cocktails as a bartender at nearby restaurant Camino.
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