Noe Valley Voice September 2011

And Now For The Rumors Behind The News

What a Difference a Decade Makes

By Mazook

THOSE CAREFREE DAYS OF YESTERYEAR: Ten years ago, a few weeks before Sept. 11, 2001, this Rumors column was busy reporting the changes on Church Street:

A young restaurateur was opening a coffeehouse at the corner of 30th, in the spot occupied for many years by Acropolis Travel. Across the street, a new sushi bar was packing ’em in like sardines (that’s iwashi on the menu). Nearby, the former Cafe J was about to become a Greek restaurant called Yianni’s. Up the block, Star Bakery was closing after 113 years in the Irish soda bread biz. Speckmann’s German Restaurant, on the corner of Church and Duncan, was being dismantled for an Italian-style retrofitting. Oh, and the Fountain of Youth, a retro ice cream shop at 27th Street, was fizzling.

Ten years later, the coffeehouse is the bustling Cafe XO. The sushi bar that was once Deep Sushi is another busy sushi parlor, Tataki South. Yianni’s folded and was replaced by a Chinese restaurant, Henry’s Hunan. Star Bakery became GetzWell (after spending time as Curves); and the world-famous Speckmann’s Deli and Bierstrube became the world-famous Incanto Restaurant. The Fountain of Youth? Still fleeting. (A nail salon, Noe Valley Nails, sits in its place.)

And a decade since 9-11, the country is still waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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STORES ON THE MOVE: But here in Noe Valley, the carousel keeps turning. First American Title Company will soon open a branch at the corner of Castro and Jersey, in the space formerly occupied by Michelle’s Tailor. (Michelle’s is moving into a renovated spot next door.) First American had been looking to locate in Downtown Noe Valley for a while, we’re told.

The space formerly called Tamasei Sushi on 24th Street near Vicksburg has been leased to a sushi restaurant, Akai Saru. It will open after renovations, a month or two from now.

The Urban Cellars space (3821 24th) has been leased and will once again be a wine shop, to be called Noe Valley Wine Merchants. Down the street, the space where J & J Grocery and Liquor once held forth, at 24th and Chattanooga, is still available.

The Animal Company is quite happy with its move to the former Cover to Cover storefront on Castro Street, two doors down from Walgreen’s. Walk by and you can hear the birds chirping. But the fate of the shop’s old space at 24th and Douglass is still up in the air. Maybe the adjacent Firefly Restaurant could expand—that would warm the hearts of scallop potsticker fans.

The remodel of the former Accent on Flowers should be completed by the last week of September, according to Stephanie Gordon, property manager for the Harry Aleo Family Trust. There will be a party to celebrate and the posting of a “For Rent” sign. The rent, says Gordon, has not yet been determined.

A “For Rent” sign has been hung in the window of 4028B 24th St., where the Cosmic Wizard materialized (for less than two years). It’s sad to see Star Magic’s old space vacant again.

By the middle of September, Bespoke, the custom bicycle shop at the corner of 24th and Castro, will be moving its business to Pacific Heights (Clay and Divisadero). “We don’t want to leave, but our space is just too small,” says Bespokeman and Noe Valley resident Ari Bronzstein. “We were looking for a space of 2,000 square feet in Noe Valley for a year and couldn’t find a place at a rent we could afford.”

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BANK SHOT: No “For Rent” signs are posted in the window at Tuttimelon, the frozen yogurt store at 24th and Sanchez that closed in May. However, the building’s owner has listed the shop on Craigslist at $4,500 per month.

Still, the buzz around the valley last month was that First Republic Bank might want to open a branch at that location.

Michael Halow, a consultant hired by the bank, contacted both Friends of Noe Valley and the Noe Valley Association in July, seeking an opportunity to present First Republic’s plans.

The topic also came up at the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association meeting July 27, although President Bob Roddick said no one representing the bank had yet contacted NVMPA.

Friends of Noe Valley president Todd David told the bank that the neighborhood might be less than enthusiastic about First Republic, since there are already five banks on 24th Street. “But I told them that I, personally, had an open mind and invited the bank to make a presentation at our September meeting.”

Contacted by the Voice, Halow confirmed that First Republic was interested in opening a branch, to better serve First Republic’s Noe Valley clients, he said. The bank, of course, would have to go through, among other things, a city permitting process—one permit for the branch and one for the ATM.

Greg Berardi, a spokesman for the bank itself, said the bank “had no comment at this time,” but he did confirm the bank was planning to attend the next Friends meeting, Sept. 15, 7 p.m., at James Lick Middle School (check Friends’ website).

Meanwhile, the FNV and the NVA are posting a survey for Noe Valley residents and merchants to answer online. You can do it at

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THE HEX OF NINA the fortune teller has been lifted on the smallish (155 square feet) 24th Street space she occupied briefly two years ago. The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) has learned the property went through a foreclosure sale to a bank, which then sold it to a buyer, who had trouble taking possession because Nina’s space had been protected by an alarm system and no one had the code.

