As owners of Ron Cauble and Diana Mansfield know a thing or two about what constitutes a unique shopping experience.
Opening their Solano Avenue store in 1993, Ron and Diana offer an amazing array of natural history items and their store functions as much as a mini-museum as a gift shop. Young and old alike rejoice in tickling their curiosity with a visit to the singular store, raking their fingers through shells, bones, and fossils and perusing the other odd and offbeat items for sale. Insects frozen in amber, feathers, arrowheads, cow horns, and dog teeth, are just a few of the unconventional — and fascinating — items that have inspired a loyal following and cultivated a devoted customer contingent.
Ron and Diana took a break, and stepped out from behind the counter, to reveal their 5 most unique shopping experiences in Berkeley.
Topping their list is their own shop, . Crammed corner to corner with so many different and unusual offerings, “the store has something to please, amaze, and amuse just about everyone,” Diana pointed out, and acts as “an art supply store, a tourist attraction, a science salon, and art gallery!”
Next up for Ron and Diana is The reptile emporium was founded in 1970 by, “The same creative entrepreneur who started The Bone Room,” Diana said laughingly — none other than her business partner, Ron Cauble. “Still thriving after 41 years, The Vivarium sells the live version —snakes, lizards, frogs, and turtles — of The Bone Room,” Diana said. Children, especially, are enthralled by the snakes which — coiled, roped and draped in serpentine knots — are often available for little hands to explore under the safe supervision of The Vivarium's knowledgable staff.
Another unique store esteemed highly by Ron and Diana is . Beyond the ordinary, it is “a bookstore of the imagination,” Diana raved, and is “beloved by both authors and readers.” In addition to their literary inventory, “This science fiction, fantasy and mystery bookstore also sells cool toys.”
Ron and Diana rank high on their list as well. The tiny shop, tucked discreetly into a slot on Ashby Avenue, almost at College, “puts the eclectic in collection,” Diana said, with a twinkle in her eye. “All right, that's not a perfect anagram, but this shop with its carefully chosen imports and vintage jewelry is chronically entertaining!”
A visit to is a must for, “all things beautiful and Japanese,” Diana maintained. This austere and quiet shop on Fourth Street has a carefully culled collection of goods and “the vintage kimonos are exquisite gifts, and they have the gorgeous paper to wrap them in,” Diana said.
Whatever your shopping need, you're likely to have an “experience” shopping at any one of the stores on Ron and Diana's thoughtful — and unique — list. In Berkeley, “our local customer base is a kaleidoscopic mix of ages, sexes, races, and educational and economic backgrounds,” Diana declared. At The Bone Room, “famous people walk in. Brilliant people walk in. Nice people walk in. Every day is an adventure in The Bone Room!”