Noe Valley Voice March 2005

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

THE LATEST TRENDS: Contrary to rumors spread by this column last month, the enduring Trends hair salon is not closing. It's just moving from the corner of Church and Clipper three blocks up the hill to the corner of Castro and Clipper.

Trends for Hair has been owned and operated by Evert Grobbelaar since 1984 when he took over the Church Street Clippers space (1347 Church Street).

"I've lived in this neighborhood for the last 25 years and built up my clientele at this location for over 20 years," says Grobbelaar.

So why is he moving? The lease on the Church Street space was coming up for renewal, Grobbelaar says, and from his standpoint the rent "was going up and up and up, and after so many years of renewals, it just becomes too much."

He is excited about the new shop, though. "We are really looking forward to this move. It's time for a change."

Trends manager Lyn Mitchell, who has worked at the salon since 1987, can hardly wait either.

"Evert, Hugh, August [Trends' three stylists] and I are very happy about our move. We're opening at our new location, 1600 Castro Street, on March 3. Make sure you get it right!" Yes, ma'am.

The hairstylists at Danu (formerly 1478 Church Street at 27th) have already moved their operation to 1300 Castro Street, above Isabella's Café at the corner of 24th Street. Until recently, A Cut Above Castro occupied that hair space.

Teresa Donnelly opened Danu nine years ago, originally as a hair salon. Then she branched out and added a day spa and women's boutique. At the new digs, Donnelly is focusing on hairstyling only. "The move to this location will certainly provide us with much more exposure, which is what I've been looking for."

Donnelly was born and raised in Eureka Valley, and still lives there with her husband Dan and their son Dylan. They own the Church Street property, and it's available for rent. Any hair salons interested?

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THERE'S GOLD IN THEM THAR CUTICLES: In the meantime, Church Street has become a mecca for nail salons. Two new ones have opened in the past year, and business is clipping along.

The Donnellys, who also own the corner storefront at Church and 27th, recently rented it out to a nail salon, Noe Valley Nails.

"They are great tenants and do a good business," says Donnelly. "It's amazing how the nail salons have become very popular in Noe Valley, and especially on Church Street, in the last couple of years."

She attributes their success to the "personal" economy. "Because manicures and pedicures are a very modest expense, they're a luxury that most people can treat themselves to."

Julia Nguyen, a manicurist at Noe Valley Nails, says that many customers arrive on the J-Church streetcar, which stops right out in front. (In fact, when Voice photomeister Pamela Gerard got stuck on an outbound J-Church last month for over an hour, she got to chatting with a woman en route to Noe Valley to get a "mani-pedi." The woman said she came here because we have "the cheapest nail salons in San Francisco--they are even cheaper than on Mission Street.")

At Tip Top Nails on Church Street at Duncan, all the chairs were occupied on a rainy Sunday afternoon in February.

"Business is pretty good these days," says owner Lieu Linh, "but it has slowed down some recently because of the economy and competition. It used to be busier." She goes on to say, "We have been here for seven years now, and we've had to reduce our prices. For example, the 'mani-pedi with spa' [whirlpool foot bath], which used to be $20, is now $18."

Up at Castro and 24th, the newish Nail Chic also has its prices posted. There, it's $15 for a mani-pedi.

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SIGNS OF THE TIMES: While the newest Church Street nail salon, Minna's, has opened on Church and 24th with the traditional "Grand Opening" tarp draped across the storefront, all eyes have turned west to the construction on the opposite corner, at what was Launderland.

The reconfiguration of the former laundromat is moving along apace, and two new storefronts should materialize within a couple of months. That means two additional "Grand Opening" signs in Downtown Noe Valley.

Property owner Dominic Maionchi reports that he has inked a lease with a small San Francisco banking group, and a Sterling Bank branch will occupy one of the corner spaces. "We got offers from a much larger bank for the space, but were very pleased to go with a smaller San Francisco­based bank," says Maionchi. "I think this bank is very neighborhood-oriented and will fit in well."

