Noe Valley Voice June 2001

Rumors Behind the News: What's Your Sign?

By Mazook

THE SIGN PAINTERS ARE WORKING OVERTIME: Downtown Noe Valley will see many signs of change this summer, and a lot of the changing signs are the ones hanging over the front doors of businesses. We are losing some of our history. Let's hope it's to healthy revitalization rather than nasty corporatization.

On 24th Street just above Castro, all signs of Little Italy Restaurant, a former landmark, have vanished. The new sign says "Noi." That would be the name of a new Italian restaurant, being brought to us by maitre d' Diego Ragazzo and his partner and chef Stefano Coppola (no relation to Francis Ford).

"Noi means 'we' in Italian," said Stefano, indicating himself and partner Diego. When asked when "We" will be open, Diego pointed to June 15 on the calendar and said, "Then."

On that Friday, Diego plans to open the door at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, close at 10 o'clock that evening, and continue cooking and serving from then on, seven days a week. "We are still working on the menu," says Stefano, "but don't worry, you're going to like it a lot."

Oh, and put the tuxedo back in the closet, they want us to "come casual."

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HOP, HOP, HOP TO...LE ZINC: Yet another landmark of Downtown Noe Valley, the Hopwell's sign, will soon be obliterated along with the restaurant beneath it. The once popular breakfast and lunch spot, next to the public parking lot on 24th near Castro, has fallen on hard times in recent years. (Old-timers will remember when Hopwell's was located at the corner of Douglass, where the Animal Company now stands.) During the 1970s and '80s, hungry customers lined up out the door for the burgers and two-egg breakfast specials. But that's all history now.

"Le Zinc" will be the new sign over the door. Diana and Max Braud are hoping to open their new French bistro in mid-August. They say the name is pronounced "zang" and means café in French (well, what do you know). The Brauds recently moved to Noe Valley from Paris, where they owned and operated a restaurant called Millesimes (Vintages), on the Left Bank in the St. Germain neighborhood.

"After several trips to San Francisco, we decided we wanted to come here to Noe Valley and open up a bistro/cafe, and now it is actually happening," exclaims Diana. Le Zinc will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, "and hopefully we can create a true French cafe, keeping the same relaxed and casual atmosphere."

As an afterthought, she adds: "I am sure the neighbors will be happy to know that we will be repainting the building."

I suspect the current coat of paint dates back to the 1930s, or maybe it just looks that way.

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LIZARDS SPROUT UP: The children's store Little Bean Sprouts will be taking down its sign and closing on Saturday, June 23. From then on, it's Lit'l Lizards.

"After over 10 years in retail sales, I need a break," explains Big Bean Sprout Lisa Thompson, "so I am taking a trip, and when I return, I'll be spending more time with my kids and working with my husband, who is an architect."

Lisa sold the store to Liz Terbolizard, who designs and manufactures a children's clothing line called, you guessed it, Lit'l Lizards.

In the meantime, hurry over because Lisa is having an everything-out-the-door sale.

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HAIR NOW: Beautician Mylene Carol has put her name (Mylene's) on her newest full-service hair salon, which officially opened on May 1, at 4008 24th Street near Noe. The Doll House beauty shop had occupied this location since 1971.

For Mylene, it is an opportunity to stay in the neighborhood where she grew up. Mylene opened her first shop on 24th Street next to Graystone Liquors 30 years ago. After eight years at that location, high rents chased her over to the corner of Jersey and Castro, where she cut and curled and dyed until she was evicted last year. Recently, she has worked out of temporary quarters in a suite above Rory's Twisted Scoop on the corner of 24th and Castro. Happily, she says, Doll House owner Helen Espeleta "decided to retire and sell the business to me."

Mylene has remodeled the premises, but will keep some of the touches of the classic beauty parlor. I'm told hers is the last hair salon left in Downtown Noe Valley where they still do shampoo-and-sets.

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ARRIVEDERCI, CARUSO: Directly across 24th Street from Mylene's, another sign is changing. That would be Caruso Wine & Liquor, which opened in 1933, right at the end of Prohibition.

The new wine store will be PlumpJack #2, which you Voice readers already know from the April 2001 issue. The new owner is Supervisor Gavin Newsom (and the other members of his PlumpJack consortium), and the new sign should be up and hanging by September, at which time the store will also knock out its back wall to expand by about 12 feet. PlumperJack.

Reliable sources say the mid-block spot formerly occupied by Terra Mia (and before that the Cork 'n' Bottle) will likely have a new tenant soon, and after that a new facade and foundation. And you can bet there'll be a new sign.

It's anybody's guess when the Euro-Photo sign will come down. When the one-hour photo shop closed a month ago, owner Walter Meier wrote his goodbyes in a letter on the door. Building owner Max Selva now has the business and the building up for sale.

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THERE'S YOGA IN THEM HILLS: The "Shala" part of the Yoga Shala sign on the corner of Castro and 25th has disappeared, but the "Yoga" is still breathing deeply. You will recall that Yoga Shala closed its doors months ago and filed for bankruptcy relief; there was a liquidation (Chapter 7) of the property in April.

