Once the city of Oakland deemed our property blighted, it quickly used eminent domain laws to wriggle it away for the public good. The condos for sale where it once stood start in the low $300,000's.
“The lawyer told me it would cost a few hundred thousand to fight it, so I took the offer,” said Demos Karas, my father, who decades ago bought the property, at 20th and Telegraph Avenue, across from what was once Capwell's department store.
The city paid Karas and his partners a total of $932,000back in 2000, records show, for the 10,000 square foot property. The culturally diverse businesses forced to close included a Korean delicatessen, a Chinese restaurant, a Mexican burrito shop, a pizza parlor and a donut shop.
The Oakland Downtown Food Mart, known in the neighborhood as the “D & F,” was a an essential part of the city’s fabric that drew sme of the area's most colorful personalities like: Black Panther’s leader, Huey Newton; Your Black Muslim Bakery's founder, Dr. Yusef Bey; Diego Chairs, who pumped iron at the nearby YMCA; and Tower of Power's Lenny Williams.
Oakland police officers set up an office behind our produce stand and let me write parking tickets to people who blocked our driveway. Up front, officers Tony Jovino, Ken Douglas, Mike Bower and Chris Rye would spend entire shifts at "The Donut Hole" writing reports and keeping order.
The D & F served a predominantly black and democratic community, which made it a familiar stop for local leaders like Senator Nick Petris and U.S. Congressman Ron Dellums.
In the 70s, former Oakland City Councilman Fred Maggiora would walk from city hall – a few blocks away -- to visit and trade Oakland A’s tickets for boxes of fruit. I remember him buring rubber behind the market onto 20th Street after my father sold him our 1974 Chevy Nova. Maggiora liked the roar of the engine after I flipped air filter housing to make the engine sound stronger than it really was.
The 1929- brick building that survived the Loma Prieta earthquake was bulldozed. The lot was then sold to a developer and the area was then designated as uptown -- instead of downtown -- and high-end condos were built to gentrify the area.
Those who dared to stay and fight, like John Revelli, who owned a tire shop next door and sold me my first set of tires back in high school, got crushed.
Occupy Oakland supporters set up camp at 19th & Telegraph Avenue, on November 20, 2011, next to where a set of prosperous family markets once stood. If only they had set up camp there 10 years ago.
Power to the people.
-- THEO KARANTSALIS
Theo Karantsalis spent his youth working at his family's Downtown Foodmart, formerly located at 20th & Telegraph Avenue, before the city of Oakland seized the property, in 2000, under eminent domain. He was also an "ace" news carrier for the former Oakland Tribune.
OAKLAND STROKE: Theo Karantsalis, 15, and Tower of Power's Lenny Williams, in 1977, after a late-night concert in Lake Tahoe.