Noe Valley Voice February 1999

Rumors Behind the News: We Be News

By Mazook

NOE VALLEY hit the New York Times on Jan. 21, 1999, in a story headlined, "In Liberal Enclave, Trial Breeds Disgust."

The Times reporter, Evelyn Nieves, surveyed about 30 denizens of Downtown Noe Valley, asking their reaction to Clinton's State of the Union address and the impeachment fiasco in Congress.

Nieves wrote: "In Noe Valley, a liberal Democratic neighborhood in a liberal Democratic city,...the President's impeachment and trial have been [perceived as] political acts. Period. The conservative Republicans have been out to get him. No question."

Nieves also quipped: "To people here, it is as if the president were Bugs Bunny and the conservative Republicans were Elmer Fudd, throwing tantrums each time the wascally wabbit slips away."

Noe Valley is described as a "bastion of political activism -- where residents worried about the gentrification of the neighborhood successfully lobbied for a law banning new coffee bars and juice bars...."

Among the many locals quoted in the story were Alison Levy from Phoenix Books, Nancy Ford at the Cheese Shop ("I think going after Bill Clinton is stupid, idiotic..."), Harriet Beinfield of Chinese Medicine Works, criminal defense attorney Jan Lagerhof ("[Clinton's] been too conservative for me,...but he hasn't done anything to abuse the office of the President"), and Steve Bacik of Accent on Flowers, who said that after being a lifelong Republican, he had tired of their tactics and would reregister as a Democrat.

If you ask me (which Nieves didn't), it is the impeachers who should be impeached, first, for the treason of giving aid and comfort to our enemies abroad, and second, for bribery, for paying millions of dollars to Kenneth Starr's office to catch the president in a lie about sex.

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THE WASHINGTON POST also ran a great story (Dec. 27, 1998) about San Francisco's vintage streetcars and trolley rides, including the J-Church line.

Writer Tom McNichol said the "J-Line rattles through the Noe Valley, an old Irish neighborhood that more recently has become popular with young latte-sipping professionals. Noe Valley probably has more places to buy coffee than any place outside Seattle, which may be why the city has imposed a temporary moratorium on new coffee shops along 24th Street, the neighborhood's main commercial strip. Now if only it would ban cell phones." Boy, news sure gets around.

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THE SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER had a big picture of David Eiland, co-owner of Just for Fun, in its Dec. 13 edition, wearing glasses that made Christmas lights look like stars of David.

David E. was singled out by Ex reporter Venise Wagner because of his exuberance for Hanukkah, and as a counterpoint to those who are upset at the commercialization of the eight-day celebration.

Also singled out, this time by Video Store, a national trade publication, was the Castro Street shop Video Wave, owned by Alexander and Gardenia Gardener.

One reason the store was featured (and pictured) in Video Store's Nov. 28 issue was that it may be the last video rental store in the country to do business without computers. Writes Doug Desjardins, "To this day, Video Wave keeps a written ledger of customer transactions, including names, the videos they rent, and the date they rented them."

Alexander Gardener is quoted as saying, "It's not that difficult because I know most of my customers anyway, and I figure this is something that separates us from everyone else." He goes on to tell a story about a night when the power went out in parts of Noe Valley, "and everyone had to close down except for us.... We just lit the store with candles and people came in and rented movies by candlelight. It was one of the best nights we ever had and it was kind of magical."

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SCOOPS DE JOUR: Kathy O'Neill, your friendly Thrifty Jr. pharmacist for almost nine years, has jumped off the Rite Aid bandwagon and is opening an ice cream shop in Noe Valley.

"I'm going from pills to chills!" jokes Kathy. She'll call her new place the Fountain of Youth Ice Cream Cafe.

The store will fill the space formerly occupied by Lady Sybil's, at Church and 27th streets. And it's back to the future for Noe Valleons, because Kathy will feature Double Rainbow Ice Cream. Yippee! (We've had a D.R. drought in these parts since their 24th Street store closed five years ago and Bell Market stopped stocking the S.F.-based ice cream.)

The Fountain of Youth is scheduled for a late-March opening. Kathy says there will be seating for 15 and that the shop should be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and maybe an hour longer on weekends.

Meanwhile, the Rumah Sorga scoop is not that it has closed its basement store (below 17 Reasons), but that the space has been taken over by Bruno Guarini and stocked to the ceiling with arts and crafts from faraway places. The new store will be called Cottage Industry Underground.