After all the dust settled, a new yoga palace emerged called Open Door Yoga. It's run by former Yoga Shala student Lizzie Nichols and her business partner Ariel Coyote, both Noe Valley residents.

"We are both San Francisco natives," says Ariel. "Liz comes from a business background -- she helped start up an Internet company, but then she got out -- and I have a degree in psychology and developed a consulting program."

According to Ariel, Open Door Yoga has hired 15 teachers who will offer 35 yoga classes, daily from 9:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. Doors will open at 7 a.m., seven days a week.

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A STREETCAR NAMED GONE: The shocker of the month had to be Cafe J's sudden and unexpected closing on May 17. The restaurant, on the J-Church line near 29th Street, was open for business one day and then closed down the next. Bewildered customers left shaking their heads when they read the goodbye note on the front door.

Cafe J owner Eric Alexanderson says he and his wife Linnea "wanted to take a break from the business and work at our other interests, which are more profitable and less stressful." Eric says he had decided to put the business and building up for sale this summer, but accelerated his plan after the rather abrupt (and according to the neighbors, "noisy") departure of his chef, Eliscio Soto. Eric says he is "sorry for the customers, who have been loyal and faithful to us" since they opened in 1998. "It was fun."

By the way, the building and business can be yours for $995,000. That includes the Cafe J sign.

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BE MY POMELO: On Church near 30th Street, the Valentine's cafe sign was removed last month, as we reported here, to make way for the opening of Pomelo.

Pomelo has opened, but only for weekend brunches, and serves meatless dishes similar to Valentine's vegetarian offerings. However, according to co-owner Rolf Bachmann, the restaurant should be serving dinner soon (possibly by the time you read this), Wednesdays through Sundays. Rolf promises that dinners will continue to be vegetarian-friendly, but meat dishes may also appear on the menu to complement the grain and noodle specialties.

Also packed with weekend brunchers is the new and improved 24th Street Cafe, on the corner of Vicksburg. Chef Joe Eadeh, who has reworked his menu and decor, has been successful at this location for 15 years. "I am amazed by it all, and credit my wife Jacqueline for all her help," he says.

The 24th Street Cafe is now also serving dinner, which features Mediterranean cuisine. According to Joe, the most popular item on the dinner menu is the Mediterranean Chicken.

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BEATLEMANIA: Big crowds have been following the long and winding road to Bethany Methodist Church for its groovy Sunday series "Fab 4 Faith: Belief and the Beatles," which it is advertising on its outdoor marquee. Says seminary intern Christopher Hayward, "What we've basically been doing is using a Beatles song every week, and then having that be our theme for the sermon and for the service as a whole. For example, last week we used the song 'Imagine,' which I know is not a Beatles song, but a John Lennon song, but which we figured was close enough. But the week before that, we used 'Blackbird,' and this week we're doing 'Help.'" Yeah, yeah, yeah...the songs are played, too.

Church pastor Karen Oliveto confirms that the six-week series has been a blast. "The baby boomers and lots of other people know the Beatles more than they know the gospel. So we've had a great time exploring what this music has to say about how we live."

Unfortunately for those who missed it, the Beatles series is now "Yesterday" -- it was set to finish at the end of May. But another hot series revs up July 1. "The theme will be 'Learning How to Dance the Soul Salsa,'" says Oliveto. "We'll have a variety of music, dance, drama, movie clips, and videos at these services, which, by the way, start at 10 a.m. over the summer."

Meanwhile, the June Sunday services (11 a.m.) will mostly focus on events commemorating Gay Pride Month.

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WHERE THE ELITE MEET: Did you know that Loretta Lynch, president of the California PUC, is a resident of Noe Valley? We've been trying to reach her. She must be pretty busy.

Congrats to Noe Valleon Velma Parness for being named associate dean of the College of Extended Learning at San Francisco State University. She's probably got her hands full, too.

Actress Sharon Stone is becoming quite the neighborhood regular since her birthday tea this spring at Lovejoy's. She has been spotted recently in at least two local boutiques, Designers' Club and Rabat.

Academy Award ­ winner Frances McDormand (Fargo) was also seen shopping in Designers' Club, and so was actor Benjamin Bratt. Was he picking up a crystal necklace for his sparkly significant other, Julia Roberts?

My spies also claim they have seen X-Files star Gillian Anderson visiting both Rabat and Phoenix Books. They say she has a close friend in the neighborhood.

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SOMETHING FOR NOTHING: You might want to check out Noe Valley author/philosopher Frederick Schermer's new book called The Proof of Nothing (Penta Publishing, $14.95). Schermer is from Rotterdam, Holland, where he graduated with a college degree in "free time," or vrije tijd. "San Francisco is a wonderful place for people with free time," professes Frederick.

I found it amazing that he had absolutely nothing to say about his book, and he claims that there is nothing more you would want to know about it. I suggest you glance at it next time you're in Cover to Cover, if you have nothing to do. Fred claims to have sold 150 copies of The Proof of Nothing -- nothing to laugh at.

That's all, you all.