Noe Valley Voice February 1998

Rumors Behind the News: Shop Talk

By Mazook

FOURTH QUARTER REPORTS for Out of Hand, the popular arts and crafts store on Castro near 24th, "were just great," reports store owner Karla Clement.

"Our Christmas sales were just great, and last year we were voted one of the 'Top 100 Retailers of American Craft' in a national poll of craftspeople by Niche Magazine," says Karla. The store features ceramics, jewelry, and crafts from about a dozen Bay Area artists.

But as many of you already know, Out of Hand will be closing its doors March 1. Why? "It's simple," says Karla, "retail burnout. I've been here for 11 years now, and let me tell you, running a small business these days is really difficult."

Karla also points out that the shop is on a month-to-month lease and the building is currently for sale, so planning for the future had become nearly impossible.

Karla says she is going to "take some time off, regroup, and spend more hours teaching art as a volunteer at my 5-year-old's school."

But despite rumors to the contrary, another art store, Art Garden on Cesar Chavez off Church, is not closing. This shop also features classy arts and crafts by a lot of local people.

Owner Randall Thompson says he is merely having a "close-out" sale through the end of February. "I'm offering lots of art and crafts at 50 percent off."

While you're in the store, check out the Kilim rugs and pillows (from Turkey) and the Tansu furniture pieces made in Japan from the 1880s to around 1930.

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THERE WAS MILD PANIC among the regular patrons of Lovejoy's Tea Room last month when the tiny refuge shut down for about a week.

The rather unique Lovejoy's, on Church Street near 24th, is known for its English-style "high tea," which is served all day (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.), along with the traditional scones, Devonshire clotted cream, and jam.

Tricia Hollenberg and her partner Terri Harte have been operating the tea room since October for owners Mary Ann and Martin Spicknell, who had moved to Oregon. The two women were negotiating to buy the place.

"Negotiations broke down, and we weren't going any farther until it was resolved," said Tricia in mid-January.

As of press time, however, it appeared that talks had been renewed. Lovejoy's should be open under new owners by the time you read this.

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IN RELATED ITEMS: The secondhand clothing store Allure, on Castro across the street from Out of Hand, will be closing by March "at the latest," according to the aforementioned Tricia Hollenberg.

Tricia has operated that store for the past three years and has obviously chosen to change her focus. What will replace Allure? No clue yet.

Also, the permanent departure of the Spicknells from the local scene has meant the closure of their M&M Antiques store on the corner of 23rd and Sanchez. That, in turn, has enabled Dirt Cheap Travel to move from its much smaller digs at 23rd and Vicksburg into M&M's old niche.

Dirt Cheap owner Michael McGlothlin says he is delighted about the move because it almost doubles his space. (The travel agency had been at its original location since 1980.) What is a little strange for Michael is that "I used to live above the store on 23rd and Sanchez when I opened up my business, and now I am moving there again."

Five years ago Michael defected to Sebastopol, where he operates a branch office of Dirt Cheap Travel. His Dirt Cheap No. 1 should be open on Sanchez by day before yesterday.

The last item of store news is about the construction in the front area of Real Food Company on 24th Street. The store has just or is just about to close down for a day to install a brand new checkout area with new registers and better space management. This will no doubt make room for more real food.

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A BULBOUS MUNI STORY: The Noe Valley Merchants Association's drive to create 80 new parking spaces in Downtown Noe Valley -- by converting 15 Muni bus zones to pedestrian boarding "bulbs" and putting diagonal parking on side streets off 24th Street -- has run into a major roadblock.

Merchants President Robert Roddick received a letter from Muni chief Emilio Cruz in December. The letter started out by commending Roddick and the association for its many creative ideas to solve the parking crunch in Noe Valley. Then Cruz wrote: "However, bus bulbs cost approximately $60,000 to $100,000 each to construct, because of drainage considerations and the various utilities that have to be moved. We receive very limited amounts of money that can be used for bulbs, and it is unlikely that we would be able to devote between $1,000,000 and $1,500,000 to bulbs in Noe Valley alone, considering our other needs for bus bulbs and the other requests we have gotten."

Mr. Cruz continued: "Your other suggestion concerned creating angled parking on Castro and Noe streets. Muni has concerns about the implementation of angled parking along streets with Muni lines, and especially on streets with electric trolley coach service, such as Castro.... We have generally opposed the creation of angled parking on streets where we operate."

I guess it's back to the drawing board for those 1,200 Noe Valleons who signed a petition supporting the Merchants' proposals. Maybe we can raise the $1.5 mil with some bake sales at our local schools.

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WHILE WE'RE TALKING MUNI, those new Breda streetcars that rumble and whine down Church Street causing houses to rattle and residents to shriek may be headed for the courts.

