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Natural Resources Finds a Nest on Diamond Street
By Dodie Hamblen
After a brief hiatus in Bernal Heights, Natural Resources is back in Noe Valley, in a new, quieter location on Diamond Street near 24th (in the storefront previously occupied by Edward Jones Investments).
For 14 years, this unique parenting center and retail outlet has catered to Noe Valley families seeking alternatives to conventional pregnancy and childbirth practices. Natural Resources' support groups, classes, and referral services also helped spawn a community of women who embrace a family-centered approach to childbirth.
In July, Natural Resources left its six-year home near Walgreen's on Castro Street--yielding the spot to new tenant Cover to Cover Booksellers--and moved to temporary quarters on Cortland Street, next-door to the Liberty Café.
News of the move alarmed many longtime residents, who had taken for granted that Natural Resources would be in Noe Valley forever.
"So many new moms rely on Natural Resources. It would be a real loss if they had to move out of the neighborhood," says loyal supporter Desiree Tamsky.
Lisa Moresco, who has been the sole owner of the business since 1998, says the move from Castro Street was prompted by a 13 percent increase in rent over the past two years, along with a decline in sales due to the sagging economy.
Her business also has been affected by the growth of online shopping. "Retail just dived, as people turned to the Internet," Moresco says.
The move to Bernal Heights was just a stopgap measure, she says, until she could find a better location. "The lease was up on Castro Street, and I had to get out from under the rent," explains Moresco.
She gives Carol Yenne, president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association and owner of Small Frys clothing store on 24th Street, credit for keeping Natural Resources in Noe Valley. "I really have to thank Carol Yenne. She is such a good person," says Moresco.
Yenne and her husband Bill own the building on Diamond Street (816 Diamond), and when Moresco "ran into Carol on 24th Street," and told her she was looking for a place to rent, Carol offered her a lease. "I knew the store wouldn't be available until the end of August," says Moresco. But since business is slow in the summer, a temporary move to Bernal Heights made sense.
In her new digs on Diamond, Moresco has entered "a new phase of efficiency," she says. She has cut back store hours and eliminated maternity clothes and gift and layette items from the store's inventory. Meanwhile, the store will continue to carry a selection of hard-to-find parenting books, maternity bras and belts, and nursing and infant supplies such as baby slings, ear scopes, and breast pumps.
The good news is Natural Resources will sharpen its focus as a community resource for new and expectant families. It also will continue to offer its doula-training program, a 31-hour course of study for women interested in becoming professional labor assistants.
In addition, new offerings will be added to the current roster of classes, which includes childbirth preparation, prenatal and postpartum fitness, infant CPR, Rhythm Kids, infant massage, and mother-baby and pregnancy support groups. New this fall are a mother-toddler group, a nutrition class, and a miscarriage support group. Classes will be held in a back room that is roughly the same size as the classroom space in the old site.
If all goes well, the business should attract a whole new generation of Noe Valleyans. One of the store's longtime fans is Church Street resident Julia Harrison. "I moved to Noe Valley because of Natural Resources," she says.
Harrison explains that when she was pregnant with her first child, Sasha, now 11, she felt isolated where she was living, "out in the Sunset." She came to Natural Resources for some tips on childbirth and liked the warmth of the women-owned-and-operated business and the coziness of its former storefront on 24th Street near the post office.
When she was expecting her second child, Vincent, now 7, Harrison used Natural Resources' referral services to find a midwife. "We also did Rhythm Kids with Vincent," she adds, referring to the popular music program for toddlers. "And [like many other new moms wandering 24th Street] we used the space to change diapers."
Harrison is happy to hear the business will continue, and notes that "if the alternative items [that were once so hard to find] are now widely available, they've accomplished what they set out to do. They're still providing a fantastic resource."
Tamsky couldn't agree more. "It's amazing all the things I've gotten from that place," says Tamsky, who first used Natural Resources when she was pregnant with her now 9-year-old daughter Eva. She later attended childbirth classes and a workshop on how to start your own playgroup, and recently completed Natural Resources' doula training course.
"The playgroup we started [when the babies were 6 months old] continued until the kids were in preschool. We made longtime friends in that group," Tamsky reflects.
The women from her doula training have now gone on to form a support group that meets once a month. "I realized I loved being in a group of women again," Tamsky says.
She's not alone. When Natural Resources announced its move this summer, many past patrons dropped by to lend support. "As we were leaving Castro Street, we received a tremendous amount of support," says store manager Alexis Friedman. "People wanted to volunteer their time to help us through the transition."
Now that the center has returned to its Noe Valley birthplace, Moresco envisions the community connections growing even stronger. And she is upbeat about the Diamond Street location.
"I am so excited about the new space. It has a tranquil, healing feel. It is a much more calming environment," she says. "We are morphing into something beautiful, if not better. We have a sterling staff and a lot of support from the community."
Natural Resources is located at 816 Diamond Street between 24th and Jersey streets. The store will be open Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 5 p.m.; Friday, 1 to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. For information, call 550-2611 or check the web site: www.naturalresourcesonline.com. A re-opening party is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 18, from 4 to 6 p.m.