Noe Valley Voice September 2007

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

TRIPPING OUT: We just got back from our family summer vacation, and now I think I need a vacation to recover from the vacation. After a long weekend in Santa Cruz (and the Boardwalk, of course), then climbing in the mountains around Lake Tahoe, we trekked to La-La Land for Disney's California Adventure ("Soarin' Over California" is totally cool -- believe me, you feel like you're in a hang glider). Next we saw the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the bagels at Nate and Al's Delicatessen (we were sitting in a booth behind Tony Martin and his wife Cyd Charisse), and the throngs on Hollywood Boulevard, where we bought a $5 guide to the homes of the stars. Finally, we flew home on a Virgin America Airbus, where each seat has a personal screen with amusements like movies, TV, music, games, and even a passenger chat room. The kids thought the plane ride was much too short.

= = =

WHOLE IN ONE: As the taxicab drove us back into Noe Valley, a lot of things seemed different. Tully's was closed, and its benches were gone. The Ames Locksmith sign had disappeared, but the shop was open. The old Mikeytom store on Church Street looked like it had been rented and a business might actually be moving in (more next month). Downtown Noe Valley had flower baskets hanging from the light poles, and the mini-park in front of the public parking lot across from the Valley Tavern was sporting new benches.

I checked my in-box at the Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) and found it flooded with rumors. The biggest turned out to be front-page news: Bell Market might be morphing into Whole Foods (see page 1). The NVBI reports that Bell's workers have heard the rumors and are concerned that Bell might be gone before parent company Ralphs' lease runs out in April of 2009. Rumors about various takeovers have been flying for over a year.

There could also be some controversy in the future, because the Bell workers are members of a labor union. Whole Foods' workers are not. When the Real Food fiasco is put into this mix, the salad becomes even more interesting. Will it be the Battle of the Organics?

Whole Foods, if it goes into Bell's space, would have three times the square footage as Real Food. Whole's parking would not be for Real (remember in the old days when we would park and shop at Bell and "dash" across the street for fruits and vegetables at Real Food?). The upshot is, Real ain't very realistic.

= = =

LATTE-BREAKING NEWS: In the middle of August, signs went up outside Tully's informing everyone of the bad news, that the veteran coffee shop, on 24th next to Bell, was closing and its last day would be Aug. 17. Tully's regulars were shocked, and many could be seen stopping to read the sign and shaking their heads before entering.

Once they walked through the door, however, they heard the good news: Tully's would be gone but the place would remain a coffeehouse, named Bernie's. So who's Bernie? She's "local girl" Bernadette Melvin, the new owner and chief percolator.

"People keep asking me; 'Is this going to a Peet's? Is this going to be corporate?'" Melvin laughs. "And I tell them this is going to be as local as you can get. I grew up in Noe Valley. My mom lives here, my uncle lives here, and my cousins all go to St. Philip's. I even went to James Lick!"

Melvin also knows her brews. She has worked for Tully's for the past nine years, but before that, she worked for Spinelli Coffee, the business that was there before Tully's.

"I went to work for Mr. Spinelli in 1994 at the 24th Street store as an entry-level barista," Melvin says. "And then I became a training manager for the company. When he and his partner sold out all of their stores to Tully's in 1998, I stayed on with Tully's and opened nine more in San Francisco and five in L.A."

Cut to 2007. "Tully's lease was expiring, and they told me they were not going to renew," says Melvin, allegedly because business slowed down. "With their permission, I contacted the landlord [Valentina Ver Brugge, now age 93], who was willing to give me a lease."

Bernie's will be serving La Coppa coffee, she says, which is made by Arnold Spinelli. Yes, the very same Spinelli, who now owns the La Coppa coffee shop in Mill Valley. By the way, Spinelli's opened in Noe in 1986, with a coffee bar on the inside and benches on the outside for all us latte-sipping "liberal loonies" (see Harry Aleo's window a block up the street).

If Ver Brugge rings a bell, it's because that was the name of the butcher shop which lost its lease at Real Food Company when Real expanded in 1985. The Ver Brugge family decided to move across the street to a store they'd built, but had trouble opening, so they leased the shop to Spinelli. The rest is history.

As for Bernie's, Melvin hopes to apply a fresh coat of "much lighter" paint, spiff up the shop, and reopen by Sept. 14. "I am going to keep it simple by bringing back great coffee and tea, fresh pastries, and smoothies," she says. She'll get rid of the merchandise, offer free wi-fi, and use biodegradable cups. "They're made of corn."

Bernie's will be open long hours for your caffeine needs: 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

= = =

KEY INFORMATION: A business called Locksmith Central has opened shop in the 24th Street space previously occupied by Ames Locksmith, across from Bell Market. As reported in the May Rumors, Ames locked its doors in March but kept on paying rent. Evidently, the rent checks stopped in June, and Ames was evicted in July.

"The landlord called us up and offered us a lease because she said she wanted the store to continue to be used by a locksmith," says Michael Young, who with his brother James Young has now taken the keys. The Youngs, who own another locksmith shop in the Richmond District, hung out their sign in Noe Valley at the beginning of August.

"I just want everyone in the neighborhood to know that Locksmith Central is a new and different business, and we have nothing to do with Ames," Michael says. "We are fully bonded and licensed by the State of California."

Young says the shop offers 24-hour emergency service and makes house calls (415-665-5398). Between the two brothers, they work seven days a week. "I've been in this business for 18 years now and am really looking forward to making Noe Valley our base."

