OAKLAND -- After being shuttered for about five years, a tiny tobacco and candy shop tucked into the side of the Grand Lake Theatre will reopen Friday on a limited schedule.

Peter Brady, operator of the Grand Lake Smoke Shop, said he plans to open the 300-square-foot store Friday through Sunday of each weekend from about 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The shop will sell magazines and newspapers, as well as cigars and pipe tobacco.

"I am finally at the point of coming back," said Brady, 57, who was in a serious vehicle accident in 2005 that left him unable to run the store. "I'm not going to be doing the management side of it, but I will be there, and there will be a shopkeeper."

Brady is reopening at a time when Grand Avenue is experiencing a major resurgence as part of Oakland's overall transformation in recent years into a dining, night life and travel destination. Hip wine bars, coffee shops and restaurants have drawn new visitors from across the Bay Area to a neighborhood long anchored by the theater, which dates to 1926.

Brady took over the business in 1989 from Charlie Arkin, who had operated the store since 1951. As a student of nearby Lakeview Elementary School, Brady said he often visited the shop to pick out favorite candies.

"One day, I went by and the door was closed," Brady recalled.


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He said his friend Allen Michaan, who bought the theater in 1980 and leases the shop, told him Arkin was ill and needed help running the store. Brady said he worked there for eight months before Arkin passed away.

"People still talk to me all the time about Charlie," Brady said.

Brady ran the business until the 2005 accident, from which he said he suffered a severe head injury. A partner took over for several years before it closed.

Peter Brady, owner of the Grand Lake Smoke Shop, arranges some of the memorabilia at the store in Oakland, Calif. on Thursday, June 5, 2014. After a
Peter Brady, owner of the Grand Lake Smoke Shop, arranges some of the memorabilia at the store in Oakland, Calif. on Thursday, June 5, 2014. After a three-year sabbatical, the Grand Lake Smoke Shop is set to reopen soon. Like the nearby Grand Lake Theater, the Smoke Shop, which opened in 1931, is a local landmark. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

"Due to the generosity of the landlord, he just kept it," Brady said. "It's been a long haul."

He said he loves the look on customers' faces as they take in the nostalgia of the store, which Brady said reminds many East Coast natives of the corner newsstand common in Manhattan or Chicago.

"I jokingly call it the world's oldest 7-11," Brady said.

"I'm just really happy for myself, just to get it back open."

Tom Chew, a chiropractor who lives in Oakland, visited the smoke shop for the first time in 1963 as a student.

He remembers buying candy and sneaking it into the theater.

"Charlie was always a friendly guy and liked all the kids," Chew said, adding that he hopes his longtime friend Brady can make a go of it again.

"Places like that just don't exist anymore."

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