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By Corrie M. Anders
Nearly 90 businesses fill the storefronts along Noe Valley's Church Street--everything from coffee shops and sushi restaurants to antique stores and skin-care spas.
But it's a shopping street without a clear identity, especially when compared with 24th Street, known affectionately as "Downtown Noe Valley."
That may soon change. A group of merchants has formed a loose-knit association called Church Street Business. CSB hopes to eventually transform the 12 blocks of Church Street between 24th and 30th into a vibrant shopping district.
On the group's wish list are sidewalk sales and an evening stroll event that would bring new shoppers to stores and cafes along the strip. Church Street itself would be spiffed up with better overhead lighting, colorful banners, newly-planted trees, Halloween activities for kids, and festive lighting or decorations during the December holidays.
"We sort of live in the shadow of 24th Street," says Lynn Ingham, an antique store owner who with art teacher Paula Benton got the ball rolling in July. A principal goal of the group, says Ingham, is to show residents that "you don't have to leave the neighborhood to have a great shopping experience."
Or a food experience, for that matter. Two new restaurants have recently opened on outer Church: La Ciccia, which offers Sardinian fare, and Bistro 1689, serving California-French cuisine (see Store Trek, page 27). Joey & Eddie's Seafood and a diner called Toast are set to open soon. The new cafes will join nearly a dozen eateries sprinkled along the Church Street corridor.
Ingham says another reason the two shopkeepers decided to get organized was to meet their peers.
"I didn't know a lot of my business neighbors, and I wanted to," says Ingham, who opened her shop, Lynn Antiques and Beautiful Things, on Church near 27th Street, a little more than a year ago. "I was dealing with a lot of issues, street cleaning and lighting, and I figured others were as well."
She and Benton, who founded Artery studio at Church and 25th in 2004, decided the best way to test the waters was to hold a meet-and-greet cocktail party at the popular Incanto restaurant, a few blocks down the street. They hand-delivered printed invitations to 86 businesses on Church Street, and also invited members of the residents group Upper Noe Neighbors. Approximately 50 people attended the event, held on July 17.
"We were met with a lot of enthusiasm," says Ingham.
Benton agrees the turnout was impressive. "There were people there who are just now putting the finishing touches on new stores, and people who have run businesses on Church for [decades]," she says. "We asked people if they had the desire to meet on a regular basis to work on some common goals and community good deeds. Overwhelmingly, the answer was yes!"
Benton says the group is still defining its mission, but members have already volunteered to start work on some fall festivities and to develop an emergency phone tree, an area map and directory,and perhaps even new-neighbor welcome baskets. They also have made contact with the leaders of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, their counterparts on 24th Street.
To keep the energy flowing, they plan to meet every two months, on the third Monday. The next gathering is Monday, Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m., in the outdoor patio at Fattoush Restaurant, 1361 Church Street.
For the inside business on Church Street Business, e-mail Paula Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org.