A tiny jewel of a store opened this summer in the spot once filled by Artery studio, at 1311 Church near 25th. The new shop, called Uncivilized Elegance, is the creation of Mabel Chong, who designs and makes the jewelry she sells. One-of-a-kind necklaces and earrings, made with pearls of different shapes and sizes, are her trademark (take a look at She says she'll have a grand opening on Nov. 1, 6 to 9 p.m. Chong, who is expecting a baby in September, used to live in Noe Valley, but now lives in the Richmond.

The Voice will have more about all these enterprises in future Store Trek columns.

= = =

GLEN AND NOW: The newest local title in the Arcadia Publishing "Images of America" series, San Francisco's Glen Park and Diamond Heights, was released last month. Author Emma Bland Smith lives in the Miraloma neighborhood above Glen Park. She's a French language teacher, a freelance contributor to the quarterly Glen Park News, and she's active in the Glen Park Parents Association.

"My editor [at the GP News] was contacted by Arcadia last September about recommending someone to write the history of the neighborhood. She called me and then they called me. I said okay, and was given six months to finish it."

Smith says she started researching the neighborhood and scouting locals for old photos to fill 128 pages (it has 200 photographs). "I have to thank a lot of people in the neighborhood for helping me, especially local historian Greg Gaar [co-author of Arcadia's San Francisco: A Natural History], who opened up his photography collection to me and provided about 70 of the old pictures for the book."

You can pick up a copy of Smith's book at Cover to Cover and/or Bird & Beckett bookstore in Glen Park. While you're browsing, check out yet another new Arcadia release about Bernal Heights by the Bernal History Project.

By the way, Bird & Beckett Books & Records will be moving from its rather small store at 2788 Diamond (near Chenery) at the end of September. According to proprietor Eric Whittington, B&B's new location will be the much more spacious former site of the Glen Park Library on Chenery. The library is moving into its new digs above Canyon Market around the corner on Diamond.

Bird & Beckett has become somewhat of a destination in Downtown Glen Park. On Friday nights, between 5:30 and 8 p.m., to quote Emma Smith, "Glen Park comes alive with the sound of jazz." On the first and third Fridays of the month it's the Don Prell Sea-Bop Ensemble. On the second Friday, Jimmy Ryans' Quartet performs, and on the last Friday you can hear the Henry Irving Quartet. Also, there are at least three new restaurants on Diamond, including a French bistro called P'tit Laurent, that everybody's trying out.

= = =

MORE BOOKS TO READ: Noe Valley's hardest-working writer, Bill Yenne, was spotted signing his brand new book Rising Sons: Japanese American GIs Who Fought for the United States in WWII at the USS Hornet Museum at Alameda Point. His next book-signing of Rising will be at Book Passage in the Ferry Building Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.

Noe Valley author Valerie Miner has just come out with her 13th book, After Eden, a novel set in Mendocino County. Miner, a professor at Stanford University, has won lots of recognition over the years: The Low Road: A Scottish Family Memoir was a finalist for the PEN USA Creative Non-Fiction Award in 2002, and Abundant Light was a 2005 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.

Noe Valley seminar leader and life coach Ann Tardy has just finished a book, Life Moxie! Ambition on a Mission: Nine Strategies for Taking Life by the Horns. In her acknowledgments she notes, "The best advice about writing a book I ever received was to write in your third place. Live in one place, work in another, and write in your third place. Starbucks was my third place. Every morning I was at Starbucks in Noe Valley, California, writing from 6 to 8 a.m., or longer if the words were flowing. I appreciate every grande, soy, no water, no foam, six-pump chai latte the baristas created for me."

= = =

SHORT SHRIFTS: All of you who miss the "California Creole" cuisine that was cooked up by chef Glenn "Gator" Thompson from '02 to '04 at Alcatraces on 24th Street will be happy to know he has opened a restaurant in Downtown San Mateo called Gator's Neo-Soul Café (call 650-685-8100)....

Alcatraces became Mi Lindo Yucatan, and now Mi Lindo may grow or become something else, since the owner of the property has taken out permits to vastly expand the premises....

Neighborhood activist Carol Yenne of Small Frys kids clothing store has put out a warning to all Noe Valley residents and merchants that there seems to be increased enforcement of Section 170 of the SF Public Works Code, which requires prompt removal of all garbage cans from the sidewalk after the trash has been collected. Yenne says she knows residents who have been hit with fines for leaving their cans outside longer than 24 hours. It's $80 for a first offense. For merchants, it's a stiffer fine.

"Also, make sure you are curbing your car wheels when parking," warns Yenne, "since a lot of people have been getting tagged by DPT," even on the almost-flat part of Castro from 24th to 25th streets.

Speaking of cars, it appears the Chevron station at 23rd and Valencia has closed, and it looks like for good. They always had the highest prices in the 'hood.

= = =

MYTHS AND CHIPS: On July 20, Discovery Channel's hit show MythBusters taped an upcoming episode at Rabat on the corner of 24th and Noe, which clothing store owner Patty Woody says will be aired sometime in October.

What myth was busted at Rabat? Woody opened the store in 1972 between Church and Vicksburg, making it somewhat mythical. But the myth being officially busted seems to be whether the microchips currently being implanted in pets to ID them when lost will, if implanted in humans, trigger the anti-theft devices used by stores such as Woody's to prevent shoplifting. Got that?

After the show, Woody says she did a lot of research and decided to have her pets implanted with the microchip. "I learned that of the 50 dogs that were lost on July 4 and picked up by the SPCA, 25 of them had microchip implants with their ID, and each of those made it back home within one hour."

The trivia question of the month is which of the co-hosts of MythBusters actually lives in Noe Valley: Adam Savage or Jamie Hyneman?

= = =

That's 30, folks. Ciao for now.