You know how some places have an image that everybody takes as a given, despite never really knowing why?

Well, when you look for notable quotes about Oakland, the one that comes first is the famous one from the even more famous Gertrude Stein: ”There is no there there.”




Whenever I mention that Ask.com's Headquarter is in Oakland, I hear that phrase. Thanks for that, Gertrude. However, the funny thing is that Stein's famous quote is actually very misattributed. See what happened was, the aging Stein came back on a lecture tour to Oakland in the 30's and she looked for the house she grew up in. But when she got there, she couldn't find the house. Her home was gone. Hence, there was no more there there. Look it up, it's in her book “Everybody's Autobiography”.

But whether she meant it or not, the phrase stuck. Nevertheless, even if she had meant it, it’s not true - here is why: Oakland has always been ‘busy’. First came the railroad, which required a port, which quickly became the largest on the West Coast and is still one of the busiest in the country. Shipping magnate Kaiser developed a worker medical system which turned into Kaiser Permanente, still headquartered here today. San Franciscoans fled to Oakland and never returned after the big earthquake in 1906 and worked in the massive Chrysler, Durant and Chevy factories. In fact, they called Oakland the “Detroit of the West” by the 1932.

Impressed? No? Here’s a different quote about Oakland for you: “The best restaurant in San Francisco is in Oakland”, wrote Herb Caen referring to Trader Vic’s which started here in 1932. Which is by the way where they invented the Mai Tai. 

Oakland is a liberal and creative place, maybe that’s why artists like MC Hammer, Tupac Shakur and En Vogue, who all grew up here, went on to be huge successes. Need more? How about Clint Eastwood, Bruce Lee, Tom Hanks, Sidney Howard, Jack London and, of course, Gertrude Stein.

If that’s no “there”, then what is?


Robbie Waeschenfelder, Director, Brand Marketing