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A Noe Mom Ventures Into Cyberspace
By Alison Pence
I am Internet inept. Since I became a mom, the closest I get to the computer is on Wednesdays when I dust it. Occasionally I am fortunate enough to write stories for this paper, but when I sit down at my monitor, I feel as skittish as a (real) mouse.
My friends are all scanning and attaching and emailing. Meanwhile, I'm out in the vegetable garden, planting kumquats. While it's a comfort to know that I'm in tune with nature, I hate being left at the side of the e-road. So when my editor suggested a story on Noe Valley in cyberspace, I decided to leap onto that superhighway going over that bridge into the 20th century (I mean 21st).
Web Sites 101
Looking through the advertisements in the February Voice, I saw lots of evidence of surfability. Many businesses list more than an address and phone. A web site, in case there are other non-techies out there, will have a name like www.surfme.com, whereas firstname.lastname@example.org refers to an email address. Email is where you can write a note to the person or vendor, and a web site is more of an "all about us" experience. It's also the way a small local business can go global.
Web pages run the gamut from a simple logo to an elaborate maze of text, graphics, and ads. Some sites will be able to take your order. Some won't.
One of my friends says, "Oh, I never shop online because I don't feel that it's secure." Well, you can look at the pictures and get product information, and then call in your orders by phone. Or you can check out the inventory on the web site, then visit the store in person. Many, like the Animal Company on 24th Street (theanimalcompany.com), have maps or directions to their location.
Another friend says she likes to select gifts and food by hand. I do too, so I'll probably use the Internet for other types of things. You can shop for a dentist (glenparkdental.com), choose a room at a B&B (doloresplace.com, hidden-cottage.com), or save a manatee (savethe-manatee.org). Oops, I'm starting to sound like a convert.
Realtors Abound Online
So, what did I find, surfing for Noe on the Net? Can I get a plumber, order a pizza, or buy a book from a shop on 24th Street while the baby takes his nap?
Well, we're not quite there yet. I was surprised to see that the churches have web sites, and the schools, and libraries, but not many of the stores or restaurants. While I found that Noe Valley does inhabit cyberspace -- a very quaint, friend-ly, down-homey part of cyberspace -- it's easier to shop for preschools than for a gift from your favorite store on 24th Street. (Still, check out my "Surfing Safari" list at the end of this article.)
In Noe Valley, realtors are by far the largest group to have web sites. The web offers them a way to reach potential clients from anywhere in the world. There's linda-gordon.com, herth.com, zephyr-re.com, and email@example.com, for instance. B.J. Droubi Real Estate has a nice sketch of its 24th Street Victorian on its home page (bjdroubi.com). The site also offers an architectural "Walk in Noe Valley" and a local history of the 1906 earthquake. Many of the realtor sites have listings of open homes in the city.
Key Word 'Noe Valley'
Several surf spots give you general information about Noe Valley. These often have "links," offering access to more local web sites. Sfgate.com, the web site with stories from the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner, features a neighborhood guide to Noe Valley. The guide gives descriptions, addresses, and phone numbers for the stores, restaurants, and nightlife the web site deems worthwhile.
Probably the most comprehensive site in Noe Valley is the one generated by this newspaper: noevalleyvoice.com. Our web site has stories and columns from current and back issues (to December 1996), the current month's class ads, and a history of the Voice and the neighborhood. It also has a "search" function, installed a few months ago.
Vicksburg Street resident Elliot Poger, who helps maintain the Voice site, thinks readers should find it easy to navigate, because it's not cluttered with ads and graphics. There are just one or two large photos on the home page, and no display ads at this point. Those things are too time-consuming for most browsers, he says. And I agree.
Poger, a programmer for Firstup.com in real life, is aware of the paradox of going online to shop on 24th Street. "Perhaps you could order a cup of coffee from 24th Street online, but I wouldn't want to," he says. "Twenty-fourth Street is unique and different. I love going there."
It's All in a Domain Name
The local web site with the most potential is noevalley.com. This primo Noe Valley domain name was recently acquired by Ed Shuck, an engineer who has lived in the neighborhood since 1966.
Originally, noevalley.com was an alphabetical listing of merchants on 24th Street. Started by Cliff Lundberg in 1996, the list was 150 names long by the time Shuck began working on it seven months ago. "I changed the look of the site because I wanted it to be a place where people can go to find out what's happening in Noe Valley," Shuck says.
He'd also like to see it become a bulletin board for residents. "I have a turnaround time of two to three hours. If you lose a pet or decide to have a garage sale, that speed could be pretty nice."
Right now he gets about 700 "hits" per day on the site, even though his index to Noe Valley stores, churches, schools, etc., is still in the growing stages. "I also want to include the small groceries and the laundromats, but I'm going to visit each one first," says Shuck, who works as a consultant combating hacking on telephone systems.
While the store listings on noevalley.com are free, if a business wants to announce a special sale, they will be encouraged to buy what's called a "banner" in Internet advertising lingo.
An interesting note: Shuck designed a web page for the Noe Valley Cooperative Nursery School on Sanchez Street (noevalley.com/nvns/nvns.htm). His daughter was in the school's first class (1970), and his youngest grandchild graduates this year.