Fittingly, Maionchi says that he is also very close to renting the other storefront to a company who wants to open a fitness center on the order of Curves. (Noe Valley's Curves is on the corner of Church and 29th in the old Star Bakery space.)

A block up 24th Street, there are now "open" signs on the door of Tuggey's Hardware seven days a week. Sunday was added last month. Why?

"Why not?" says owner Denny Giovannoli. "We closed down on Sundays several years ago, but recently I've seen how busy 24th Street is on Sundays, and I thought that we might get busy. I was right."

Tuggey's first opened its doors on 24th Street in 1898. Now that's a lot of nails.

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SOMETHING'S AFOOT: The big signs that went up in the front windows of Panetti's gift shop (3927 24th Street) on Feb. 17 caused quite a stir. The first sign was your basic sale-sale-sale deal, an inventory clearance with 25 percent off everything in the store. A good deal, but that wouldn't exactly be news.

However, the second sign was the window-shopper show-stopper. It said, "Panetti Resigns, Claims Feet Hurt." A smaller sign added, "Knees, Too."

Says business owner Marjorie Panetti, "The part about my feet hurting is right. As for resigning, I can't do that immediately, but I really meant I wanted to step back and sit down. Retail is hard." She adds, "After being here for 18 years, and with a lease renewal coming up pretty soon, I think I need to consider various options about what to do with the store." Meanwhile, discounted mixing bowls are rolling out of the store like crazy.

Panetti took over that mid-block space in 1987 from another gift store, Cathexis, which was one of the first of the hip stores that opened in Downtown Noe Valley in the early 1970s. Those were the days of the Meat Market and Acme coffeehouses, Plantworks, Colorcrane, and East of the Sun. Star Magic sold New Age and outer-space toys, and Frogs 'n' Things sold you-know-what. The Philosopher's Stone (which had weekly séances in its back room) and Books Plus kept us in reading material; the Wooly Mammoth was the place for yarn. Streetlight Records still operates right where it started when it opened in 1972, and Common Scents remains in the same spot, with the same owners. The early '70s were truly prehistoric times, before the Voice (1977) began keeping tabs on who was where in the 'hood.

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MARKET QUOTES: The manager of a large organic apple grove just outside Wenatchee, Wash., set up a mini farmers' market in front of Bell on the last Saturday and Sunday in February. Noel Adkins, general manager of Dovex Organics, talked to customers and treated them to samples of sweet Fujis and tart Pink Ladies, both on sale for 99 cents a pound.

Says Adkins, "I've really enjoyed talking to all of the customers and having them taste our apples, and answering any questions they might have to ask us." Dovex Organics grows the organic apples on 1,200 acres.

According to Rebecca Jones of Earl's Organic Produce, the San Francisco distributor of Dovex Organics, Bell Market management made the arrangements for Adkins' visit. In fact, the Bell people want to get a farmers' market of their own started, on weekends in their parking lot.

"This 24th Street store, number 972, has the largest sales for organic foods in all of Cala/Bell/Ralphs Northern California stores, which total right around 60 now," Jones says. "This neighborhood's demand is quite well-known [in the organic food business], and Bell is making serious efforts to serve their customers here. You might see some expansion of their parking lot farmers' market in the future." I say, bring on the Pink Ladies!

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MORE GALAS TO ATTEND: Phoenix Books and Records sprung up 20 years ago with a very eclectic selection of new and used books, records, and tapes. Now the bookstore is inviting the public to a grand, five-day 20th anniversary celebration March 15 through 19, from 7 to 9 p.m.

According to Phoenix manager James Koehneke, "There will be performance-related events on all five nights. They'll feature local luminaries, writers, and artists, reading poetry or writings, as well as a folk music night and some surprises."

Belated congrats to Phoenix founder Kate Rosenberger, who recently gave birth to her first child, Hazel Adele.

