Atomic Garden, Oakland

Nestled in the heart of Oakland’s charming Rockridge neighborhood sits Atomic Garden—an eccentric boutique filled with housewares, clothing, accessories and decor. From the street, the shop is hard to miss. Colorful window displays give an enticing preview of the shop’s eclectic product mix and catch the eyes of passerbys who nearly always pause to poke their heads in. 

But for me at least, Atomic Garden is nearly impossible to “pop into”. It’s a place that I could easily spend hours perusing the displays over and over—always managing to find something interesting I hadn’t seen before. The store itself is an undoubtably sensorial experience. Your eyes are constantly darting about from one display to the next, a mix of intricate textures encourages you to touch, while the blend of burning Palo Santo sticks and natural aromatics create a spa-like aroma. The in-store experience is entirely inviting and engaging and you can’t help but to interact with the products. 

As I’m pursuing the store looking for photos to capture, I find myself drifting back and forth between work mode and shopping mode. As much I try to stay focused on my tasks, there was always something that lured my out from behind the lens.

Shop owners Adrienne Armstrong and Jamie Kidson founded Atomic Garden in 2007—making it a veteran of the Bay Area boutique scene. Their commitment to supporting local and artisan makers and sharp eye for curation has allowed the shop to effortlessly maintain its relevancy and become a beloved staple on College Ave. 

The ladies were so kind as to give us some background and inspiration behind Atomic Garden. Continue reading for more… 

TMH: Give us the background story of how Atomic Garden came to be and what your initial inspiration was for the concept.

Atomic Garden: Adrienne and I met on a soccer field watching our kids at a practice. She had a clothing company that she was trying to take in a more sustainable direction and I was a clothing designer trying to distance myself from mass production. We started researching companies that she could partner with to produce her collection.  We didn’t find a good fit but in the process we came upon many people who were making things in a conscientious way. We felt drawn to that lifestyle and intent …and somewhat impulsively opened a store. The name was suggested by Adrienne’s husband.  We liked that there was a dichotomy in the name. It involved science and nature.  It made you think.  And then pairing it with a very natural looking logo softened it.

TMH: What aesthetic preferences and philosophies do you both share that are brought to life in the shop?

Atomic Garden: Its important for us to curate items that support small productions-- ie. artisan made, supporting co-ops, and local companies. We especially love products that tell a story, then the story continues into someone's home or life. 

TMH: In what ways has the shop evolved since it started in 2007? What are some important lessons or tips you've learned along the way?

Atomic Garden: Its been a very natural progression of evolving. We are constantly looking for items to breathe new life into the store. We try not to get caught up in trends and try to stay true to our overall vibe and energy of the store.

TMH: How has the Oakland community influenced Atomic Garden?

Atomic Garden: Oakland is in such a renaissance, we are grateful to be a part of it. There are so many inspiring makers and artists. The community is really connected to this flow of creativity and we hope that the store reflects that. 

TMH: What excites you most about running Atomic Garden and being small business owners in general?

Atomic Garden: One of the best aspects of the store is that we can support so much creative energy. We have met so many talented artists and producers and we love being connected to the community. Being small business owners allows us to be involved with our customers and vendors and forge friendships beyond the store. 

Thank you to Adrienne and Jamie for hosting us!

Visit Atomic Garden at 5453 College Ave., Oakland, CA.

Copy and photography by Ali Hartwell for The Merchant Home. Please credit and link appropriately.