But that is all history now, since the space has been transformed into a men’s clothing store called Walkershaw. The shirts, jackets, and vests are designed by Connie Walkershaw and stitched up right here in Noe Valley. Her husband, Jesse, will manage the shop. Their grand opening was on Sunday, Aug. 28, with a party featuring libations and a display of several racks of very masculine-looking apparel.

For the record, this is the first store in many, many years that sells exclusively men’s clothing.

As you no doubt know, Connie Walkershaw is no stranger to the neighborhood. She has taught many of you and your children the art of sewing over the past six years, at her “Sew Salon” on the corner of Castro and ­Jersey.

“Right now we have a weekly average roster of 50 to 60 students ranging in age from 7 to…I think our eldest student just turned 78,” she says. “And opening a retail store on 24th Street is exciting.”

By the way, Jesse and Connie are also core members of a San Francisco band called Go Van Gogh, he playing bass and she playing sax.

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MAYORPALOOZA: So, who are you going to vote for for mayor? Do you understand ranked-choice voting? Do you know who the Noe Valley Democratic Club is endorsing? They were rank-polling their members at press time.

You could have hung out with a bunch of candidates if you’d attended the Demo Club’s Aug. 10 fundraiser at Joe’s Café on 24th Street. The party was overflowing with November office-seekers: mayoral candidates Bevan Dufty and Phil Ting; interim DA George Gasc—n and DA wannabe David Onek; sheriff candidates Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Cunnie, and Paul Miamoto; and probably a few more. Also attending was State Senator (and Noe Valley resident) Mark Leno, who said, to much laughter and appreciation, that he was at the party just to announce “I’m not running for mayor!”

Speaking of which, did you go to the mayoral forum held at James Lick Aug. 25? The NVBI reports that about 120 people attended the debate. Nine candidates faced off, including David Chiu, Noe Valleyan and Green Party candidate Terry Baum, our favorite son and former supe Bevan Dufty, Tony Hall, John Avalos, Joanna Rees, Dennis Herrera, Jeff Adachi, and Leland Yee.

Mayor Ed Lee did not attend, and perhaps for that reason—or because the debate was the third one that week for the candidates—the event had few sparks. However, agents noted in their reports that Baum’s solution to raise money for city services, “Tax the rich, duh,” drew a big applause. And there was a loud gasp by those assembled when, after everyone else ducked the question of who they would appoint as city administrator, not-a-liberal Tony Hall said, “Matt Gonzalez,” one of the most progressive politicians in the city.

Baum also won over the audience when she said she would make Muni free for all San Franciscans.

Works for me.

Nine candidates showed up at the Noe Valley mayoral forum at James Lick School on Aug. 25. But there was one conspicuous absence: Interim Mayor Ed Lee.    Photo by Corrie M. Anders 

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ShOrT ShRiFtS: Rumor is that Giants pitcher Matt Cain and family are moving out of Noe Valley and to the East Bay. Bye-bye, baby.

The huge used-to-be neon Seymour Drug Store sign has been removed from its longtime perch above the Cotton Basics store on the building at Castro and 24th streets. But we can visit it: the icon now resides inside Cotton Basics. “We just couldn’t bear to see the sign go,” says Basics’ Susan Ciochetto.

Neon Monster, the rather eclectic toy and comic-book store on Castro at 22nd, closed its doors at the beginning of August after a four-year run. Must have been the hill.

In the believe-it-or-not department, rumors are circulating that a potential buyer for the Real Food space—a local businessman—is trying to make contact with the building owner, Utah-based Nutraceutical Corporation, to find out what price they might consider for the property.

The local winners in the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s “Best of the Bay” issue were Chloe’s Café (breakfast), Noeteca (wine bar), Drewes Brothers (butcher), Ambiance  (women’s clothing), Shoe Biz (shoe store), and the Ark (toy store). The Guardian’s readers also chose Green 11 as the “Best Refill, Not Landfill” and Suzanne George’s cobbler shop on Church Street as the “Best Leather-Scented Time Warp.”

Mea culpa and apologies to Judy O’Malley for incorrectly correcting my item about the history of the Valley Tavern storefront. It was called Murray’s Bar during the 1940s and ’50s, and then became Murphy’s Irish Inn.

And thanks should go out to First Republic Bank for being one of the sponsors of this year’s Music in the Park event at Noe Courts on Sept. 10.

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS: On Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m., a memorial gathering will be held at the Bank of America branch at 24th and Castro. It will be in honor of much-loved bank teller Jorge Casillas Ramirez, who passed away April 1. Ramirez started working at the bank in 1984 and transferred to the Noe Valley branch in 1996.

“Jorge was best known for his sense of style. He was always impeccably dressed and probably owned more than 200 ties. We often kidded him that he was the ‘senior’ teller, but he wasn’t just a teller who took your transaction,” says Noe Valley Branch Manager Becky Feijoo. “He knew his customers very well.

“Almost daily someone still comes in asking if Jorge is still on vacation,” Feijoo says. “We have created a journal which bank customers have filled up with their memories of Jorge.”

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THAT’S ALL, y’all.