Men may imagine that a purse or a handbag is a purely practical matter. Women know better. Inside a woman’s purse is a piece of her identity, a private poem, a trove of secrets. It isn’t just a place for kleenex; it holds memories and magic. Children know this, for from the mystery of mama’s purse comes the stray coin, the piece of candy, the special medicine, the soothing toy, the something they didn’t know they needed that is always there. A purse is something special. Every woman knows that shopping for an accessory this magical is serious fun and fashion. Here are a few East Bay places to look for these treasures.

Ming Quong
1517 N. Main St.
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
(925) 932-0663

This popular Walnut Creek institution has been in business since 1968. Customers describe it as “quaint,” “marvelous” and “a tradition.” It is famously eclectic, full of Chinatown kitsch, 60’s style fashions, knick knacks, jewelry and accessories of all sorts. Some customers have made a tradition of shopping for treasures here every week for decades. Ming Quong often has unusual purses along with other items that are likely to surprise. Expect incense.

Walk-In Closet
1820 B-1 Solano Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94707
(510) 526-4366

This cute boutique has been described as the sort of place one might find on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills or some other great shopping mecca. But here it is, tucked away on Solano in Berkeley. It is owned by sisters Natalie and Nicole, who clearly have a passion for fashion. Among other treats, it sells high-end purses and handbags at reasonable prices. It also has a surprisingly pleasing selection of inexpensive jewelry ($20-$30) to help accessorize.

Related: Best Places For Summer Accessories In The South Bay

Bibi’s Fashion
27518 Tampa Ave.
Hayward, CA 94544
(510) 786-3324

Bibi’s Fashion specializes in clothes and accessories from India. Being a truly international, multicultural shop, its website proudly boasts that it speaks Hindi, Urdo, English and a little Punjabi. If you like the exotic East, this is the place to find something charming. Its purses and handbags feature bold Indian patterns and excellent bead work. If you want to go all Bollywood, this is the place to do it!

Sway Chic
2569 Telegraph Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 486-9940

Berkeley’s Sway Chic has been a huge success ever since opening its doors in 2003. The emphasis here is on fun. Here you’ll find a wide variety of colorful items designed for a student budget, such as the “Rhymes with Rhine” handbag (black, studded with rhinestones) or the “Seeing Stars Backpack” (looks like a planetarium). This isn’t the place for high fashion, but for cheerful, inexpensive, fun stuff. Folks say you can’t beat it.

Related: Best Places For Bridesmaid Dresses For Every Budget In San Francisco

Rock Paper Scissors Collective
2278 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 238-9171

This is not a clothing store, but a do-it-yourself artists’ collective with classes and events covering a wide range of artistic efforts, from writing to fashion design. Rock Paper Scissors is famously one of the founders of the Oakland Art Murmur and a much admired institution in the Oakland arts community. Its retail shop has a variety of craft items, including original fashions and — you guessed it — purses and handbags. This is a great place for the do-it-yourself designer or the truly adventurous shopper.

Charles Kruger is well known in the Bay area as “The Storming Bohemian” ever since he entered the Bay Area cultural scene in the summer of 2009, attending 90 cultural events in 90 days and blogging about it. This project was successful enough to warrant a mention in The New York Times. His coverage of Bay area theatre can be found at