Noe Valley Voice April 2009

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

April Fun Time

NOEBODY WAS ABLE to answer all 10 questions in last month's Noe History Quiz. Otherwise, their name would have appeared right here. (The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation suggests that next time you do our quiz, try googling or searching key words at Most of the answers will show up there.)

Too bad. The April 1 winner would have garnered not only kudos for their Noe knowledge, but also a Grand Prize, which my publishers have informed me was an "economic stimulus" package made up of four airline tickets to Kauai, Hawaii, with a five-day stay in a hotel on Poipu Beach. Oh, well.

Anyway, here are the questions and answers:

1. What is the 285-foot alley in Noe Valley named after a developer who built many single-family dwellings in the neighborhood during the 1880s and '90s? A: (Joseph) Comerford. Comerford Alley runs from Sanchez to Church, between 27th and Duncan streets.

2. Where was the Noe Theater? Where was the Palmer Theater? A: The Noe Theater stood on 24th Street near Noe, where the building that now houses Just for Fun is. The Palmer stood on the site now occupied by Wells Fargo Bank, on 24th near Castro.

3. Where was Video Uno? A: Our very first video store opened in 1978, on 24th Street near Sanchez, where the French Tulip is now located.

4. How long has Douglass Park been a park? A: Happy 80th birthday. The park opened in April 1928. Previously the area was a rock quarry where dynamite blasts could be heard 'round Noe Valley.

5. Where did Janis Joplin live in Noe Valley when she started singing with Big Brother and the Holding Company? A: During the mid-1960s, Janis lived on the top floor of a building on the northwest corner of 22nd and Noe. Later, she bought a house in the Haight on Lyon near Page Street. Old-timers remember seeing Big Brother's band truck, a circa 1920 Ford, parked nearby, with a large logo on the side: "Overland Freak Express."

6. What was "Bud's I. C."? A: Bud's Ice Cream, of course. Bud's was on the southwest corner of Castro and 24th streets, where Subs Inc. is now. The store was named after Bud Scheideman, who opened it in 1933 and sold it to his cousin Alvin "Bud" Edlin in 1952. Edlin started making incredibly rich ice cream in the back of the small soda shop. Word got out, and in the 1960s and '70s Bud's became a destination for Bay Area ice cream lovers. Rain or shine, there was always a line. Mr. Edlin died in June 2008.

7. Where was Dan's Gas and Diesel? A: The gas station occupied the lot now owned by the Noe Valley Ministry on the south side of 24th Street between Sanchez and Vicksburg. It's used as a parking lot and the farmers market on Saturdays.

8. What is the name of the neighborhood located between Upper Noe Valley and Glen Park? A: Fairmount. Fairmount was one of the city's first neighborhoods, because it was once a stagecoach stop on the way out of town. This was back in the 49er days, when San Francisco was still called Yerba Buena.

9. Who was the last San Francisco mayor to build a house in Noe Valley? A: Mayor James "Sunny Jim" Rolph, who served from 1912 to 1932. The Tudor-style house is located on the northeast corner of Sanchez and 21st streets and was built in 1928. It has a great view of the downtown skyline.

10. How many vacant stores were there on 24th Street from Diamond to Church on March 1, 2009? A: Seven. Those would be, from west to east: B.J. Droubi's old office, Riki, the old Wells Fargo mini-branch, Streetlight Records, Bell Market, Noe Valley Video, and Real Food Company. During March, the short-lived AAA office closed.

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MAKING A SPECTACLE: Nobody knows when or how any of these stores will reincarnate and reopen, except for Bell Market, which will morph into a Whole Foods Market by fall, if all goes as planned. It seems like Real Food will never reopen and the store will stay empty till hell freezes over. To some, the April Fool's joke in Downtown Noe Valley is the high rent being asked for the spaces. Streetlight wanted $12,000/month in November. Downright laughable.

A certain eating place has been for sale for a while at a price close to $200,000, with no takers. Another DNV business opportunity, a liquor store for sale at $169,000, has been listed on the Web for several months.

One shop that closed last October, Glare, actually reopened last month. The eyewear shop, located at 4010 24th Street, has discarded its line of very expensive sunglasses for very inexpensive regular prescription frames and lenses.

"We were going to close the store up and move it to the East Bay," says Glare owner and optician Dimitri Grunhauser, "but we decided that this location was too good to give up. So we have hired a licensed optician to be on the premises, Deejay Kollar, and now offer discounted designer frames that are high quality but have 'out of date' designs." Grunhauser says you can come in with your optical prescription, pick out frames, and the shop will manufacture the lenses at a total cost of $200. "That's a better price than Costco, only this is real quality stuff," he says.

Grunhauser and Olga Terry also own Spectacles for Humans, which is on 24th Street at Vicksburg (next to Martha's). Their lens-making lab is in the back of the store. Anyone who has shopped there for glasses knows they specialize in high-end designer frames, such as the Danish frames by Orgreen, Reiz from Germany, and the Italian rims Derapage. Prices for these frames are more in the Costmo-range from $475 to $900, not counting the lenses.

"We have people coming from all over the Bay Area for these frames, since we are the only ones that have them," says Grunhauser. "We just opened a new space in downtown Los Angeles offering these high-end rims, which we have found are in very high demand. We've been very busy."

