Noe Valley Voice November 2009

Store Trek

By Lorraine Sanders

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we introduce a Church Street shop owned by a pair of fashion designers, and a 24th Street store which offers cleaning products that you can pour into your own containers.

1767 Church Street (at Day)

Who says mistakes aren't worth making? You certainly won't find any protests coming from the owners of Noe Valley's newest women's clothing boutique, Curator. In fact, designers Deirdre Nagayama and Stacy Rodgers were so intrigued by one mistake that they named the fashion label they launched in 2001 after it.

"We found [the name] while looking through the Reader's Encyclopedia. It's from a misprint in the Bible in the Book of Ruth," says Rodgers of the origins of She-Bible.

When the two longtime friends, who met while attending high school at Sacred Heart Cathedral, stumbled upon the "Great She Bible"--the nickname given to an edition of the Bible that mistakenly used "he" instead of "she" in Ruth 3:15--they quickly adopted it as their own.

"At the time, we were doing irreverent prints and making mistakes, and we thought, 'Cool'.... It just fit us and it stuck," Rodgers explains.

Over the ensuing eight years, She-Bible slowly grew from a small line of printed T-shirts to a well-rounded collection of casual women's clothing.

Then late last spring, Rodgers, a Mission District resident, and Nagayama, a Noe Valley native who now lives in Palo Alto, saw a chance to expand their She-Bible operations from a workspace in SoMa, into a storefront once occupied by Church Street Apothecary, on Church Street near Day Street.

This time, the design duo opted for a name that better reflected their current mission.

"Since curator means keeper of collections, and we have different collections and we're going to have art, it made sense," Rodgers says.

Nagayama adds with a laugh: "That and we didn't want to have the word 'Bible' on Church Street."

Curator opened on Sept. 19, after the women spent several months repainting the walls and constructing new shelves and racks (with help from Rodgers' friend Paul Allen). The shop now serves as a combined workshop and retail space for She-Bible apparel, which tends toward cozy and versatile pieces such as organic cotton dresses, over-sized sweatshirts, and wool coats with dramatic fold-over collars. Vintage silhouettes and hemp fabrics are among the designers' favorites.

"A lot of our design aesthetic comes from the climate here. We find that we do really well in the Northwest," Nagayama says.

Along with the in-house label, Curator carries clothing collections from Bay Area designers such as Sofie Olgaard, Modaspia, and Micaela Greg, as well as apparel by Brooklyn-based Mary Meyer and Blank Denim, and jewelry by San Francisco's Kris Nations. Clothing ranges in price from about $50 to $220.

Art on the walls, currently hung with multimedia works by artist Kristine Reano, will rotate about every six weeks. In the coming weeks, the owners are planning to beef up the shop's selection of gift items, housewares, and accessories. A new line for children is also in the works.

Curator is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

3980 24th Street (at Noe)

With the September arrival of Green11, a new shop offering to refill your existing containers with eco-friendly bath and household products, being green in Noe Valley got a whole lot easier. It also got less expensive.

"Generally, we are 20 to 30 percent cheaper than retail," says Marco Pietschmann, who co-owns the 24th Street store with wife Bettina Limaco.

By buying in bulk and dispensing everyday products--from shampoo to laundry detergent--into containers that customers supply themselves, Pietschmann and Limaco are able to offer discounted prices, such as $5.40 for eight ounces of Shikai shampoo and $19 for a bottle of the same from high-end hair-care line Simply Organic, which charges $26 for the product on its own website.

While the couple hope the promise of saving a few dollars will encourage more buyers to try earth-friendly EO soaps and Biokleen detergents, what they'd really like to see is a shift in the way people shop.

"The big picture is to really change consumer behavior to think about reusing," says Pietschmann.

Adds Limaco: "If you use as a person eight ounces of shampoo a month, that's 12 shampoo bottles [in a year]. After a while, it's significant the amount each person tosses away in any period of time."

Occupying the space formerly home to Ritz Camera, the Noe Valley outpost is the second location opened by the couple, who live in San Bruno. They opened their first at the Secret Flower Garden on Union Street in April, after coming up with their business plan on a train trip through China.

With its deep-green walls, white shelves, and overhead chandelier, the space bears little resemblance to its predecessor. But there is one piece of the former camera shop that still remains. Instead of tossing the large illuminated sign that hung above the shop's door, Pietschmann and Limaco have recycled it by turning it around and covering it with a sticker sporting the Green11 logo.

No, Green11 does not refer to 9-11, but rather to an experience Limaco had while relaxing one night.

"I was reading an article one evening, and it was about 11 companies trying to go green, and it just kind of dawned on me that it should be called Green11. Over time, it's sort of accidentally blended into everything we want to be about: Green11, like 7-11, is conveniently located so you can pop in with your container for everyday things you need," she says.

Rows of household cleaners, laundry aids, and personal care products fill the store's tall shelves. In addition to EO and Biokleen, you'll find Ecco Bella, Alaffia, Kiss My Face, Vermont Soap Organics, Seaside Naturals, and Options for Life kitchen and bathroom cleansers. Prices vary, depending on the amount purchased. Each empty container is weighed before filling and again afterward to determine the weight of the product minus the weight of the container.

Along with liquid refills, the shop carries a selection of household items, including Nellie's Dryerballs, Zum Bar goat's milk bar soap, Aladdin lunchboxes, and stainless steel containers by Greentainer. The store also offers a variety of plastic and glass vessels, for customers who'd prefer to start a new refillable set instead of using their own empties.

Green11 is open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.