Business Buzz – July 2020

(Elana O’Loskey, Photographer)
Master craftspersons Tyler (L) and Torre Major welcome patrons back to business at Orinda Shoe Repair, at 19 Avenida De Orinda on the Village Square side of town.

Orinda Shoe Repair
    Orinda Shoe Repair has been a black-owned family business for three generations.
    “My stepfather James Pinkney worked for Al Baer, who opened his shoe repair store in the 1940s,” said current owner Torre Major. “When Mr. Baer closed his business in 1952 my stepfather bought the business and reopened it as Orinda Shoe Repair.”
    The location was near Oakland where he lived, and he liked that Orinda was a quiet, friendly town with much character, Major said. 
    Major’s training began when he was a teenager and included shoe repair, orthopedic elevations/adjustments, customer service and running the business. Major chose to begin his son Tyler’s training a bit earlier – age nine.
    Some say shoe repair service is going the way of the dinosaur but not at OSR. Torre was able to stand side-by-side a master craftsperson to learn how the work was done, start to finish. Tyler, who often manages the store, has had the same training. Other OSR staff includes Antonio Hernandez and Ashley Franck.
    A sample of the brands they service include Gucci, Louboutin, Allen Edmonds McAllister, Birkenstock, Chanel, AGL, Timberland, Rag and Bone and Alden. They work with the highest quality Italian, German and French materials. Bring in shoes, leather goods of any kind or stop by for an orthopedic corrective shoe adjustment. Their Yelp reviews are off the chart and their loyal clientele spans generations.
    Outside OSR, Torre has many interests and talents. Since the age of five, Torre wanted to be a pilot; at 17 he received his private pilot’s license. Over time, he became a flight instructor, charter pilot and type rated Learjet Captain. The aircrafts he piloted include the Dassault Falcon 50 and Gulfstream, among others.
    The shop, at 19 Avenida De Orinda, is open for business 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mon. – Sat. through July; check their Yelp page for updated hours. For more information, call 925-254-5088 or visit go to

(Elana O’Loskey, Photographer)
Sanvitalia Home and Garden reopens for business as Joana Muriel (L) and owner Helen Bentkowski prepare the day’s flower arrangements at 2 Theatre Square, Suite 110.

Sanvitalia Home and Garden
    When you enter Orinda Theatre Square from Moraga Way, just past the fountain on the right, you may have seen beautiful orchids, roses, bunches of lavender and other fragrant florals on your way. Glimpse inside and you’ll see Sanvitalia Home and Garden (SV) manager Leelye Tesfamariam layering tall stems with pastel hues and green lemon leaves into a swirling bouquet of subtle colors.
    Owner Helen Bentkowski had her hands full in 2015 at Terrace Gifts and Coffee near the Claremont Hotel in Oakland. Her café patronage had expanded, edging out the gift, plants and orchid portion of the business. The solution was to bifurcate and relocate the gift and orchid business. Theatre Square had an opening and the retail climate matched her market; perfect fit. In 2016 she added fresh florals to the mix.
    Bentkowski’s tagline for SV is: “We explore the country and abroad for unique and interesting items to accessorize your home and garden.” Their collection of intriguing, often fragrant items for gifts or home décor by top designers will tempt. Then there are orchids, plants and flowers – potted up differently every time you visit. Or, bring your own container. They will make it shine.
    “We’ve got the best, most talented and customer-driven service staff in the industry armed with knowledge and skills,” said Benkowski.
    Tesfamariam, customer service maestro, anchor and core of the store, studied interior design at UC Davis; Joana Muriel is a graphic designer and nursery expert extraordinaire; Heather Woodiwiss is a passionate florist, exquisite soap maker and jewelry designer; Claudia Cruz is the queen of service, kindness personified – just ask and you shall receive; and Patricia Dempsey contributed 21 years keeping things organized.
    Services include floral and plant care information, in-house design consultation, imaginative arrangement making (faux or real), often on the spot. Community involvement includes giving back to local schools, events, places of worship, garden clubs, Lamorinda Arts Council, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and other nonprofit organizations.
    Sanvitalia Home and Garden is at 2 Theatre Square, Suite 110, Orinda. Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tues. – Sat. Call 925-258-6900, email or go to

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