Noe Valley Voice October 1998


Storetrek is a regular feature of the Noe Valley Voice showcasing new stores and other walk-in businesses in Noe Valley. This month's column -- written by Jim Christie, Erin O'Briant, and Anne Sengès -- introduces a variety of shops: a chic nail salon on Castro, a movie rental store specializing in laser and digital discs, a yoga studio offering child care, a spotless laundromat at Noe and 22nd, and a home furnishings store on 24th Street.

Let's Do Wash Coin Laundrette

3800 22nd St. (at Noe)


There's a spanking new, sparkling clean laundromat in the 'hood at the corner of 22nd and Noe streets. Let's Do Wash opened in early July after an 18-month remodeling job by owner Dolores Shiu. She was assisted by a longtime friend, who's also a designer and contractor.

Shiu says she had wanted to open soon after acquiring the laundromat in December 1996, but she quickly realized the building needed major repairs.

Her rebuilt storefront has a fresh coat of white paint with blue trim around large plate-glass windows, and high louvered windows that bring in fresh breezes and extra light. There are two benches out front for relaxing.

The spacious interior sports a white and blue tiled floor and colorful wallpaper printed with soap bubble and tropical fish designs. There are big plastic deck chairs, a color TV, a disabled access restroom, a bill-changing machine, and a folding counter that runs the length of the shop. Shiu plans to install an espresso coffee dispenser and a six-foot, 230-gallon fish tank in October.

Here's the soap on the machines: There are 20 washers and 19 dryers. A regular wash is $1.50 (six quarters). The dryers give you eight minutes per quarter. The larger washing machines -- handling 20, 35, and 50 pounds -- cost $2.50, $3.75, and $4.75 a load.

Dolores Shiu was born and raised in Chinatown but now lives in the Outer Richmond. She finished a 24-year banking career before launching her own laundry business. In May 1996, she opened the first Let's Do Wash on Balboa near 38th Avenue. Seven months later, she bought the 22nd and Noe location.

Shiu prides herself on cleanliness -- her laundromats are cleaned five nights a week -- and boasts that after two years, her first shop looks as spiffy as it did on opening day. Visit either laundromat and you might meet her sons, 14-year-old Nicholas and 10-year-old Dominic, who help out Mom when they're not in school.

Currently Shiu is looking for an independent dry cleaner who can offer dry-cleaning services at the Noe Valley Let's Do Wash. She designed the space to accommodate this additional business. Shiu says the dry cleaner could operate rent-free in return for managing the laundromat and handling customers' drop-off laundry.

Let's Do Wash is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with "last wash" posted as 8:30 p.m. -- Jim Christie

Yoga Shala

1500 Castro St.


"When you walk into Yoga Shala, all the other things you're going through -- work, traffic -- just disappear," says owner John Robb, of his new yoga studio at the corner of Castro and 25th streets. "There are plants, and the inside is painted in calm earth tones," he adds, "and you'll be greeted by a smiling face."

Yoga Shala, which opened on July 12, boasts a variety of yoga and meditation classes, including Hatha, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kripalu, "flow," and "restorative" yoga. Prenatal classes are also available, and all skill levels are welcome.

Right now Yoga Shala is offering a couple of introductory deals: If you want to try the place out, just come for a class and pay $12. If you enroll in another class or program later, the original $12 will be credited to you.

Your $12 credit can also apply to another special offer -- 60 days of unlimited use of the studio for $60.

"Yoga Shala is very economically feasible," says Robb. "I wanted to charge the lowest level I could." In that spirit, he also offers a community yoga class for all levels for $5 per session.

Robb thinks Noe Valley is an ideal place for a studio like his. "There are a lot of people around here like me, maybe in their mid-30s, who did all the running and aerobics when they were younger," he says. "Now that's taking its toll, but they don't want to give up physical activity. Yoga you can do for the rest of your life and get the same benefits."

Since so many local residents have young kids, Robb decided to offer free child care on weekdays. You can bring the little ones from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.

Robb, who worked as a yoga instructor before opening the studio, is full of plans for the future. Next year the neighborhood can look forward to a series of workshops and "satsongs" -- concerts in which a guru performs ancient Sanskrit chants, accompanied by drums and traditional Indian instruments. "People come listen, meditate, dance, chant, whatever they want," he says.

In addition to the studio, Yoga Shala houses a store that sells clothes, CDs, tea, books, incense, yoga mats, cards, and candles. The studio and store are both open seven days a week. Hours are 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekends.

For more information, visit Yoga Shala's web site at or call 970-9917.

-- Erin O'Briant

Laser Cinema

1320 Castro St. (near 24th)

Phone: 920-9955 Fax: 920-9927

The Castro District's loss turned into Noe Valley's gain with the July 1 opening of Laser Cinema. The store originally opened on Market Street in 1991, but a steep rent hike at the old location caused the three owners -- James Healey, Ian Hendrie, and Derrick Scocchera -- to seek new digs last spring. The shop now occupies Allure's old space at 1320 Castro, across from Walgreens.

Laser Cinema is a place that sells and rents films -- from The Sound of Music to Boogie Nights -- available on the hottest new technology. These days that's either laserdisc or the newer DVD (digital versatile disc), a platter that closely resembles a music CD. (Laserdiscs are larger than DVDs and look like record albums.)

Laser Cinema not only offers the discs, but sells and rents the equipment to play them on. The store also buys and trades used laserdiscs, DVDs, and disc players.

Co-owner James Healey estimates the shop has 12,000 film titles, 80 percent on laserdisc and 20 percent on DVD. "We have the largest laserdisc rental library in Northern California," he says.

The 10,000 or so laserdiscs are displayed in bins in the center of the store and in cabinets along the walls. The smaller DVD section is near the entrance, across from the checkout counter.

