OAKLAND -- Rocsil's Women's Shoes and Accessories at 1701 Telegraph Ave. has survived recessions, earthquakes, urban renewal and more fashion trends than there are shoe sizes.

But after more than 30 years the owner, Fred Brown, will turn over the keys on Dec. 31 to a new proprietor: San Francisco restaurateur Jim Woods, who plans to turn the 1909 storefront into a bar for beer and empanadas.

The bar will add one more attraction to the once-blighted downtown since brightened by Flora, Duende, the Fox Theater, Bar Dogwood, Make Westing and other venues.

They have been important marketing tools to generate press about Oakland's charms instead of its crime rates. But the shift means one less retail business in a downtown dominated by bars and restaurants. Like cells, they just keep multiplying.

Rocsil’s Footwear and Accessories owner Fred Brown, left,  talks to customer Layla Dima, of Oakland, after trying a boot at the shoe store he has
Rocsil's Footwear and Accessories owner Fred Brown, left, talks to customer Layla Dima, of Oakland, after trying a boot at the shoe store he has owned since 1969 at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and 17th Street in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Rocsil's is closing down on December 31st and a new microbrewery will be opened. "They replacing shoes for buzz," Brown said. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

The lack of diversity is prompting concern about whether there is a vision for the long-term health of the district -- or a vision at all.

"We need retail. We need actual retail," Brown said.

Actually, there are more shops downtown today than there has been in decades.

But it is sparse and the after-hours nature of the entertainment business make it unlikely shoppers will make it through the door, especially on Telegraph between 16th and 23rd streets. That dissuades merchants from wanting to open shop there. It becomes a vicious cycle.

"Bar on bar on bar is just bad business," said Travis Kuhl, owner of Kuhl Frames and Art, a custom framing shop on the corner of 17th Street and Telegraph.

Nearby, the owner of SoleSpace shoe store, Jeff Perlstein, matches his store hours with the businesses around him and programs evening events.

"But that's a lot to ask of businesses," he said.

And that doesn't guarantee sales because evenings aren't good shopping hours.

City officials and developers often say that will change with the influx of bodies and disposable income from San Francisco, where rents are reaching a crescendo.

But Brown and his fellow merchants aren't convinced the city will make the right decisions to harness their presence.

"If the city wanted retail it would be here," Brown said, gesturing outside his storefront window to a street lacking parking meters or even a time limit. Cars take up the spots for hours, even days at a time, making it harder for potential customers to access the few nearby stores.

Norcal Health Care, which provides medical marijuana evaluations, pounced on the issue by claiming the city wanted to oust it from its street-level 1901 Broadway location to make way for "another bar or restaurant."

The Oakland Planning Department refused to renew Norcal's conditional use permit in order to free up prime storefronts, Oakland's business development services coordinator, Aliza Gallo, said.

Brian Kendall, retail specialist for the city of Oakland, Calif. leads a media tour of the Uptown neighborhood, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 in Oakland. (D.
Brian Kendall, retail specialist for the city of Oakland, Calif. leads a media tour of the Uptown neighborhood, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 in Oakland. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

"That really is a great entry way into 19th Street leading to Fox Theater," Gallo said. (Nearby, BART is opening a bike shop and cafe that will be run by subcontractors.)

Restaurant and bar owners also have begun to worry about oversaturation.

Brian Kendall, project manager for Oakland's downtown facade and tenant improvement program, said he is confident oversaturation is unlikely because space is running out.

Vacancy is effectively at about 5 percent on Broadway and Telegraph between 16th and 27th streets, Kendall said. He was standing inside a Julia Morgan building on Broadway above Grand Avenue whose original facade is being "unwrapped" from under a layer of 1960s-era cement. That is next to a similar building being turned into a business incubator that will be called The Hive.

But once a property owner opens the doors to an entertainment business there is little chance the address will make way for a store.

Retail is tough downtown and "success is not a given," said Sarah Filley, co-founder of Popuphood.

It can, however, be a good fit for the right business, such as Saint Harridan, which specializes in suits tailored for women and transgender men. Popuphood helped the owners sign a temporary testing-the-waters lease downtown two doors down from another success retail story with a niche following -- Oaklandish.

Oakland City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney, whose district includes downtown, said, "Our time is now."

Speaking during an Oakland Business Development Corp. luncheon celebrating the "rebirth" of the Broadway Corridor, she said residents were tired of having to drive elsewhere to spend their retail dollars.

The Sears building could provide an anchor to keep that money in Oakland. Alan Dones, a developer who heads the Oakland-based Strategic Urban Development Alliance, is negotiating to purchase the 400,000-square-foot building and turn it into a housing-retail-office complex.

If entertainment uses prevail, however, the development could reinforce homogeneity.

For now, at least it appears entertainment will dominate.

The Township restaurant and Urban Agriculture shop is under construction at 1545 Broadway. Next door will be the Flight Deck, a black-box theater, artist co-working space.

A bar is slated to move into the bottom floor of the Cathedral Building. And two well-known East Coast restaurateurs are shopping for a location downtown.

It's hard not to get swept up in the excitement after years of neglect.

But this is the moment to pause, said Jose Corona, chief executive officer of Inner City Advisors.

"We have to balance it somehow."