Noe Valley Voice May 2003

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

SAVE OUR SHALLOTS: SOS signals are being sent from MikeyTom Market at the corner of Church and Day, because the store's lease has expired and will not be renewed. The landlord has notified store co-owners Tom Maravilla and Mike Meischke that their rent will almost triple next month and they can stay only on a month-to-month basis.

Unless they get a reprieve, "our last day here will be the last day of May," says Tom, "since we can't make it after we pay the seventy-five hundred in rent, which is what the landlord is asking us to pay."

Tom and Mike opened the market 10 years ago in a storefront that had been occupied by a construction company. Upper Noe old-timers might remember the building as one of the original Safeway markets, built in 1935. Unlike most of the early Safeways, this one had (and still has) no parking. In the 1960s, it was closed when bigger branches opened at 30th and Mission and in Diamond Heights.

"We are presently negotiating with the landlord in hopes that some agreement can be reached to extend the lease at a rent we can afford," Mike says, "especially since we have worked so hard to serve the neighborhood as an independent grocer. It's becoming more and more important these days for the variety you won't find on the shelves of the chain supermarkets."

At 2,400 square feet, MikeyTom's is the largest market in Upper Noe Valley. Besides grocery items and fresh produce, the market also serves coffee, espressos, and bagels in the morning to a cast of regulars. According to Tom, the favored coffees are the Adam's Organic, Mr. Espresso, and Ecco Café brews, which apparently are not available at rival cafes.

It certainly would be a shame to see this store go. "I am afraid that that possibility is very real at this point," laments Tom.

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IT'S NOT IN THE STARS: Rumors have been rampant that the site of Star Bakery, which flourished at the corner of 29th and Church from 1899 to 1998, is going to become a Starbucks Coffee. But the latest scoop is: all that buzz is just paranoia.

Realtor Richard Beale says Starbucks has not, repeat not, contacted him about leasing the storefront. Furthermore, he says, another party, a restaurant, is still in negotiations with the property owner.

If not Starbucks, whoever signs on the dotted line will have to come up with big bucks, since the rent is $5,000 per month.

Though Starbucks might have had the dough, it would have faced stiff competition in the coffee fields of Church Street. First there's Café XO at the corner of 30th and Church, featuring its own roast. Then there's Martha's at Duncan and Church, also featuring its own roast. The Last Laugh coffeehouse, with beans roasted by Café Trieste, is at Dolores and Valley. And a new coffeehouse, called Cup of Java, just started up at 28th and San Jose.

Cup of Java was opened in March by Norman Zawaideh and his wife, Lujina. Starting at 6 a.m., they serve your basic Noe Valley breakfast: espresso drink of one kind or another, plus a bagel, croissant, or scone.

"We also are making organic smoothies and juices, we serve Capricorn brand coffee, and we have developed a very special house blend which Capricorn roasts for us," Norman says. "We were happy to find a place in this neighborhood, which is where I lived when I first came to San Francisco fifteen years ago. We always wanted to come back and open a business here," he says. Cup of Java is open until 8 p.m., and serves sandwiches, salads, and Mediterranean food all day long.

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BEER WITH ME: Big news last month in Downtown Noe Valley was the closing of the Coyote Club bar, which then reopened as the Valley Tavern. The new owner is none other than Vince Hogan, who, as Noe barflies know, has operated the Dubliner bar at 24th and Vicksburg since 1987.

"I named it Valley Tavern as a takeoff on the name of the bar I took over and renamed The Dubliner," explains Hogan, "which was, you'll remember, the Valley Cavern." (The sign outside the Valley Cavern had a big pink elephant in a martini glass, a hangover from the '50s.)

Vince says his new Valley Tavern, at 24th and Castro, will cater to "a neighborhood crowd that wants a friendly and very easygoing atmosphere." But it will not be an "Irish bar," he stresses.

He has installed couches along the entire east wall and also created a three-walled front smoking room (similar to the one at the Dubliner), to accommodate those who enjoy simultaneous drinking and smoking.