Rumor is that many folks along Church Street are going to file claims for nuisance and property damages from the cars' shaking and noise.

San Francisco attorney Steve Seiler says he now represents at least 10 people who live along Church Street and who plan to file such claims. He also represents 40 other people out on the Taraval line and has already filed a lawsuit in S.F. Superior Court on behalf of one resident.

According to Bill Trumbo, one of the Church Street claimants, "Every time one of these 41-ton $2.5 million streetcars rumbles by on track that was built to support a trolley half its size and whines at 85 to 95 decibels, my house shakes and the noise fills the rooms.

"Things have gotten worse since Muni uses the J-Church line as the route for all other lines when going and returning to the car barn out by Balboa Park, so they pass by starting very early in the morning and then late at night.

"I've lived here since 1978 and remember the days when only the PCC cars were used. They ran quiet as a mouse, and even the bigger Boeing cars were quiet."

How many $1.5 million chunks do you think Muni will spend on buying 60 more Breda cars, scheduled to arrive from Italy in the coming years? Yikes!

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DOWNTOWN NOE VALLEY newsracks will soon be substantially upgraded, says Dan Brugmann, newsrack program manager for the San Francisco Department of Public Works.

DPW just issued its report on those designer newsracks recently installed in front of Bell Market as part of a six-month citywide pilot project.

People in Noe Valley, like everywhere else in the city, overwhelmingly favored the new fixed-pedestal stands over the old freestanding ones, which used to get blown around on the sidewalks.

According to Brugmann, DPW is now planning to set up the new newsracks at three or four other spots along 24th Street: at Castro in front the Bank of America, at Noe next to Starbucks, at Sanchez next to Juice It, and somewhere near the corner of Church and 24th.

"We are looking at over one thousand locations all over the city and twelve to fifteen thousand newsracks," says Brugmann. Really? Wow.

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A TRUCE has been reached on the Audrey Rodgers memorial planned for the corner of 21st and Sanchez streets. The landscaping should be starting right now. And the paving and installation of the bench -- and the dedication and block party -- should happen by late spring.

According to Rodgers' daughter Janice Bracken, a deal has been struck among adjoining landowners Monty and Louise Zweben, builder Seamus McGee, and interested neighbors whereby a 6-foot-by-40-inch half circle will be set aside on the corner for the placement of a one-and-a-half-person bench carved from redwood.

It will sit on the north tip of a swatch that is 31 feet wide and runs down Sanchez the entire block to Hill Street. This "undeveloped sidewalk" is indeed owned by the City and County of San Francisco, and not by the Zwebens, as I erroneously reported last month.

Thank you to Charles Freeman Stamper (see his letter to the editor, page 4) for setting everyone straight on this point, and sorry for all the dialogue my column must have caused. Mea culpa.

As for the other six-foot, hand-carved redwood bench and the "round rock stoop" (the original sculpture designed for the memorial), which was too big for the area agreed upon, Janice says it will probably wind up in the Seward Street Mini Park that her mother and artists Ruth Asawa and Al Lanier designed. Seward Street is just off Douglass near 20th Street. The mini-park has a mini-playground with a very interesting slide (it's a smooth stone slide that goes down a hillside).

According to Janice, one of the sticking points in the months-long debate over the size of the Sanchez Street memorial was the issue of liability. People worried about who would be responsible should somebody claim damages while in the area of the bench.

But Janice can now laugh about it and say, "This whole process has given me a new inspiration. I am going to get a plaque for the Sanchez Street bench that says 'Sit at Your Own Risk.'

"And I guarantee you that my parents will be laughing from heaven!"

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HATS OFF to Rick Hardina, who is head clerk at Bell Market on 24th Street (having worked there for the past 21 years). Rick put together a "Color 'n' Win Contest" for kids over Christmas. "Bell had done a chainwide Halloween coloring contest two years ago," said Rick, "and customers kept asking us when we were going to do that again."

After Bell gave the go-ahead and put together some prizes, toys, and candy, Rick xeroxed a line drawing of Santa that he had designed for the tee shirts in his running club. Kids were free to color in or decorate the pictures any way they wanted. Rick put them all on display at the front of the store.

"We had almost a hundred contestants," beams Rick, "and all the kids who entered got a first-place ribbon in their age and category. It was a lot of fun."

My favorite was the one by the 2-year-old entrant who drew red streaks of lightning across the entire page. His award was: "For the best use of the color red." I also liked the drawing by the 4-year-old who won "for staying inside the lines."

But what I liked best of all was that every kid got a ribbon and a prize. That's the way it should be for our children every day of the year.

That's all, you all.