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By Lorraine Sanders
Store Trek is a regular Voice feature, profiling new stores and businesses in and around Noe Valley. This month we introduce a bustling cafe at 24th and Noe, and a financial planning office on Castro that specializes in showing families how to save for college.
3991 24th Street near Noe Street
Since June, Noe Valley eaters have had a new spot to butter their bread, read the day's news, and debate the merits of scrambled eggs versus "over easy." Toast Eatery, whose sister location at Church and Day streets has been feeding folks for two years, filled the void left by the closure last fall of Herb's Fine Foods, a 24th Street institution since 1943.
"There were a few customers who were not happy," admits Eddie Naser, 38, who owns the restaurant with his brother Kamal Naser, 29. "But we couldn't do the exact same thing [as Herb's]. We're here trying to do the best we can."
Judging by the packed tables, the crowds milling about during weekend brunch, and the 15 dozen pieces of toast served daily, locals are accepting the newcomer with open arms (and mouths).
"Noe Valley has been very supportive. Without it, Toast wouldn't be here," says Eddie Naser, who grew up in the city's Lakeside District, where he still lives today. Before opening the first Toast in September 2006, Eddie Naser owned and operated the Lower Haight cafe the Grind. When the opportunity arose to open an establishment in the former home of Hungry Joe's, Naser decided to revamp his restaurant concept and choose a different name for his next business. Eventually, he settled on the starchy American breakfast staple as his muse. And so the first Toast was born.
After learning that Herb's longtime owner Rita Kawas, whose late husband, Sam, purchased the restaurant from its original owner in 1974, would not be renewing her lease last fall, the Nasers decided to go after the location for a second Toast. About eight months of renovations by the Nasers' friend and general contractor Meemo Totah followed.
With its brown walls, shiny metal fixtures, and '50s-diner-goes-contemporary aesthetic, Toast Eatery bears a resemblance to its older sister. But the new Toast is a lot larger than the first, and more vibrant in a way that suits its bustling surroundings. Orange orbs hanging from the ceiling and a retro wall clock illuminate the space with a Jetsons-like flair. Tables set against the large front windows invite patrons to people-watch while they dine.
But perhaps the most noticeable--and striking--difference is the artwork by local artist and designer Sirron Norris. Five original works, each in the shape of a giant piece of toast, adorn the walls. Each "slice" depicts a different scene, rendered in Norris' signature style, which he calls "cartoon literalism." One features AT&T Park, a nod to the Nasers' love of baseball, while another mixes more traditional San Francisco icons, such as Coit Tower, Muni buses, and winged cable cars.
The two that will likely be of most interest to Noe Valley residents are the slices that feature Norris' interpretation of the neighborhood itself.
"I was excited to be able to comment on Noe Valley, the mothers with their strollers and the people jogging with their dogs. I did this subtle thing with a rabbit sipping a cup of Starbucks, but looking really embarrassed about it," says Norris, whose work often features cartoon animals alongside or instead of people.
In homage to Herb's, another of Norris' toasts showcases the diner's facade, based on a photograph in the book San Francisco's Noe Valley, by Bill Yenne.
"We did a tribute to Herb's. It was here for 60 years.... Herb's was a value to the neighborhood," says Eddie Naser.
Those new to the 24th Street Toast Eatery will find the same hearty menu that's offered at the Church and Day location. Both restaurants serve Boudin Bakery breads, Niman Ranch meats, and certified fair trade and organic coffee. They also try to use organic produce whenever possible.
The most popular item? Naser says it's the Toast Combo (two eggs, pancakes or french toast, choice of meat, hash browns, $9.75). Second place goes to the classic burger ($8.25). Along with the standards, options like a tofu egg scramble, the 24th Street Omelet (eggs with chicken apple sausage, spinach, sun-dried tomato, and feta, $9.50), Belgian waffles ($5.50), salads, specialty sandwiches, and even soju cocktails keep palettes entertained.
There's a kids menu with items such as silver-dollar pancakes, mini-cheeseburgers, and chicken nuggets, all in the $3 to $5 range.
"We get the freshest quality possible and everything's local, but we're not trying to be fancy or a fancy brunch spot, just a simple, hearty breakfast," says Naser.
Toast Eatery is open for lunch and dinner, too. Hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For the complete menu, go to www.toasteatery.com. For the scoop on Norris, see www.sirronnorris.com.
Beacon College Funding Solutions, Inc.
Corrigan Financial, Inc.
1326 Castro Street at 24th Street
About a year and a half ago, independent financial adviser Nancy Corrigan noticed she was receiving a rash of calls from the harried parents of college-bound students. The source of their anxiety? A document known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
"It's sort of like trying to do your own taxes. I'd get frantic calls at 10:30 at night," recalls Corrigan, who is a chartered financial analyst (CFA) in command of her own financial planning firm, Corrigan Financial.
In response to those late-night calls, Corrigan founded Beacon College Funding Solutions, Inc., which relocated to its Castro Street space from Diamond Heights in March 2008. (The spot on Castro, next door to Hamano Sushi, was formerly occupied by an Allstate insurance office.)
While Corrigan, 50, continues to offer wealth management, financial planning, estate planning, risk management, and investment services through Corrigan Financial, her most recent venture is aimed at families with college-bound kids.
"What makes us different is, number one, we sit down and look at the whole family, and we work with the family all the years the child or children are in college.... Our overall goal is to help families send all of their children to the college of their choice in a financially sound way," says Corrigan, onetime director of strategy and planning for the University of California's treasurer's office and a former controller with the investment division of CIGNA Corporation.
The definition of "college-bound" at Beacon College Funding Solutions might surprise some parents. Asked about the ideal time to start planning for a child's college education, Corrigan quips that parents should begin at "about the eighth month of pregnancy"--and she's only half joking.
That said, Corrigan and associate Grainger Wyckoff, Beacon's educational planning counselor, tailor their services to families with high school students. Key among their goals is helping families determine how much they will have to contribute toward each child's tuition and how to achieve that without depleting retirement accounts or otherwise putting the family on shaky financial ground.
"We work with families to say, 'What would be the best way to come up with that money?'" Corrigan says.
Beacon's fee for a one-hour consultation is $250. "In one hour, we'll be able to tell you, 'Here's what your expected family contribution will look like, here's what the schools will do, and here are some steps you can take,'" explains Corrigan.
Additional packages--ranging in price from $2,450 to $3,450, plus $49 a month per student--offer families a host of tools and services.
Working together, Corrigan and Wyckoff help students and their parents map out a financial strategy; prepare for and choose the right school; assess federal, state, and college financial-aid options; complete FAFSA forms; appeal financial-aid packages once they are awarded; screen colleges and universities according to the projected cost of attendance; and meet deadlines for college and financial-aid applications. They also provide college-preparatory assistance and materials for the SAT and ACT tests, essay-writing help, and skills assessment and career development tips.
"We supplement what their college counselors do to help [students] achieve the right fit so they can be successful academically," Corrigan says.
Digging deep into one's coffers for college tuition may not be the most thrilling of chores, she tells parents, but it's well worth the effort.
"I want to help parents understand what's going on, because I think it's truly possible in the U.S. for anyone to get a college education."
The office of Beacon College Funding Solutions and Corrigan Financial is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. General information is available to walk-ins, but services are available by appointment only. Beacon College Funding Solutions also offers free weekly college financial planning seminars open to middle and high school students and their parents. These informational seminars (no product sales are involved) are being held at Fort Mason Center, Landmark Building C, through the end of the year. Call 415-550-8040 for a reservation.