"And for the first time in 18 years, you can buy a domestic beer," Vince says, "since neither the Rat and Raven nor Coyote served any domestic beer."

The history of the bar goes back more than 40 years. Originally a mortuary, the site became Murphy's Inn in the 1960s. After that, it was called the Celtic Tavern, then Country, and then became the famous Finnegan's Wake in the mid-1970s. The Noe Valley Voice was conceived there (over the pool table) in 1977. When its lease expired in the early '80s, Finnegan's moved to Cole Valley, and the 24th Street location became Noebody's Inn, which unfortunately described the atmosphere. The Rat and Raven took over 18 years ago and operated until about five years ago, when its owner was murdered at his Russian River home. Then, the Coyote Club came howling in.

Vince insists that the ambience (and ADA accessibility) of the Valley Tavern will make everybody comfortable.

"We are going to cater to the younger baby-boomers and try to have the music in the jukebox they like, and we'll be having 20 or more beers on draft, and always keep a backup of Stella Artois."

This Belgium beer, according to Vince, is the most popular beer he sells. "It has 5.3 percent alcohol rather than the usual 4.5 percent of most other beers." Whee.

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SHORT SHRIFTS: If you're fishing for information about what happened to Tropical Island, the aquarium store up at 24th and Diamond, the property owners say that the proprietor closed the door and abandoned the premises, which caused some delay while formal eviction proceedings were employed.... A hot rumor in Downtown Noe Valley is that the former Juice-It on the corner of 24th and Sanchez has been leased to a women's boutique, but you'll have to wait till next month for confirmation. (It could be like the Starbucks scare.)

Yes, on Easter Sunday that was Martin Short and Jason Alexander having matzo ball soup at Firefly restaurant, which serves a popular Passover menu. Firefly and nearby Bacco also deserve mention for being named two of the "Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants" in the April 16 Chronicle magazine.

That mob at Bell Market on Easter Sunday was not there for eggs or candy but rather for free Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which are now a regular item.

Thanks to neighbors' complaints to the Chronicle about the chipped and faded crosswalk lines at the intersection of 30th and Chenery, on April 16 city work crews came out and applied a fresh coat of paint. But that very busy intersection needs not only a new coat of paint but also stop signs for the protection of motorists and pedestrians, young (Fairmount School) and old (30th Street Senior Center).

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IS THAT OIL THERE IS? Noe Valley's one and only service station, Dan's Gas and Diesel, first opened as McCarthy's in 1932, got remodeled and was taken over by Dan in 1959, and now is scheduled to be demolished on May 5. In its place--a parking lot.

The space, on 24th near Vicksburg, was bought for over $3 million by a group of anonymous Presbyterian donors, for the Noe Valley Ministry to use as a parking lot. It's an effort to boost attendance (urban parking for urban church-goers) at Sunday services. The rest of the week it will be available for paid public parking.

Fences went up last month, and Tim Leistico, owner of Thetacon Services Group, Inc, and the project manager for the donor group footing the bill, said the lot should probably open for business by August. "Right now," said Tim, "PG&E is unhooking the gas and taking down the electrical lines. We are making it ready for demolition, and after that, the excavation should start, and we'll have to start all the curb and gutter work, and get delivery of the parking kiosk from Lompoc for installation. There is also a lot of landscaping work for the mini-park and the four-foot flower beds that will border the lot."

What Tim wasn't talking about is the wrangling that's going on over who and how to manage the parking lot. So far, the parking management company, if there is one, is remaining anonymous.

As for the public parking fees, the goal of the donor group is "to make the parking lot self-sufficient."

I suggest we take a moment to sit down and do the math on the return of the initial investment, together with the monthly operations cost, including the city's 25 percent parking tax, and then we won't get sticker-shock when the prices are posted.

That's all, you all. Ciao for now and pray for peace, especially in the neighborhoods of Noe and Baghdad. h