Now that's another web site I need to go visit! M
Surfing Safari: Noe Shops Online
By Alison Pence
Here is a sampling of some of the Noe Valley shops I found online in January. Keep in mind that there are many stores that realize the value of the Internet
but have not yet been able to finish (or furnish) their web sites. These sites
are "under construction." I am eagerly awaiting urbancellars.com and
theanimalcompany.com. Employee Steve Martini says the Animal Company's web site (don't forget to type in the "the") is a community page -- "very neighborhood" -- which encourages pet owners to send in pictures. The site has tips on animal care and pet food and supplies. There's even a selection of treats and toys for dogs, cats, fish, birds, whatever. Also, if you buy one of the birds pictured in the online aviary, you'll get a 10 percent discount. Martini says the site's busiest time is breeding season when the "See the Babies in the Nursery" page goes to the birds. 4298 24th St. 647-8755.
cradleofthesun.com. Dan Gamaldi, owner of Cradle of the Sun stained-glass shop on 24th near Vicksburg, is creating this web site himself. He has had the address for about a year now, and thinks his "next version" will be good enough to give to a search engine. Right now the site lists class schedules, information about Gamaldi's two stores, and helpful hints on stained-glass design. Gamaldi is also working on an instructional video, which he hopes to sell via the Internet. 3848 24th St. 821-7667.
frenchtulip.com. This web site, representing the French Tulip flower shop on 24th near Sanchez, has beautiful pictures of their bouquets. They deliver throughout the Bay Area and have secure ordering. 3903 24th St. 647-8661.
covertocoversf.com. Cover to Cover Booksellers' site has a nice neighborly feel to it, just like the store. The events calendar lists the book signings that are coming up, and a "Neighbors" section shows pictures from past events. (Go take a look at the photos from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's visit last October.) I especially liked reading about the staff, and now I more fully appreciate what it takes to make this store work. There were two books featured, one under "Reviews" and another under "Signed First Editions." 3910 24th St. 282-8080.
dogearedbooks.com. Dog-Eared Books is the sister store of Phoenix Books & Records on 24th Street. The two share a web site that lists a large selection of remainders and used and rare books. They briefly describe each book and cover an eclectic mix of subjects. You can order online. The look of this site is true to the store's logo (a graphic woodblock print), and the color is very green. You may want to change the brightness on your monitor. Phoenix Books, 3850 24th St. 821-3477.
essentialhome.com. This is the web site for Essential Home (formerly Echo Home and Garden), located on 24th near Church Street. Store owner Susan Williamson says her site was revamped after its first year. The cyberstore has a limited selection, but one can make purchases online. Williamson hopes to add home and office furnishings and a bridal registry soon. She knows that her "customers may have seen the item in the store and find it more convenient to order online after they've thought about it." Williamson says she's happy about the site. "It's in its infancy, but we see it as the wave of the future and a way to make our business grow." 3775 24th St. 282-3330 or 648-2872.
40luv.com. This site, for 40-Love Tennis and Active Wear on 24th near Diamond, has "grand-slam specials" in its online catalog. The catalog also has direct links to many name brands, so you can view a company's entire product line. Dan Gibby, owner of 40-Love, says that 22 percent of his business is online. "We pay $125 per month for the server, design, and shopping capability," he says. "It evens out our slow months. When it's cold and rainy here, it's sunny in Florida." Gibby has registered the site with several search engines and as a result has sold to customers in Scotland, Chile, and Japan. "We also offer service to the community with our map of tennis courts throughout the Bay Area and our partners' page, where players can find other players," Gibby says. "It's a great way for people getting into tennis to connect." 4156 24th St. 643-8859.
hairplay.com. This site, for the snazzy hair studio at Dolores and 29th streets, was the most graphically interesting to me. You click on the sticks in the hairdo of the model on the home page to get to featured styles, makeovers, weddings, and other services the salon offers. Fritz Clay, founder of Hair Play, says he sometimes takes a day off from work in the salon to freshen up the site. His site has had mentions in national magazines and received 18,000 hits in three months. He also has gotten a big response to his cover for Today's Bride. They can't take appointments on the site, but they do answer email inquiries. "Many of my customers are Internet-involved," says Clay. "They love it." 1599 Dolores St. 550-1656.
homesanfrancisco.com. Selling reproductions of Greco-Roman and Asian sculpture, furniture, and ornament, Home (now on 24th but planning to move to the Castro) has a nicely designed web site that is easy to use. "T.J.," the owner of the store, says, "We use it as our catalog. It is easier to maintain than a print catalog and less expensive." He also notes that "with big furniture, it's a great way for people to go home, take measurements, and look at the site to see what we have." This year Home hopes to begin online sales, but for now the store can only take orders by phone. 4028 24th St. 824-8585.
lasercinema.com. Laser Cinema's home page has a dramatic still from the film noir movie Touch of Evil, starring Charleton Heston. After I finished poring over that, I tried a search of the store's laserdisc and DVD movies for sale or for rent. When you find a product you want at the site, you can phone in your order and have it shipped within 24 hours. 1320 Castro St. 920-9955.
http:\members.aol.com\sfmybooks (San Francisco Mystery Bookstore). Owner Bruce Taylor says his site has book reviews and the schedule of book signings at his shop on 24th Street. He is hoping to add online ordering, antiquarian books, and more features in the future. In the meantime, feel free to email him with your book questions via the site. 4175 24th St. 282-7444.
streetlightrecords.com. Streetlight Records' sense of humor certainly comes across in its web site. ("Streetlight Records is a quasi-religious cult, ... and refuge for morally handicapped artists and musicians. Our leader, Uncle Bob, lives in a remote part of Big Sur seeking religious visions and dirty jokes.") The cyberstore also says it will be "one of the first sites to download obnoxious odors directly to your office or home." But what most people probably log on for is the store's list of rare records and movies. Under "Rock and Oldies" I tried to find recordings by Sting and by Santana, but had no luck (maybe because they're not rare). This category includes Abba, Metallica, and The Great Mouse Detective soundtrack. Purchases can be made online via a secure shopping cart. 3979 24th St. 282-3550.