Speaking of galas, on the evening of Feb. 15 the Friends of Noe Valley and the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals, along with the Noe Valley Farmers' Market, sponsored a fundraiser for tsunami victims. It was held at Bliss Bar and featured a live auction, called by Supe Bevan Dufty. Nearly $5,000 was raised to donate to the American Red Cross.

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LETTS DO IT: Mark your calendars for April 9, 2005. That's when the motorcade of the president of Latvia, Vaira Vike, is scheduled to visit Noe Valley. She will attend a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. at Latvian Hall, 425 Hoffman Avenue.

"We are very excited about her visit to San Francisco during her visit to California from April 6 to 9," says Noe Valley's Biruta Magone, who is a board member of the Latvian Society of Northern California, headquartered at Latvian Hall. "She'll be giving a lecture at Stanford University as well as visiting California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Latvian Hall, which is a Lutheran Church, is one of those hidden treasures in Noe Valley. According to Biruta, it has been in existence (as Latvian Hall) since 1952, "when it was taken over from the Finns who originally built the place, for us to use as a center for the many Latvians displaced in World War II who were coming to San Francisco." It has continued to be the hub of the local Latvian community.

In other global news, Canadian flags have been popping up all over the neighborhood. Local resident Bill Faulkner says he ordered his maple leaf banner after Bush vanquished Kerry in November. "The flag is my way of communicating my separateness from the red voting block," says Faulkner, who erected his flagpole outside his window at 571 Elizabeth Street in early February. A self-described "Deaniac," Faulkner says he ordered a Costa Rican flag at the same time. "They have no army!" he laughs.

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THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW: On the mend is Noe Valley's popular bicycle beat officer, Lorraine Lombardo, who has been off work since May of 2004. She was chasing a suspect on Church Street when she fell off her bike and suffered a separated shoulder.

Lombardo had rotator cuff surgery at the end of October and has spent the past couple of months in physical therapy. She says, "I will be returning to work on March 1, but I'll go on light duty at the Hall of Justice until I get full use of my right arm. I'll be working in Operations since I still have trouble writing and would have big trouble with a gun."

About her ties to the neighborhood, she says, "I have really missed being on 24th Street and seeing everybody up there, after 15 years on the Noe Valley beat. But I know [current beat officer] Andy MacIlrath is doing a good job."

Lombardo hopes to eventually return to Mission Station and to work with new Mission Captain John Goldberg. "He is the best. He was my sergeant when I first entered the SFPD back in October of 1989."

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SAY GOODBYE to Anthony W.S. "Tony" Lyau, who officially retires March 1 as manager of the Bank of America branch at the corner of 24th and Castro, where he presided for almost 10 years. His last working day at the bank was Friday, Feb. 18. The Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, which he served as treasurer for most of the past decade, threw a big party for him at Le Zinc earlier that week. Many neighborhood friends showed up.

"I started at the bank in 1963, in the mail room, when I was just 17 years old," recalls Lyau. "Then I was drafted and joined the Air Force. I came back, went to college, and rejoined the bank and did every job there. I've been in management the past 22 years," he continues, "and my goal was to retire before I'm 60, which I have done."

Lyau, who was raised in San Francisco, says his first retirement move will be to fly back to his native Hawaii to see family. And he's looking forward to taking a trip to China, "so I can see the place of my ancestors."

During his tenure at the Noe Valley BofA, "there were deposit increases of over 50 percent," Lyau says, "and the branch­generated real estate loans are now at $100 million. That's phenomenal when you consider that it is just in this neighborhood."

Lyau says the biggest change he's seen in Noe Valley over the past 10 years has been the "turnover in merchants because of the [escalating] rents. The only long-term survivors are those merchants who own their own property, since they were able to keep the cost of doing business down...

"I've made a lot of friendships in Noe Valley," he reflects, "and found it easy to establish rapport with everyone. Most of all, I enjoyed working with so many people who are involved in their community. It's real hard to leave, but I've reached my goal at the bank and it's time to move on."

That's 30, folks. Have a sane and safe St. Patrick's Day, and follow the Noe Valley St. Paddy's Rule: Think globally, drink locally, and walk home.