Beloved Berkeley boutique Tail of the Yak closing

Some "all good things must come to an end" news from the San Francisco Bay Area, Tail of the Yak in Berkeley's Elmwood neighborhood is shuttering for good on June 30. The store is a one-of-a-kind treasure, a truly wonderful thing full of truly wonderful things. I learned about it in 2019—far too late in life—from a friend who went to see David Sedaris perform at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. At the show, Sedaris quipped about a set of silver Belgian crosses that he bought there. My friend and I made the pilgrimage that same week.

The quirky shop, which began in 1972, became well-regarded in the craft community and has been featured in publications like Vogue and The New York Times. Over the years, the store's inventory expanded to include crafts, jewelry, and textiles from various countries, along with European antiques. It even skyrocketed the career of Anandamayi Arnold who makes beautiful, and highly coveted, paper surprise balls.

Why is it closing? Co-owners Lauren McIntosh and Alice Erb are retiring. (We wish these Happy Mutants all the best.)

Berkeleyside wrote a lovely piece about the shop and its history:

There used to be more interesting stores in the Bay Area," Erb said, "but there are very few now."

Tail of the Yak opened in The Elmwood in 1972, when the youth culture coming out of the '60s was developing an interest in the East. The store was the brainchild of three students from Berkeley's Nyingma Institute who wanted to sell Tibetan ritual objects and crafts to benefit Tibetan refugees. At the time, Erb was traveling and collecting textiles and jewelry from Asia and selling them in the U.S. 

"There was a very rich community of people in Berkeley who were interested, especially in textiles," she told American Craft magazine in 2015, "… lots of ikats and suzanis and things like that, which, back then, in the early '70s, people were learning about but hadn't actually seen."