Bruno just moved to 24th Street from Florida, where he had a restaurant. "I took the apartment behind the store and worked out a deal for the store space," says Bruno. "It snowed here the day I arrived from Miami," he notes. (Don't worry, Bruno. That was our second in a quarter century.)

Bruno and his partner, Mauricio Barone, who were boyhood friends from Italy, are opening another store above ground on 24th Street. This one, also a "world ba-zaar," will be the main Cottage Industry.

That shop will fill the front and back yard of the old 24th Street Post Office, which became the Classy Sweats clothing store when the new Post Office was built across the street. (As reported in our front-page story on Cover to Cover's move down 24th Street, Classy Sweats is throwing in the towel this spring.)

Bruno says he used to have a similar shop in Copenhagen, where he featured foreign artifacts from America -- "a lot of American artists who sold quite well."

"That's the fun part of this job," he says. "I just came back from a buying trip in Indonesia, India, Thailand, and Mexico, so we'll have a large inventory, including large pottery items in the back yard."

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ON THE FOOD FRONT: Regulars of Haystack Pizza were surprised after the new year when all of a sudden the restaurant's front room was boothless and lit up like the Bay Bridge toll plaza. What customers didn't know was that Colleen Bedrosian and longtime ex-husband George Kouloulias came to a parting of the ways as business partners. He bought her out, and she retired. "I left after 26 years and two months," says Colleen. "My last time in the restaurant was November 24th. I'll really miss all my good customers and employees, though."

Lavendar Kratsas, George's daughter by a previous marriage, is now managing Haystack. She says they've completely remodeled the front room, but have left the back room intact for nostalgic regulars.

"The front is a lot mellower now, and you can see outside," Lavendar says. "The angel booth in front will be replaced by a new one, in green instead of red, but we still have the same cooks and crew."

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JAVA PANIC: The city's coffee junkies went into withdrawal on Dec. 8, when S.F. experienced a huge, all-day power outage. The espresso machines went dead, the grinders halted, the cash registers quit.

But news spread along 24th Street and then down to the Mission that one coffeehouse was still up and running: Martha & Bros. on Church Street in Noe Valley.

How did they do it? Martha's regular Steve Bates went around the corner to his basement and brought back a generator with enough power to get that all important "drip" going. "After the power went out, a lot of people waited around a long time, and then we got the generator going," says manager Ivone Guerrero. "All of a sudden, people were coming from all over the city."

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GREAT JOB: Let's give a big hand to Bell Market for its Christmas coloring contest, whose 200 entrants decorated Bell's walls during the holidays. Every young artist won a first prize.

By the way, could the Bell bosses arrange to have the clock at the rear of the store raised back to its glorious, pre-remodel position so we can again see it from the front of the store? Thanks.

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CHECK OUT a local group of comedians doing "high-speed comedy" at the Mock Cafe (1074 Valencia) on Friday, Feb. 6, at 10 p.m. They call themselves the Mock 5, and according to Noe Valley comedian Christina Marie, "You'll get five comics for five bucks." A good deal.

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LASTLY BUT NOT LEASTLY: Please check out your local neighborhood groups. Both Friends of Noe Valley and Upper Noe Neighbors are scouting for peppy members to join their ranks.

According to Friends member Jean Amos, the group has over 200 members, but fewer than 20 do all the work. "But we want to start doing things other than just going to the Planning Commission," says Jean. "We're looking for noncontentious things to do that will make the neighborhood better. We want to focus on our library, our parks, and our schools."

Friends member Dave Monks has suggested the group hold "Book Nights" or social or cultural events featuring local residents with special talents.

As for Upper Noe Neighbors, the group has operated largely through the efforts of three chairpersons, two of whom (Janice Gendreau and Sue Bowie) have just retired after more than a decade of service.

The last of the troika, Vicki Rosen, says she wants to reach people who'd like to tackle the many issues springing up in "Uptown" Noe Valley, the no longer sleepy village at the end of Church Street. That would be parking, the rec center, the influx of restaurants (there's a rumor that Star Bakery will soon be an Indian or Indonesian restaurant), the new condos, and a few garage break-ins in recent weeks.

So how about it? Get involved. Give back. Phone Jean Amos at 826-2044, or Vicki Rosen at 285-0473.

Or if you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own.

That's 30, folks.