Though his DVD inventory is smaller, Healey says the DVDs are definitely the wave of the future because of their compact size. (The store does not carry VHS movies, although blank cassette tapes are available for about $3.)

Laser Cinema's movies run the gamut from "Disaster Movies" and "Japanese Monsters" to documentaries and silent films. The store's most popular new releases -- Titanic is due out Oct. 13 -- are organized alphabetically by title.

The store also has a special "Directors" section. Here you'll find the work of well-known auteurs such as Hitchcock or Kurosawa, as well as more obscure "mavericks who made original movies outside the Hollywood system," Healey says.

Healey believes a big plus for Laser Cinema is that all three owners are real movie buffs. When founder Ray Ross passed away in March, Ross left the business to his trio of former employees, for their close friendship and their love of film. The partners go out of their way to import foreign versions of American movies to get a different cut or an alternate soundtrack, Healey says. "We just got an import from Japan that hardly anyone's seen-- Martin Scorsese's first feature film, Who's That Knocking at My Door? starring Harvey Keitel."

They also try to keep quality movie watching affordable. All movie rentals are two nights for $3.50. Or you can buy 15 rentals for $49.95, or 30 for $89.95. The rental of a laserdisc or DVD player, including two movies, costs $14.95 for two nights. When you reach six early (one-day) movie returns, you get a free movie rental.

Internet travelers can visit Laser Cinema's web site at Healey notes the store also accepts e-mail and fax orders and will ship laserdiscs and DVDs worldwide.

Meanwhile, the live Laser Cinema is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Stop by and see what's playing on the 10-foot screen at the rear of the store. -- Jim Christie


4028-B 24th St. (near Castro)


When TJ Woodward decided to start his own retail business, he knew what he wanted: a place he could call Home. His new Home (which he spells with a period on the end) opened Sept. 6 in the 24th Street space formerly occupied by Star Magic.

"Noe Valley is a great neighborhood," says Woodward. "I've always enjoyed shopping here, and I saw a need for a store that carried home accessories."

Home offers architectural accent pieces, reproduction sculptures, urns, candles and candleholders, lamps and lampshades, picture frames, and pillows.

Before forging ahead on his own, Woodward enjoyed a 15-year career in retail, including a stint at Neiman Marcus. His visual merchandising skills are evident in the design and layout of Home.

A newly tiled foyer leads customers into a cozy interior whose walls are painted in subtle shades of blue, yellow, lime green, purple, brown, and orange. The floor has the appearance of suede, a look Woodward achieved with a "rusted iron" finish.

Home's specialty is cast items for indoor use, created with a composition of crushed cement and heavy gypsum. Many of the statues and plaques have the look and feel of Greco-Roman antiquities, and depict cherubs, horses, roosters, or Buddha images.

Woodward employs a California-based family of casters who have been in business for almost a hundred years, to hand-pour the castings. And because Woodward offers every item in 12 unique finishes (verdigris and rusted iron are two favorites), he also maintains an off-site storage and finishing facility.

The smaller items on display at Home, such as decorative plaques, corbels, and small candleholders, are wall-mounted, while the larger urns, table bases, and consoles rest on sisal fiber carpets in the central area and on slate surfaces near the front window display.

Small urns, pots, and planters range from $18 to $68, small wall plaques from $28 to $68, and large plaques and urns from $98 to $148. Lamps are all $78 (excluding shades.) Table consoles are $148, while table bases run from $198 to $248 (glass tabletops are extra).

Woodward says his best-selling gift items are the aromatherapy and scented candles, as well as hand-rolled "tinber" candles ($8 to $28). Cast candleholders run from $18 to $48.

If customers don't find what they want in the store, they can peruse Woodward's 40-page catalog, which lists his complete inventory. Warehouse items take about a week to arrive at the store, he says. Special orders usually take about a month.

Home's web site ( is currently in the construction phase, but customers will be able to order online in the near future, Woodward says.

Home's hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays (closed Tuesdays), and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. -- Jim Christie

Nail Chic

1303-D Castro St.


A nail salon called Nail Chic now inhabits Out of Hand's old spot on Castro near 24th Street. And true to its name, the salon is chic and sophisticated.

When you open the door, you enter a spacious room bathed in warm pastel colors and soft lights. A welcoming staff makes you feel comfortable right away.

"I did not want my store to be all black and white like other nail salons," says 23-year-old Nghia Nguyen, owner/manager of the store. "Most of all, I wanted a warm and inviting ambiance," she says. Nguyen chose the decorations and furniture to create a relaxing atmosphere. She hopes her shop's prices will be inviting as well.

Nail Chic provides all the standard beauty treatments for hands and feet. The salon also offers facials and waxing. A simple manicure is $6. If you want both a manicure and pedicure, the price is $12. A facial is $35, and a full leg waxing $24.

Painting nails is something that runs in Nguyen's family. Her mother owns Perfect 10, a manicure business that's been a fixture on Church Street for more than a decade. When she was a teenager, Nguyen would come straight home from school to help her mom in the salon.

"Getting my license was just a normal adjustment," says Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam but came to the U.S. when she was 5. "My mom insisted I should have my own store," she smiles.

When asked why she chose this location knowing that her mother runs her own salon only a few blocks away, Nguyen says that Noe Valley is simply the neighborhood to operate a business.

What makes Noe Valley so attractive? "I love the people. They are great and very funny. And the neighborhood has a lot of stores that are different and unique. And of course there's the weather," says Nguyen, who lives in the Richmond District and appreciates seeing the sun when she comes to work every day.

Even though "there are around six or seven [other manicure] stores in Noe Valley and this neighborhood is not very big either," Nguyen says she and her mother are not worried about the competition. "My mom and I have been doing this for 10 years."

Nail Chic is open seven days a week. Hours are 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.