Noe Valley Voice March 1998

Rumors in the News: How to Be a Beanie Counter

By Mazook

THE BEANIE BABY CRAZE has invaded Noe Valley. And our two main kids' shops, the Ark and Small Frys, are trying hard to keep up with demand.

"It has been unbelievable the last few months," says Pam Byars, of the Ark. "I am selling anywhere from two to six dozen Beanie Babies a day."

Beanie Babies, for those of you who don't know, are cute little stuffed animals (filled with pellets) manufactured by Ty Inc. Each of the cuddly creatures -- usually animal characters -- comes with a name, a short poem, and a date of birth.

Kids naturally like 'em, but adults are buying the Beanie Babies also -- either as collectors' items or to resell at a profit, says Pam. Her Babies go for $5.95 apiece.

She says she's getting over a dozen calls a day, some from out of state ("we just got a call from Alabama"), to confirm rumors that the Beanies are in stock.

Small Frys owner Carol Yenne has Babies coming out of her ears too. "I've never seen anything like it. We are getting 30 or more calls and selling an average of three or four dozen a day. I just got notice from the manufacturer that we are now an official distributor."

According to Carol, some customers will come in and spend $200 just on Beanie Babies. "And we even get offers to buy our entire shipment." She explains that kiosks in the malls are selling the same thing for $20, so many people try to buy and resell them. "The big collectors who come into our store," says Carol, "are mostly middle-aged men!"

Small Frys even has a phone list to notify customers when a new shipment arrives. Carol says the shipments, which have 600 to 700 Babies, come once a month.

The hottest Beanie Baby these days is a bear named for Princess Diana. Carol reports that this Baby fetches up to $600, so Small Frys is holding a raffle for their last Princess Di Bear in stock. Tickets are $2 and all proceeds go to Catholic Charities.

Another hot tip on the Beanie Baby Watch: There is currently a new Beanie Baby out that everyone is asking for. It's called "Erin," and it has a big shamrock on its front to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

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CALVACADE OF CAFES: The year-and-a-half-old Courtyard Cafe (it was Rami's Caffe before that) on Church Street near Clipper is now history. In its place, owner Abed Amas is going to unveil an eaterie serving authentic, traditional Middle Eastern cuisine.

Abed has hired a world-class chef from Jordan, Manal Shafi, who will create salads, stews, and shishkebabs for lunch and dinner. "We will still have Saturday and Sunday brunch," says Abed, who comes here (ironically as did Rami) from Jerusalem.

The place will be named Fattoush, which is also a Lebanese salad. Fattoush is currently being remodeled and should be completed, according to Abed, by the end of March. The new interior is being designed by Jacquelyn Nelson, who recently designed Savor on 24th Street.

Oh, by the way, the courtyard in the back of the restaurant is being preserved, and heaters are being promised.

While we're on the food front, I do have a couple of short-order items.

First, Happy Donuts at 24th and Church is now applying for a "conditional use permit" from City Planning so that it can reopen from 2 to 6 a.m., prime time in the donut and coffee world. You all remember that last year the police slapped a cease-and-desist on Happy Donuts until the shop acquired a "cabaret license" allowing it to stay open 24 hours (as it had done without the license for the past 20 years). The hearing on the new permit is scheduled for March 5. Insomniacs, unite!

Then there is the new product at Bell Market: ostrich meat. Bell was offering free samples in its meat department at the end of January.

In touting the ostrich, Bell claims that it is 97 percent fat-free, has even less fat than turkey, beef, or chicken, and "tastes similar to beef and is a red meat."

When I last checked, the store butcher told me sales had been quite brisk and had been increasing over the past month.

According to Bell, these ostriches are raised at Silver Oaks Ranch in Morgan Hill, Calif., "in a free-range environment."

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LOCAL TAX EXPERT Jan Zobel has just released the second edition of her book Minding Her Own Business: The Self-Employed Woman's Guide to Taxes and Recordkeeping.

"This book," says Jan, "is designed especially for the woman entrepreneur. Many women say 'I've never understood this [tax] stuff and my husband or my father has always dealt with tax and money issues, so I don't understand any of it.'

