Noe Valley Voice October 2004

Store Trek

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in the neighborhood. This month, we introduce a coffeehouse on Dolores and an art studio and classroom on Church Street.

Luv a Java

1300 Dolores at 26th Street


With its columns decorated with date palms, copper Turkish coffeemakers gleaming on the shelves, and handmade backgammon sets scattered throughout the room, Luv a Java, Abraham Amireh's newly opened coffee shop on the corner of Dolores and 26th streets has a bit of the feel of his native Jordan. There's enough room in one corner of the spacious coffeehouse for a library nook, and guests are invited to grab a book--the selection ranges from Jung to Audrey Hepburn's Neck--and a cup of coffee and sit as long as they want. Kids can get cozy on the pint-sized couch, sip juice, and read stories from the children's section (all books are available for purchase, and most are used).

The cafe, which has been transformed from an accountant's office, offers seven tables plus window seats (and since the fire station is located across the street, there's likely to be a firefighter in attendance at most times). Customers with laptops can take advantage of free wireless Internet access, when not contemplating the art on the walls, all created by local artists. (Exhibits change monthly.) Amireh hopes sidewalk tables will be available soon.

Amireh, a Dolores Heights resident, owned a cafe in Fresno for years, but this is his first Noe Valley undertaking. "I love Noe Valley," he says. Manager Ruth Niehues agrees and adds, "We've got a very convenient location for your morning coffee on your way to work." The café is a block from the J-Church streetcar line, and a quick stop on the Dolores Street thruway to Interstate 280 or downtown San Francisco.

But both Amireh and Niehues believe it's the taste of their coffee that sets them apart. The brew is a special blend which Amireh designed from beans roasted locally by a private roaster with 30 years of experience. Drinks come in small (12 ounces), medium (16), and large (20). A small cup of coffee costs $1.25. A small latte is $2.35, chai is $2.50, and iced coffee is $1.50.

Bagels and pastries from various bakeries in San Francisco and Marin are available ($1 to $2), as well as an excellent carrot cake for $3. For coffee junkies who like to grind at home, a 12-ounce prepackaged bag of Luv a Java beans costs $6.99 for regular and $7.99 for decaf.

If you do stop by for a shot of caffeine, be sure you've got your backgammon game on, for Amireh and Niehues are dice-throwing fanatics. They're planning a regular tournament series as soon as enough players sign up. Amireh's backgammon sets are part of a collection from Syria, Turkey, and Jordan. Customers can also play chess, Dominoes, or cards--all available in the shop--or BYOG (bring your own game).

Luv a Java is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and weekends from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

--Doug Konecky


1311 Church Street at 25th Street


Asked why she decided to name her art studio Artery, owner Paula Benton quips, "I want people to have as many art attacks as possible."

Seriously, folks, Artery, which opened in a small Church Street storefront in early September, is a snug little spot for children and adults to create. Through October, Artery is offering 12 studio art classes, ranging from "Preschool Art" for 3- to 5-year-olds on Wednesday mornings to "Fimo Fun" for adults on Friday evenings.

The 12- by 14-foot room seems destined for use as an art space: it used to be Parlor, an art gallery. Benton says redecorating was easy. She painted the walls a buttery yellow and laid down squishy foam flooring for easy cleanups. She put up shelves for her supplies of paints, colored chalk, paper, markers, and animal crackers (for the after-school crowd--they're always ready for a snack). A large bulletin board takes up one wall, and Benton has framed it with examples and definitions of art, from Social Realism to Abstract Formalism. Tables, chairs, and stools, both kid- and adult-sized, are in the center of the room, where all the artistry takes place.

Opening Artery is a dream come true for Benton because it unites her three main passions--art, education, and community. Before Artery, the 10-year Noe Valley resident taught art at Hummingbirds Preschool, and before that was an event manager for City Hall. She also is part of the group that galvanized the Noe Valley Farmers' Market.

Benton leads many of the studio's classes, which are run in six- to eight­week sessions. In October, she plans on lots of Halloween projects, such as decorating canvas trick-or-treat sacks. She also plans to be open in the afternoons for James Lick Middle School students to drop in.

All five of Artery's teachers are Noe Valley residents, including Molly Campbell, who teaches a printmaking class ($128/eight-week session), and Chris Myers, a toy designer who offers the popular ArtBOTS class ($108/six-week session). In that one, children ages 7 to 9 learn everything there is to know about connecting motors, lights, and batteries to create and take home their own robot.

Other classes include mask- and puppet-making for kids, beadwork, and a watercolor class for adults. (Classes will change in November, so it's a good idea to stop by the studio for a brochure.) Classes run from $90 to $140 per session and include all materials. There are also drop-in classes for students 6 years and older (accompanied by an adult) at a cost of $12 per class on Saturdays from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Those who want to throw an art party or exhibit can hold it at Artery on alternate Sundays and Saturday evenings. Prices range from $75 to $150.

"Art needs to be a part of our daily lives," Benton says with a twinkle in her eye. "And not something done in vein."

Artery is open Monday through Saturday. Hours depend on classes scheduled. Stop by the studio for a brochure.

--Olivia Boler