Social Distancing Moves the Summer Picnic to the Front Yard


Photos by Anita Bicskei


We’ve become a walking people since the plague began. We walk through our own neighborhoods and sometimes off into other people’s neighborhoods. We make new friends as we linger and talk from a distance, and as the plague stretches on, we gingerly make plans to spend a little time with old friends, sitting in strategically spaced chairs on our driveways and patios. We organize an evening cocktail hour, which perhaps includes some carefully planned ways to share food. We’re careful to define instructions to guests, perhaps asking them to bring their own place settings. A serving table set off well away from the seating makes it easier to refill plates and cups. Finger food is most definitely in vogue, as are fashionable masks and cheerful decor.




When Edible East Bay learned about a special front-yard party being held by a group of women entrepreneurs, we ventured out from our sequestration quarters in Berkeley to see how they had set up a driveway off Castle Rock Road in Walnut Creek to accommodate people from five different families. The sizable crowd required that everyone practice the elaborate distance dance we perform out in public.

What unifies this particular group of female entrepreneurs is that they all create goods that lend color, spark, and eco-friendly vibes to daily life. They realized the party would be a chance to continue their conversations on how to turn their retail efforts from live local venues (often farmers’ markets) into strictly online affairs. Collaboration has been key for them, so that was the central spirit of the gathering.


“When I opened my company, the trend in kitchens was very sterile and modern and I chose to go in the opposite direction. I loved how people responded to my colors and how a tea towel could bring a smile to their room and face,” says Julia Minasian of SIP.


“We banded together to help each other survive the changed retail face of 2020,” says Julia Minasian, who hosted the party. Minasian is the artist/owner of SIP, a boutique design company of home and fashion products that all sport Minasian’s original watercolor paintings printed on cotton. SIP stands for “seriously imbibed products,” and the artist’s choice to use strictly organic fabrics has been central to her brand. At the time of the gathering, she passed around a few prototypes for masks now being manufactured from organic cotton fabrics featuring her watercolor prints. “One of my interests in college was the sociology of art,” Minasian says. “I love how profoundly color and design impact society.”



Another of the entrepreneurs, Hollie Lucas-Alcalay, operates a small organic farm in Moraga that specializes in growing culinary and medicinal herbs. She markets her gourmet foods and natural bath and body products under the label Hollie’s Homegrown. Her Hollie’s Homegrown lavender-scented hand sanitizer was a big hit at the gathering.



Amy Golan was able to champion some of her eco-friendly Planet Renu products, which serve as alternatives to single-use plastic. Comprised of renewable, biodegradable, and compostable bamboo and wheat straw or stainless steel, the product line includes carry-along utensil sets that were most useful at the driveway party. “Just imagine if everyone made a few small changes,” she says. “We could truly make a difference by reducing our carbon footprint on the earth.”


“Our mission is to educate and inspire people to make small changes in their lives and in turn have a large impact on the earth,” says Amy Golan of Planet Renu.


Adding an especially gorgeous and sweet note to the evening, and one that utterly delighted the youngest members of the group, was Linh Tran of Nana’s Home Cakery in Orinda. The business is named for Tran’s young daughter, Nana, who is an expert taster of sweet and pretty things. “We are dedicated to creating beautiful custom cakes, mainly inspired by nature and art,” says Tran. Her passion for decorating with beautifully colored and sculptured buttercream transforms a clients’ vision into edible art to mark a special occasion. After all, birthdays, graduations, and more just keep on happening!