"They have numberphobia," she adds. She claims her book provides good remedy. You can check it out at Cover to Cover or other bookstores in the neighborhood. It costs $16.95 and is published by East Hill Press in Oakland. By the way, the first edition of the book, published in early '97, sold a respectable 4,000 copies.

Jan has had her office in the neighborhood (23rd and Valencia) and has taught seminars for self-employed people for close to 20 years. About a quarter of her 400 clients are in the 94114, 94110, and 94131 zip codes -- greater Noe Valley.

If anyone would know the extent of our numberphobia, it'd be Jan.

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CONGRATS and good luck to Noe Valley's Michael Garavaglia, who just became president of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce. He has is own architecture firm, which specializes in historic preservation, downtown revitalization, and many other types of commercial and residential projects.

"I moved to Noe Valley [Sanchez Street] three years ago from Telegraph Hill, where I'd lived for a long time. I also had my office in North Beach until I recently moved downtown," says Mike.

Mike and his wife Sheila are very active in the California Preservation Foundation and have just moved into a home at 27th and Noe streets that is 90 years old. They are now planning their own restoration project.

Best wishes go out to Catalina Roja, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Feb. 11 at the 30th Street Senior Center. It was a gala event.

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TOP OF THE POPS: Patrick Morehead at Streetlight Records reports that the number-one CD out the door these days is Buena Vista Social Club by Ry Cooder. Cooder recorded the album in Havana, Cuba, and I'm told the jam sessions were hot, hot, hot.

Aquarius Records says its best seller is the new release by the group Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

Over at Phoenix Books and Records, which specializes in blues and jazz music, the number-one request is anything by Tom Waits. Hey, let's get Waits to come play the Noe Valley Music Series.

The top fiction work at Phoenix and also at Cover to Cover is the Toni Morrison novel Paradise. In the non-fiction category, both Cover to Cover and Phoenix report that your favorite is Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. McCourt's book tells the story of his growing up Irish-Catholic in New York and then moving to Ireland.

Video Wave, West Coast Video, and Blockbuster all agree that the Al Pacino flick Devil's Advocate is being requested more than any other video on the racks.

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TWENTY-FOURTH STREET BEAT: Somehow it seems sad that the Thrifty Junior drugstore now has a big neon sign saying it is Rite-Aid. But what's in a name? Rite-Aid is a 4,000-store national chain and boasts of low-cost prescriptions.

Also, Coast Savings will be no more by the end of March. Home Savings of America took it over last month, and will light up its own sign soon on the corner of 24th and Noe.

No word yet on what will happen to the Coast crew. Hopefully the only thing that will change here is the name.

Ecollectic is calling it quits in the Noe Valley Mall after a brief run (since mid-'97). Maybe the name didn't catch on.

Sorry to see Star Magic fold, but the shop hadn't been the same for the past few years. I remember back in '78 when it opened as Gifts of the Magi. The painted floors, sparkling jewels, and New Age music were pretty cosmic.

The rumor is that Elisa Ining will be expanding her health spa into Star Magic's old storefront -- good news to a lot of local bath and massage patrons.

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UPDATING THE UPDATES: Crews from the general contractor Merlot & Company are about to restore the sidewalk on the west side of Sanchez Street south from the corner of 21st.

"The project will restore the forty-five squares of sidewalk to their original vintage San Francisco form," says Janice Bracken, who is helping to organize a small memorial for her mother, Dolores Heights activist Audrey Rodgers.

Rumors regulars will recall that a truce had finally been reached over the memorial, among the neighbors on "Battle Mountain." Everyone agreed that a small bench would go in on a landscaped spot in the 31-foot-wide "undeveloped sidewalk" near the corner.

Well, according to Janice, the developer of four nearby luxury houses, Seamus McGee, has agreed to pay half of the $3,400 cost of the sidewalk restoration. The neighborhood's memorial fund will pay the other half.

The bench will then be installed, a tree will be planted in memory of Voice writer Florence Holub's son, and "a New Zealand tea tree will be planted in memory of my mom," says Janice.

Before I go, I want to send condolences to all the family and friends of Elizabeth Rusk, who died on Valentine's Day at 90 years young. She was a longtime member of the Noe Valley Ministry community, and had belonged to the church back in the old days when it was still the Lebanon Presbyterian Church. She was an inspiration to everyone around her. Look to the Voice next month for a story about her life and times.

Ciao for now.