Noe Valley Voice March 2004

Store Trek

By Doug Konecky

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month we introduce a fee-for-service real estate franchise, a shop selling handmade jewelry, and a fitness center especially tailored for women.

Curves 30-Minute Fitness and Weight Loss Center

1701 Church Street at 29th Street

415-285-5400; fax: 415-285-6400

Curves, a Texas-born health club chain with more than 7,000 franchises worldwide (nine in San Francisco), has arrived in Noe Valley. In late January, Eric and Michelle Lagandaon opened the city's newest Curves, at the corner of 29th and Church streets in the longtime home of the late Star Bakery.

Curves specializes in fitness workouts for women in a nurturing physical environment. Cubbies, clothing hooks, light lavender walls, soft blue carpet, covered windows--did we mention no mirrors?-- help create a space where women who may never have worked out before feel empowered to come in and try.

Currently, there is room for 16 people at a time at the center's eight fitness machines and eight recovery boards (jog-in-place stations). This month, the Lagandaons will add three more pieces of equipment, so the circuit will soon accommodate more clients.

On a weekday visit last month, women of all ages, shapes, and sizes were walking in through the flowing curtains at the door and hurrying to find an open spot to plug into the workout. An instructor gave tips on the proper lifts, pushes, and pulls on the equipment, as oldies music played in the background and a taped voice announced "Change stations now" every 30 seconds.

Curves doesn't have showers or saunas. "It's supposed to be just 30 minutes, in and out, for women on the go," says Michelle. However, the center offers a free figure analysis and body-fat assessment. And if losing weight is on your mind, a Curves assistant will help you set goals. You can also take advantage of the large doctor's scale now standing where Star Bakery's cash register used to be.

Curves charges $49 a month for a suggested three-day-a-week, half-hour-a-day workout, but you may come as often as you like. Like most gyms and health clubs, Curves asks members to sign up for 12 months (those who prepay for a year will get a 10 percent discount) and pay a one-time enrollment fee of $149. During the month of March, you can get half off the enrollment fee--just bring in this copy of the Voice.

Eric Lagandaon grew up in Noe Valley on Homestead Street. He and Michelle also own a Curves franchise in the Richmond District (Clement and 24th Avenue). They are true believers in the Curves formula: get people exercising and they will look and feel better. Members find this an easy program to stay with, the Lagandaons say.

The membership, by the way, entitles you to use any Curves in the U.S.

Curves is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 3 to 7 p.m. Beginning March 13, Saturday hours will be added from 8 to 11 a.m.


3961 24th Street between Sanchez and Noe streets


Noe Valley shoppers who were worried that Gilbertina Guarini would shut down Detour, her Asian art-filled cavern located down the stairway under Wavy Footprints, need not fret. Although her shop sits in the middle of the topsy-turvy 3900 block of 24th Street, Guarini has decided to stay put. However, she has sold off all her old stock, renamed the store, and brought in a stunningly varied collection of her own handmade jewelry.

"Qoio" (pronounced "Coy-yo") is supposedly the name of a Mayan god, but to be honest, the Guatemalan-born Guarini isn't so sure. "It just looks good," she says, as would be expected from an artisan who works with gems in every color of the rainbow.

Guarini's jewelry specializes in one-of-a-kind necklaces, many taking their design motifs from indigenous Guatemalan fabrics. One striking topaz and crystal piece suggests the filigree from a native huipil (blouse); others have butterfly, flower, or leaf patterns. Prices range from $19 to $365.

The store is a lot larger than it might appear from the street. As you descend the stairs, you see a collection of greeting cards in the hall (across from the room that Guarini's two daughters, Natalie and Kirsten, are using for their clubhouse). Then, upon entering the main room, you are dazzled by cupboards brimming with bracelets, earrings, and neckwear, arranged by hue and type of gemstone. Ceilings are low and painted the same mustard color as the walls, so you get the sense of shopping in an exotic bazaar.

Guarini also sells candle stands with delicate flowered shades, as well as a few Asian sculptures left over from the Detour collection.

Guarini and her husband, Bruno Guarini, still run their two other shops on Columbus Avenue in North Beach (Zen Silver and Tilt), but Qoio's large jewelry selection sets it apart from the other two.

An expansion to New York and Beverly Hills appears to be in the near future, but for now Gilbertina Guarini is still the one smiling and stringing jewels behind the Noe Valley counter.

Qoio's hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Tuesday, and Thursday through Sunday. The shop is closed on Wednesdays.

Help-U-Sell Best Choice Realty

1679 Church Street between Valley and 29th streets

415-648-7355; fax: 415-648-8800


You have a house to sell in the $800,000 range, and you're thinking maybe the $48,000 standard real estate commission is a little dear? In the past, you would have had little option short of selling the home yourself, and even in a booming market, that is a trickier proposition than it appears.

Now, Norman Green and Sevan Kevorkian have opened Help-U-Sell Best Choice Realty on upper Church Street across from St. Paul's Church, and they are offering homeowners a middle ground.

For a flat fee of $9,950 (up to a home sale of a million dollars), Kevorkian and Green will provide a basic package of real estate services, including such things as advertising and marketing your home, creating a virtual tour online, prequalifying your buyer, and coordinating visits with attorneys, engineers, appraisers, and inspectors.

Since their business is a full-service realty, the two partners also can offer a menu of services on top of the standard mix. But if all you want them for is to find a buyer, that's what they'll do. You have to run your own open house, but they'll give you the signs.

"What sells houses is the price and the neighborhood," Green says. "I'd love every homeowner to call Century 21 and then call us--we know what we're talking about."

Both former Century 21 agents in Daly City, Kevorkian and Green were raised in San Francisco and are veterans of the local real estate world. The Church Street office, which opened officially Feb. 10, is large enough to have a conference room and a kitchen in the back, and is one of four real estate offices within one block.

"We're unique, though," Kevorkian says. "We can save you a lot of money."

Help-U-Sell Best Choice Realty is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.