Noe Valley Voice November 2004

Store Trek

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in and around the neighborhood. This month we introduce an antique shop at the corner of Sanchez and 24th, and a new martial arts studio on the southeastern tip of Noe Valley.

Roy's Neat Old Stuff

1104 Sanchez Street, just south of 24th Street


"The store is about decorating and collecting," says Roy Dieckman, describing the antiques and collectibles business he squeezed into a cubbyhole on Sanchez Street this summer.

The shop, located a few steps from 24th Street along the side of the building that houses Stonehouse Olive Oil, was last occupied by the Computer Closet. "We're a small space, but I love it," says Dieckman. "It's cozy. I looked a long time to find a place exactly like this."

Roy's Neat Old Stuff is filled with antique plates, framed art, glassware, sheet music, metal toys, jewelry, stamps, black-and-white photos piled high in wooden fruit crates--even a few pieces of furniture. "I have no idea what people do with someone else's old photos, but they seem to love them," Dieckman says.

The collection changes from week to week, depending on what comes in and what goes out. "I'm not even sure what all I have sometimes," he laughs.

"My bread and butter is items in the $10 to $30 range," Dieckman says, though customers can find old postcards for as low as $1 and a few items for quite a bit more. (A 1950s Philco upright radio and an antique clock/beer stein were tagged at around $130 last month.)

Books and china seem to be the most prevalent. A shelf on San Francisco lore lines one wall, across from a shelf of older classics. On a recent weekend, a browser bought two volumes of letters by Emily Dickinson while sighing wistfully, "Nobody takes the time to write letters anymore." Another customer carefully examined a gold bracelet that Dieckman had pulled from the jewelry case for her to try on. "How does it look?" she asked. "That looks nice on you," Dieckman smiled.

Like so many present-day San Franciscans, Dieckman hails from New York--Queens, to be exact. And he's a friendly guy, with lots of stories to tell. He graduated from New York's High School of Art and Design, and once worked as a meter-reader for Con Edison.

He arrived in Fogtown in the 1970s. "I took a two-and-a-half-month trip across the country, ended up here, fell in love, and stayed."

Since then, he's been following his passion: buying and selling antiques.

Dieckman picks up most of his stuff at auctions and estate sales, but has watched his business really take off with the advent of eBay. "EBay has succeeded in lowering prices on common items and raising prices on more unique items," he says. "There is a greater market for the truly unusual, which drives up the price, but when people go online and see 15 people selling old Monopoly boards, the price drops."

A resident of the Richmond District (along with his wife, their two children, a cat, a dog, and a turtle), Dieckman is tickled about landing a spot for his business on our neighborhood's Monopoly board. "I like Noe Valley," he says. "My rent is low." Yes, you read that correctly.

Roy's Neat Old Stuff is open three or four days a week--Thursday through Saturday and "maybe Wednesday"--from noon to 5 p.m. If you find the shop unexpectedly shuttered, it just means Dieckman is out buying more neat old stuff. He'll be back soon, with a full truck.

Pacific Wushu

797 San Jose Avenue at 30th Street


As the lady sitting next to Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally says, "I'll have what she's having."

One look at Phillip Wong and his wife Zhang Hong Mei, both of whom are 42 years old but look half that at most, and you realize what a lifelong dedication to physical conditioning can do.

Standing barefoot on the new carpet in Pacific Wushu martial arts studio at the corner of 30th Street and San Jose Avenue, Zhang holds her first baby, 21/2-month-old Phillip Wong Jr., as she explains how she got into martial arts in her native Beijing, China.

"When I was 8 years old, the government came to our school, made all the kids go into an auditorium, and a martial arts instructor performed some moves. They told us to imitate what we saw. Out of a thousand children, only two of us could follow. I was one."

From there, Zhang rose to become a gold medal performer in the martial art wushu, competing internationally for both her city and her nation. (She remains a household word in China, and was, in fact, a martial arts teammate of actress Jet Li.)

Meanwhile, Phillip Wong, himself a silver medalist in wushu competing for the United States, had come to China from his native San Francisco (Aptos, McAteer, City College) to study martial arts further. The two met, and the rest is crosscultural history.

Today, they live in Miraloma Park, have been married for 12 years, and wish to expose their fellow San Franciscans to each of the three major disciplines in Chinese martial arts.

"We offer classes in wushu, san shou, and tai ji quan," says Wong. Wushu, which is the Mandarin Chinese word for "martial art" (westerners may be more familiar with the name kung fu), involves stretching and high kicks. "It is all about integrity and respect," Zhang notes.

San shou is Chinese kickboxing, including takedowns. Tai ji quan, or tai chi, is the slow-motion exercise many Chinese older people do as part of their morning ritual.

Zhang and Wong are avid proponents of tai chi, because its practitioners can continue studying it for their entire lives. "Tai chi looks simple, but it is the hardest to learn," Wong says. "It takes 20 years to learn it properly."

The couple's clean and renovated studio, freshly painted, re-carpeted, and reoriented for proper feng shui--a jiu jitsu studio operated in the space previously--can accommodate up to 15 students at a time. The studio's monthly membership is $85, which includes two lessons per week. The classes are not pushovers. "Our bodies are meant to be in motion," Wong says. "Our workouts will have your heart pumping for the full hour."

He and Zhang teach students as young as 5 and also those who are well up in years. Pacific Wushu, whose grand opening was Oct. 23, offers classes in children's wushu, adult wushu, tai chi, san shou, and ba gua (an advanced class). As a bonus, readers who mention the Noe Valley Voice can audit one class for free, to determine if it seems right for them. Class hours vary, so call for a class schedule.

--Doug Konecky