Slim Jenkins, West Oakland Entrepreneur

Remembering Slim Jenkins on the 85th anniversary of the opening of Slim Jenkins Cafe.

Today marks two momentous occasions in history. On December 5, 1933, 85 years ago today, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution became law in the United States. This Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment which prohibited the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

The repeal of prohibition was good news to entrepreneur Harold “Slim” Jenkins, a man that would become known as the unofficial Mayor of West Oakland. Jenkins became a prominent figure in the heart of the West Oakland community. Eighty-five years ago today, as a result of the end of prohibition, Jenkins opened the Slim Jenkins Cafe. He owned several successful businesses throughout West Oakland including a restaurant, night club, coffee shop and liquor store.                   

Seventh Street as a result of Slim Jenkins became a vibrant entertainment hub for West Oakland for decades. Slim Jenkins was the place to be and the premier nightclub in Oakland, California. He featured a “Harlemesque” revue in his nightclub frequently showcasing some of the most talented and sought after talents of the day such as Miles Davis, Errol “Fatha” Hines, Errol Garner, the Ink Spots, B.B. King and a host of others.

Slim, as he was called, was known as a personable business man who took interest in all of his employees (which at their height numbered 30) and frequently got their opinions on the day to day issues that may plague a business. This technique fostered good relations between Slim and his employees over the years.  Mr. Jenkins did many things for the West Oakland community and when the doors closed in 1962 after 29 years the community mourned an entrepreneur who left an indelible mark on the “Harlem of the West”. 

Jenkins was instrumental in helping to launch the career of another Seventh Street entrepreneur Esther Mabry. Mabry opened Esther’s Orbit Room in 1963 and remained in business decades after Slim Jenkins closed its doors.

Slim Jenkins, Bay Area Legend of Seventh Street.

                                                                                       

The Archives Department of the African American Museum and Library at Oakland contains the collection of entrepreneur Harold “Slim” Jenkins. The collection contains photos taken by Bay Area photographer E.F. Joseph documenting Jenkins’ various businesses in west Oakland and performers at Slim Jenkins Club.

For more information on Slim Jenkins please see the Guide to the Harold Jenkins Photograph Collection on the Online Archive of California at: 

https://bit.ly/2RycpLb

To view more photos from the Jenkins (Harold) Photograph Collection see the collection on Calisphere at: 

https://bit.ly/2EjHuiK