Noe Valley Voice October 2001

Astrid Doder Was a 'Mother Figure' at Astrid's Rabat Shoes

By Steve Steinberg

Longtime Noe Valley merchant Astrid Doder has died. Doder, owner of Astrid's Rabat Shoes at 3909 24th Street, passed away on June 20 after a prolonged illness. In her 70s, Doder had owned the popular shoe store since 1977.

Doder's husband, Hal, characterized his wife as a "wonderful, beautiful, and compassionate woman, who related to people of all ages." He praised the courage she had shown in coping with a number of surgeries related to her illness over the past few years. "She never gave up hope," he said.

Doder also had an exceptional relationship with her store employees.

"She was much more than a boss," said Veronica Ruedrich, manager of the shop. "She was a mother figure, too, and would really listen to you. She was very caring."

Ruedrich described Doder as a generous and accepting person, who especially liked people "who were different and exciting."

Ruedrich said she was going to miss her boss. "I can still hear her when she would call me on the phone," she said. "The loss hits you a little at a time."

Born as Astrid Ramberg in the town of Nvnashamn, Sweden, Doder came to San Francisco in 1949. "She wanted to see the world, particularly California and San Francisco," said Hal.

An exceptionally beautiful young woman, Doder did modeling and photography work before landing a job at Gump's, the elegant downtown furniture and accessory store. For many years, Doder sold Baccarat crystal for Gump's and even dated storeowner Richard Gump. Hal said that Gump wanted to marry her, but "lucky for me, she said no thanks."

Hal and Astrid first met in 1957 at the Iron Horse Restaurant, a popular watering hole on Maiden Lane in the Financial District. The two were married on Valentine's Day, 1960. "I had no excuse to forget an anniversary," Hal said.

The couple lived on Hill Street in Noe Valley until 1975, when they bought a house in Larkspur, in Marin County. The house became one of Doder's three great passions in life, along with gardening and entertaining. Hal said Doder loved to give dinner parties for their many friends and would spend weeks planning and preparing for them. Doder also lavished much care on the flowers she planted every spring.

Doder had no real business experience when she bought Rabat Shoes, as the store was then known, in 1977. Hal, who worked in real estate, learned that the store -- which at the time was located on Vicksburg Street -- was up for sale and suggested to his wife that it might be a good opportunity for her.

Although Doder knew very little about selling shoes when she took Rabat over, she still managed to make the store a success and a Noe Valley mainstay. "She learned the shoe business and was very proud of the store," said Hal.

Doder moved the store to its present location on 24th Street near Sanchez in the early 1980s. Her husband said he had no plans at present to close the store and had confidence in Ruedrich's ability to manage the business.

Doder made several trips back to her native Sweden over the years, her last visit being in 1995. "She enjoyed Sweden but never expressed a desire to live there again," said Hal.

The last visit in particular brought back many childhood memories. She saw several old girlfriends and her sister, who died shortly before she did. Hal said Astrid was planning another trip this summer, but her condition worsened.

Besides her husband, she is survived by a niece and nephew in Sweden.