Noe Valley Voice November 2007

Store Trek

By Lorraine Sanders

Store Trek is a regular feature of the Voice, profiling new shops and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we introduce a contemporary furniture store on Church Street and a coffeehouse on 24th Street -- each brimming with local angles.

1747 Church Street at Day Street

It's not every day that one walks into a store as a customer and winds up becoming co-owner of the business. But that's what happened to Courtney Jones, who owns and operates, with business partner Craig Kohler, the recently opened Noe Valley outpost of Artesanías.

"I thought, if I were to go into business, this is the kind of customer experience I'd want to have," Jones says of her first encounter with Kohler, who opened the original Artesanías in Cow Hollow four years ago.

Jones and Kohler struck up a friendship, and when Kohler decided to expand Artesanías, Jones chose to leave her position as an investment manager for AAA to sign on as co-owner of the furniture store, which specializes in custom sofas.

"I've been doing everything for so long, so it's really nice that there are other people involved now," says Kohler, who lives with his wife, Carla, and 4-month-old daughter, Isabelle, in Cow Hollow.

After renovations to the interior and exterior of the store, Jones and Kohler opened their doors on Oct. 13, in the long-vacant Church Street space formerly occupied by the Mikeytom grocery store. Jones' brother Harrison Parker Jr., a designer and art director, created the graphics of furniture pieces that appear on the store's freshly painted rust-colored exterior. Inside the 2,500-square-foot showroom -- with skylights overhead -- furnishings from L-shaped sofas to sleek espresso-hued dining tables pepper the space, while the stark white walls are hung with dramatic mirrors, works on canvas, and decorative home accents.

Artesanías, which means craftsmanship in Spanish, sells made-to-order sofas, sectionals, chairs, ottomans, and headboards constructed by Los Angeles manufacturer Nathan Anthony, as well as furnishings and decorative objects by Elite Design. Customers can choose dimensions, fabrics, and other details to suit their taste. Sofa prices start at $1,199.

Kohler says he does not tack on a standard retail markup and aims to keep his prices about 40 percent lower than what one would find at Pottery Barn. And while some of the furniture for sale at Artesanías shares the Pottery Barn aesthetic, the offerings at the Noe Valley location run the gamut from traditional to antique-inspired to sleek and modern.

"It's eclectic," Jones says of the store's style. "But you might see it change as we get to know our customers and what they want. We think that's what will make it special for the neighborhood."

In addition to selling furniture, Kohler and Jones assist customers with space planning, and offer referrals for full-service interior designers. Kohler will be in the store several days a week, but the most familiar face in the Noe Valley location will be Jones, who lives on Duncan Street in Diamond Heights with her husband, Russell; 4-year-old daughter, Emily; and 18-month-old daughter, Kitt.

Artesanías is open 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Bernie's Café
3966 24th Street at Noe Street

If you hadn't noticed the disappearance of the 24th Street Tully's Coffee, you're not alone.

"About 10 percent of the people who come in think it's still Tully's, until they taste the coffee," chuckles Bernie Melvin, owner of Bernie's Café, which replaced Tully's and reopened in the same space in mid-September, after Melvin spruced up the interiors with fresh paint, black-and-white photographs of San Francisco landmarks, and a children's corner complete with a chalkboard, kids' books, and an activity table with matching chairs.

Not that Melvin has any gripes with Tully's. In fact, the 34-year-old worked for the coffee company for nine years, first behind the counter and, most recently, as a manager and performance coach who traveled around the country training employees and opening new locations.

But when Tully's decided not to renew its lease when it was up earlier this year, Melvin secured her former employer's blessing and leased the space herself. While the café is technically Melvin's first solo venture, she supervised the opening of about 40 Tully's locations during her time with that company. She also worked for Spinelli Coffee, the business that occupied the same location (next to Bell Market) before Tully's bought it in 1998. In fact, Melvin credits Spinelli Coffee's former owner Arnold Spinelli with introducing her to the beauty of coffee.

"He instilled that passion for coffee in me, and I always held onto that," Melvin says.

Those with fond memories of Spinelli Coffee will be pleased to learn that Bernie's Café exclusively serves La Coppa coffee, Mr. Spinelli's current coffee company and the name of his Mill Valley coffee shop. The coffee is roasted and delivered fresh every week.

Bernie's offers patrons free wireless Internet access and a beverage menu that includes drip coffee, espresso drinks, frozen blended coffee drinks with a choice of flavoring, Odwalla juice, Izze soda, and tea from Republic of Tea, among others. San Francisco's Raison d'Etre Bakery supplies pastries, cookies, muffins, cakes, and other edible goodies.

Beans for sale at Bernie's include the House Blend, La Donna, Bernie's Blend, French Roast, Decaf, and Espresso Especiale ($11.95 to $12.95 per pound). Bernie's donates $1 from the sale of every pound of La Donna coffee beans to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Fund. The blend is named after Arnold Spinelli's wife, Donna.

Melvin's connections to Noe Valley don't stop with her cafe or her former employers. Although she has lived in Pacifica for the past decade, Melvin grew up near the corner of 22nd and Douglass streets, attended James Lick Middle School, and still counts nine cousins, an uncle, and an aunt who currently live in the neighborhood. Melvin's mother, Debbie Hanifin, who once worked as a waitress at Noe Valley Pizza and was featured in the November 1992 Voice, and brother, Dennis Melvin, also work in the café.

At the end of the day, it's the close-knit community that brings Melvin the most joy.

"I'm working from open to close, but my life is happier than ever, and I love the community sense of being here and knowing people's drinks, their children's names, their dogs' names. I really didn't realize how much I missed that," Melvin says.

Bernie's is open daily from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.