'Oakland Gift Box Lady' creates gift boxes to bring business to struggling restaurants

"I thought well, I would want some kind of like gift card or certificate gift certificate or some kind of box, you know, just some random, random thing from the universe that showered on me."
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- These days, Tracey Friley calls herself the "Oakland Gift Box Lady," but she's so much more than that. Friley is the mastermind behind the wildly popular Best Food in Oakland Instagram account and blog, and owned a gift shop in Uptown Oakland for the last 13 years.

"I had plans for the future and future success," Friley said. "I had plans for new businesses and then you know, COVID came."

Like so many others, the pandemic pulled her passion right from under her.

"On September 30, I closed my store for good and it's still a strange thing to say."

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With the extra-time on her hands, the self-proclaimed foodie used her Instagram platform and thousands of followers to help struggling Oakland restaurants.

"It was always to try and drive business to Oakland food businesses, that was the goal," Friley continued. "It always has been and still is. I thought well, I would want some kind of like gift card or certificate gift certificate or some kind of box, you know, just some random, random thing from the universe that showered on me."

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Friley's random idea turned into an instant success. Her first round of gift boxes included small Oakland-themed gifts and more importantly items to drive people to restaurants. Everything was donated. To Friley's surprise, she sold out.

"When I did the math I realized. I sold 105 boxes," Friley went on. "There are 10 certificates from 10, restaurants, bakeries, caterers inside, that's 1,050 food transactions."

Up next for Friley is the Oakland Black box. It will highlight Black-owned eateries in the town.

"I'm going to be the box lady I guess, but I'm excited," Friley said.

From each box sale, $5 goes to the Alameda County Food Bank. For more information on the Oakland gift box, click here.

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