Noe Valley Voice June 2009

Store Trek

By Lorraine Sanders

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we visit a new optometry practice on 24th Street and a book-lending service operating out of a long-established children's clothing store.

Eyes on 24th Optometry
4110 24th Street at Castro Street

There's a new place to see and be seen on 24th Street. Opened earlier this year by doctors of optometry Victor Bautista and Katherine Stout, Eyes on 24th Optometry offers family vision-care services in a newly revamped space that has housed optometry practices in the neighborhood for some 30 years.

"We're always taking on new patients. We're very kid-friendly and we're very dog-friendly," says Stout.

Previously home to Eye See You Optometry, the new practice is the first private venture for Stout and Bautista, Sausalito residents who met at the U.C. Berkeley School of Optometry, where they graduated in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Karen Janks, the practice's optician clinical assistant, works alongside Stout and Bautista.

After purchasing the business from a friend and former colleague in January, the two partners refinished the original hardwood floors, added a new exterior awning, and painted the interior a fresh muted-green hue. They also decorated with French-country details--see the antique water pitcher in the bathroom.

New custom shelving displays an assortment of sleek designer frames ($150 to $600, base price) from such names as Kate Spade and John Varvatos. A small sitting area in front gives way to the main room's retail space, while the exam room is secluded in back.

Along with offering traditional eye exams and contact lens fittings, as well as specialist referrals, Stout and Bautista provide vision care to patients before and after procedures such as LASIK and cataract surgery. They also promise to schedule their clients so there is adequate time to attend to all their needs.

"We really like to take our time with each patient. We set aside 45 minutes to an hour per patient to get to the bottom of the problems they are having," says Bautista.

Another focus is pediatric vision care. Both doctors stress finding vision problems in children as early as possible.

"We recommend that children come in at six months of age, two years of age, and every two years thereafter," Stout says.

The practice is also committed to embracing technology. Stout is currently handling the tedious task of converting by hand every patient record inherited from their predecessors from paper files to an electronic format. Also in the works is a system that enables patients to order contact lenses and prescriptions online. Appointments may be scheduled via the website,

Among the insurance plans the practice accepts are Blue Cross, Aetna, United Healthcare, VSP, Medicare, and Eyemed.

Eyes on 24th Optometry is open Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

BookTree Children's Book-Lending Service at Small Frys
4066 24th Street at Castro Street

It may be true that one can't reliably judge a book by its cover, but try telling that to a cranky 4-year-old. An even greater parental challenge? Hunting down new, exciting children's books on a wide range of age-appropriate topics to bolster the trusty favorites everyone in the family can recite from memory. A children's book-lending service new to Noe Valley from Bay Area­based company BookTree seeks to address both issues.

"For my kids, they'll get excited about a [book] cover, but this is helping them find books that they wouldn't pick out themselves," says Azia Yenne, manager and buyer at children's boutique Small Frys, which serves as Noe Valley's BookTree lending location.

BookTree's lending service ($23.95 per month, with a 20 percent discount for additional subscribers within the same household) offers a black tote containing 10 age-appropriate books at designated pickup locations such as schools, children's stores, or large office buildings throughout the city. Outside of Noe Valley, the service is currently available at retail locations in West Portal and the Inner Sunset, as well as at 40 Bay Area schools and companies such as CNET, Gap Inc., and Gymboree. Parents pick up BookTree's selections at the beginning of the month, bring the books home to read, and exchange them for a new tote bag of books the next month.

"To me, it's like a Netflix for books, and you don't have to leave the neighborhood," Yenne says.

BookTree tailors its selections to the subscriber child's age by offering six tracks, for infant through age 7.

"It exposes the child to so many different genres and different types of topics.... There's going to be fiction, nonfiction, books that emphasize mathematical concepts. It's a very broad range," says Chad Balch, a co-owner of the business his wife Kathy left her high-tech career to launch in 2005.

The service puts an emphasis on lesser-known children's books rather than classics, which families are likely to already own, Balch says. No two books in a monthly set are similar, nor do the books contain violence, harsh language, or characters with commercial-product ties.

"You could potentially be on this service for six or seven years and never see a book twice. You wouldn't even find all of these books at the local libraries," says Balch.

Speaking of libraries, why pay for a book-lending service when there's a public institution that will lend you as many as you want for free?

Says Balch, "Often people don't have time [to select books]. This service is about making that easier and more convenient.... Our subscribers still go to libraries and bookstores. They can have more fun at the library and not feel like they're on a mission."

New subscribers are invited to try out the service with a free one-month trial. For more information or to enroll, stop by Small Frys or visit BookTree online at