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WE HAD THE LAST LAUGH Coffeehouse, on the corner of Dolores and Valley streets, and now we'll get to amuse ourselves at its replacement, Noeteca, owned by Scott McDonald and Alex Kamprasert.

"The name came to me in my sleep," says Kamprasert, who used to work at Chloe's Café but who for the past year and a half has been the food and beverage manager at the 500-room Holiday Inn at Van Ness and Pine. Noeteca is a takeoff on the Italian word for wine bar, which is "enoteca," but Noeteca the cafe will be much more than that.

"We will have coffees and pastry in the morning when we open at 7 a.m., and be serving breakfast after 8 a.m. and then lunch. Dinner will be available from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., with a focus on comfort foods, and we will be serving about 25 different wines as well as beer, and non-alcoholic drinks," says Kamprasert.

McDonald notes that Noeteca's opening has been delayed slightly, "but we have been working on the various renovation issues and waiting for the ABC to approve [the change in ownership]. We hope to be open by the end of April."

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A STORE WITHIN A STORE is what you will find when you visit When Modern Was, the antiques/vintage jewelry store at Church and 27th owned by Dona Taylor and Kimberly Karnes. Last month, a small shop called the Secret Garden opened in the back of WMW. It's independently owned and operated by neighborhood resident Debbie Cole, whose last shop was the Pickled Hutch.

Says Cole, "I wanted to get back into having a business in the neighborhood, and this opportunity came up."

Her Secret Garden offers plants, vintage garden furniture, statues, bird baths, and light fixtures.

In another store within a store item, Pacifica jewelry designer Pamela Wiston-Carbonneau has joined Lisa Violetto in Violetto's many-faceted gift shop at 3932 24th Street. The new section of the store is called "Successories," and features Wiston-Carbonneau's "Cute as a Button" line of rings, pins, and pendants made with vintage buttons. Violetto says Wiston-Carbonneau is a longtime friend, and "This year [in light of the recession] we're dedicating ourselves to helping local artists and artisans. So the shop will be carrying a lot of handmade and local art." She also wants to thank all the Noe Valleons who have come in to buy "a little something" lately. "We really do appreciate the support we've been getting from our customers."

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WHERE THERE'S SMOKE: Rumors that the San Francisco Fire Department's firehouse on 26th between Church and Dolores will be threatened with rolling brownouts to save money for the city have upset many neighborhood residents. An online group called saveourfirehouses .com says, "Over the next few months, San Francisco city politicians will decide whether to reverse a decision by voters in 2005, to protect funding to keep our neighborhood firehouses open. If they reverse our vote, firehouses in our neighborhoods will be closed periodically and unable to respond to emergencies."

The group appears to be sponsored by the S.F. firefighters' union, whose members are apparently worried about the budget axe being applied to the Fire Department. However, according to San Francisco Fire Department spokesperson Mindy Talmadge, who works in the fire chief's office, there has been no hint of this from City Hall. We'll see.

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IT WAS NO JOKE when Alyson Brewer-Hay came home to her Elizabeth Street house on March 24 and was greeted by San Francisco Police Officer Miguel Granados and Deputy City Attorney Michael Weiss. Evidently, the gentlemen were responding to a neighbor's complaint that an "open bar/brewery" was being operated on the B-H premises.

As you might know, Brewer-Hay and her husband Richard are the creators of the "Elizabeth Street Brewery (ESB)." The ESB is actually a storage space in their garage, where they've been home-brewing beers and ales for three years. Periodically, they invite friends and neighbors to their house to sample their brew for free (see the December 05 and March 09 issues of Voice). In the future, the Brewer-Hays would like to do nothing more than brew their beers and sell them in a shop in Downtown Noe Valley.

Regarding the investigators, Richard says, "After they were able to see for themselves, both of them realized that we were neither conducting a business nor operating a bar, and the matter was quickly resolved. So, no worry, we can continue to brew the beers and invite friends and neighbors to taste our beers and tell us what they think. We will refine the recipes by this invaluable research." Oh, good.

Richard, by the way, has the title Chief Blogger for the online auction site eBay. He also runs an ESB website (elizabeth and tweets on Twitter as ESBAle.

After the incident, he blogged about the neighbor's complaint to his many online friends and colleagues, and received feedback from numerous sources. He says that while some people questioned why the "neighbor" would go to the police first and not to the Brewer-Hays, "it was pointed out to me that I didn't go to each of my neighbors' homes last December before I slapped an 'Open' sign in the middle of my driveway inviting folks in for a beverage. If one were to visit our [ESB] website and see the sign outside our home, one could easily think that we are a professional operation, without investigating further."

Besides mirroring his neighbors, Richard has been busy entertaining the media-hounds, who seem to be finding fertile ground in Noe Valley these days.

Says Richard, "Since this occurred, I have noticed a large spike in my Twitter feed, with [new subscribers and] people from ABC, KCBS, FOX News, the Chronicle, and other news organizations."

Will the Brewer-Hays make hay brewing? Will they open a beer garden in Downtown Noe Valley one day? Who knows, maybe Real Food can be turned into Real Beer.

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THAT'S ALL, YOU ALL. Have a foolish April. We'll be back at you in May. Ciao for now.