Noe Valley Voice April 2006

Store Trek

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we spotlight an eyewear boutique and a skin care salon, both of which invite their customers to splurge on beauty.

3858 24th Street between Vicksburg and Sanchez streets

The sign above bp+eyewear, fashioned of stainless steel and bronze-tinted anodized aluminum, heralds a new type of business in the 3800 block of 24th Street.

Gone are Rose Nails' buffers, files, and bottles of brightly colored nail polish. In their place are freestanding displays full of sophisticated eyewear and jewelry, amid warm brown furniture and mirrors, mirrors everywhere--leaning, hanging, mounted, and in customers' hands.

"We're a modern shop, not a classic sort of store," says optician Dimitri Stetsenko. He co-owns the shop with his wife, Olga Terry, who has a background in retail and fashion. "We're going for modern design, and that's reflected in the beautiful eyewear we have on display everywhere. We're sort of ahead of the curve in many ways," he adds.

The focus for bp+eyewear, which opened in February, is providing custom eyewear and accessories that clients aren't likely to find elsewhere. "We go with something unique, something that will stand out, instead of going with giant companies like Luxottica," Stetsenko says. "They make glasses for many designers, like Chanel and Prada, but they also own Lenscrafters, so it's kind of mass-produced, and in my eyes it devalues the design."

Stetsenko says opticians have an important contribution to make. "It's hard to find an independent optical store run by opticians. Optometrists have taken over this whole industry, and it's a little bit of a conflict of interest. If you go to a doctor, you get a prescription, then you have to go to a pharmacy to fill it," he says. "Eye doctors aren't trained the same way as opticians to deal with the eyewear per se--working with refractions, putting everything together to make sure the glasses fit and last. And most doctors aren't really fashion-oriented either."

Instead of hitting the medical journals, Stetsenko and Terry hit the international trade shows, and they get a thrill out of discovering new designers. "We found this company in Paris called DeromeBrenner, a husband and wife team, and they design eyewear, and from the same acetate they also make jewelry," he says. "It's layers and layers of different-colored laminate. Some pieces are hand-carved, and they're really beautiful. We were smitten by their line, and we just had to have it." The collection was created in 2005, so it's definitely au courant.

They also import sunglasses and frames from European designers Funk Eyewear (Germany), Ernia (Spain), Gotti Niederer (Switzerland), and Reiz (Germany).

All are on open display. "We don't believe in keeping glasses locked up. We want people to touch and get a sense of how the frame feels," Stetsenko says. "We don't rush the process either. We want to help you buy a pair of glasses that will look perfect on you, so people will stop you and ask where you got them."

He notes that bp+eyewear has a lab on the premises, with "top-of-the line Japanese equipment," so eyeglasses can usually be fitted within a couple of days.

Customers can choose from a range of colors and designs, crafted in high-end plastics, titanium, and materials such as buffalo and reindeer horn. (For the latter, designers can't ship their products until after the reindeer have shed their horns each year, Stetsenko says.) Frames range from $200 to $450.

Stetsenko grew up in Odessa in the Ukraine and went through law school there. But when he came to the United States, he found a job in an optician's lab, liked the work, and became an optician himself. "I made the right choice not to pay for law school here and to open my own business instead," he reflects. "There are too many lawyers. There aren't enough cool optical shops."

The hours at bp+eyewear are 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Stetsenko and Terry also have a smaller shop on 19th Street, which they opened in 1997.

--Laura McHale Holland

1301 Church Street at 25th Street

Last December, Church Street's Nourish Skin Care Centre went under the knife, so to speak, and reemerged as Dermalounge. Owners Marianne Hoeft and Ken Raley teamed up with a new partner, Nicole Alvino, to expand the day spa's offerings.

New items on the menu? Botox, for one. "I wanted to be able to offer a more broad range of services to our clients," Alvino explains, "so we added some more advanced skin care and hair removal treatments to include laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, photodynamic therapy, Restylane, and botox."

For those unfamiliar with these terms, microdermabrasion is the streaming of fine crystals across the face to remove dead skin; photodynamic therapy involves the application of photosensitizing lotion; Restylane is a soft-tissue filler that is injected into the skin to erase lines around the nose and mouth; and botox is a popular injectable treatment that relaxes facial muscles. Treatments run from $125 for a microdermabrasion to $2,000 for a three-treatment series of photodynamic therapy.

For old-school spa-nistas, the signature Nourish facial--an hour of lotions, upper-body massage, and more essential-oil-scented hot towels than you could ever hope for--at $95, remains. So do various waxing services, from $12 for the upper lip to $85 for the bikini line. Products for sale come from SkinCeuticals, and run about $25 for a toner to $125 for heavy-duty moisturizing creams.

On staff are three skin care therapists, two skin health consultants, and two nurses. The nurses--one is a nurse practitioner, the other a registered nurse--perform advanced treatments such as laser hair removal and botox injections.

Why change the name from Nourish to Dermalounge? "We loved the name Nourish, but it was too innocent and organic for the more advanced services that involve lasers and needles," Alvino says. "We needed a name that would grow with the company."

In addition to the new name comes a new look--the treatment rooms have been soundproofed and the walls painted in metallic, slate, and putty colors that complement the white furnishings. Luxury touches such as downy comforters and heated treatment tables round out an experience both lavish and therapeutic.

Alvino, 29, received her MBA from Stanford University and worked in the corporate world before concentrating full-time on Dermalounge. She lives in Pacific Heights but is on the lookout for some Noe Valley digs. "We have such a loyal client base in Noe Valley," she says. "Our clients are men and women, gay and straight, and we aim to give them superior products and impeccable service."

Dermalounge is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mention this article to receive a 20 percent discount on facials Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the month of April.

--Olivia Boler