Get a game, get a grip or get some glamour at the Berkeley Holiday Gift Fair

Among the many vendors are Games of Berkeley, Core Chaud Pilates socks and Kintsu MedSpa & Wellness.

Games of Berkeley co-owners Sean Gore, Gwendolyn Reza and Erik Bigglestone will bring some classics and bestsellers to the Berkeley Holiday Gift Fair Nov. 30. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

November 28, 2023

BERKELEYSIDE – As we enter the peak weeks of the holiday shopping season, one event aims to offer a distinctively local gifting experience. Featuring 30 unique vendors, the annual Berkeley Holiday Gift Fair returns this Thursday, Nov. 30, 3-7 p.m., at the historic Hotel Shattuck Plaza (2086 Allston Way). 

Here’s a quick peak at three local businesses participating in the fair.

Game on

For more than 40 years, Games of Berkeley has provided everything from Monopoly and Scrabble to hot new titles like Frosthaven and Hegemony.

“We aim to provide a curated shopping experience with excellent recommendations tailored to each community member,” said co-owner Erik Bigglestone. The shop also provides a gathering space for gaming enthusiasts. He described Games of Berkeley as a “third space… similar to a community center. Not quite home, not quite work.” 

At the Telegraph District shop (on Durant), row after row of board games, of seemingly endless varieties, give way to a community space that has hosted everything from Magic the Gathering tournaments to miniature wargames. Other highlights include an assortment of novelties and the largest selection of dice in the Bay Area, in all different colors, sizes and materials. 

“We don’t sell anything anybody needs,” said Gwendolyn Reza, a longtime employee who became a co-owner last year. “We’re selling things that people want to do with their friends and family.” 

Games of Berkeley opened in 1980 on Addison Street in Downtown Berkeley. In the early 2000s, the parents of current co-owner Erik Bigglestone left a short-lived retirement to return to the game business, purchasing the store after its move to Shattuck Avenue and Center Street, where it remained for 20 years.

In 2013, Bigglestone’s parents retired (again), leaving the store to him. By 2016, the store had outgrown the Shattuck space, prompting a move to its current home at 2510 Durant Ave.

Reza and her fellow co-owners credit the devoted Berkeley gaming community as a critical factor in their success, as well as the flow of students who keep the store on its toes. 

“We reshape our community every semester,” said Sean Gore (also a longtime employee who became a co-owner last year). “[The students] definitely influence things. There are certain things that spike because our community suddenly has interest in it.” He pointed to Smiski blind boxes as an example.

For Games of Berkeley, attending the Gift Fair means having to choose from the store’s vast inventory. “I’m thinking we’re going to bring a lot of evergreen games, a lot of best-sellers, things that are not necessarily way off the beaten path, things that we can easily show people into the next stage of gaming,” Bigglestone said.

Core Chaud founder Jessica Trauner worked as an attorney and then a Pilates instructor, before creating a wool sock with grippers. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Warmer toes

Cold feet inspired a new career path for attorney-turned-Pilates-and-barre-instructor Jessica Trauner. 

“It was a cold February day, and I was going to teach Pilates at the Albany Y,” Trauner recalled. “I was always cold.” 

At the time, all the grip socks on the market designed for Pilates were made of cotton. In a moment of minor rebellion, Trauner donned her knee-high, wool ski socks instead. “I went home that evening and I said to my husband, ‘Why are there no wool grip socks designed for Pilates?’” she said.

Trauner toyed with the idea for a few years, but it wasn’t until March 2020 that she finally had the time to pursue the project. She founded Core Chaud (a mashup of the core muscles used in Pilates and the French word for hot) in May 2020. Late last year she launched a line of soft merino wool grip socks in ballet, quarter and knee-high styles.  The socks are now sold in Pilates and physical therapy studios in Berkeley, San Francisco, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as from her online store,, and InstagramFacebook and

“The socks aren’t just for movement practitioners,” said Trauner.  “Everyone loves them. They don’t slip and [people] can wear them around the house. They are kind of like slippers and they are super comfortable.” 

In addition to their signature wool grip socks in a range of colors (which, Trauner notes, make perfect stocking stuffers), Core Chaud will also have custom cotton tote bags, ideal for storing the socks and other essentials, at the Berkeley Holiday Gift Fair. 

Dr. Shay Nicholas, front, with the staff of Kintsu MedSpa & Wellness. Credit: Frederic Aube

Deeper healing

In the world of medical spa practitioners, Shay Nicholas has at least one big differentiator. 

“It’s a huge advantage to have a doctor’s detailed understanding of the human body,” said Dr. Shay, as she is called, referring to her background as an emergency medicine and intensive care physician.

Dr. Shay’s journey to aesthetic medicine can be traced back to her childhood in Trinidad & Tobago. At the age of 4, she said, she declared she wanted to heal people and so she would become a doctor. And she was already immersed in the beauty industry through her mother, who ran a beauty salon.

Obtaining her medical degree from the University of Connecticut, Dr. Shay did a residency in emergency medicine, followed by a critical care fellowship at Johns Hopkins. Her medical career took her to hospitals across the United States, but it was only after following a friend to the Bay Area that she discovered her second calling.

“It was a Botox party in a San Francisco apartment that turned me around,” Dr. Shay said. “The degree of emotional and personal well-being resulting from this event was an eye-opener for me… I realized I could blend my medical training with my appreciation for how beauty makes people happy.”

When Dr. Shay launched her own medical spa earlier this year, she called it Kintsu MedSpa & Wellness, inspired by the concept of “kintsugi,” the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken and fractured objects, often bowls, with seams of gold. The philosophy of a deeper kind of healing, touching on the fragility and beauty of the human experience, resonated with her.

Today, her two clinics — one on the Berkeley-Kensington border, the other in Davis — offer a variety of natural anti-aging treatments and procedures focused on making people look refreshed and rested. (“Like they went on vacation, not to an operating room!” she quipped.) Treatments range from Botox to IV therapy to skincare, weight loss and acne treatments. And a doctor is always immediately available , Dr. Shay proudly affirmed.

Gift Fair attendees can expect Kintsu to bring a selection of doctor-approved skincare favorites, including holiday skincare bundles at special prices.


Share this article
Shareable URL
Prev Post

‘Hidden’ in West Berkeley is an enormous production and event space

Next Post

Historic Oaks Theatre is finally reopening as a bouldering gym

Read next