| April 2012
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CURMUDGEONS “R” US: Why are so many doggone drivers hanging U-turns in Downtown Noe Valley (DNV), just so they can zoom into an empty parking space across the street. Geez! Give me a break.
And what about all those people who turn left out of the Whole Foods parking lot? They do it despite the hazards of oncoming traffic, double-parked vehicles, right-of-way drivers going around cars waiting to turn into Whole Foods, and jaywalking pedestrians crossing the street to admire the murals covering the front window of the vacant Real Food Company. Don’t they see the two signs warning them not to?! I would respectfully suggest that the city install a “Right Turn Only” sign under the “No Left Turn” symbol opposite the parking lot exit. Then maybe violators would get two moving violations when the police step up their traffic enforcement.
Oh, and while we are grousing at Whole Foods, why can’t we pick up a container of the fantastic Buffalo Chili that was served in the hot-food bar a year ago but now has been replaced with yucky Espresso Chili? And as long as we are in that section of their otherwise wonderful food market, why do we always have to march to the other side of the store to weigh the food? It’s sold by the pound. Food here, scales there.
I don’t know why, but it also bugs me that a small store on the corner of Noe and 15th streets in Eureka Valley is called the Noe Valley Market. In addition, it’s an irritation that “Eureka Valley” was lost to “the Castro.” Of course, if it were up to me, I would revive the cable car that used to run over the Castro Street hill from 24th Street to “the Castro.”
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REAL GROUCHY: I’m also annoyed to the max that the Utah-based Nutraceutical Corporation abruptly closed the Real Food Company on Labor Day 2003, apparently because its employees wanted to organize a union. The year before, the owner of the building—and founder of Real Food—had sold Nutra the grocery and leased them the space. But Nutra later discovered the building needed a new foundation and other repairs, including shoring up a collapsing roof. Meantime, the employees went to the NLRB, and won a favorable judgment. And the landlord went to court and reached a settlement with Nutraceutical that gave the corporation ownership of the building. It’s been empty ever since, just to blight Noe Valley.
The barren wall at that particular spot on 24th Street (3939) reminds me of the “spite fence” that Charles “Railroad Baron” Crocker erected in 1876 between his Nob Hill mansion and his neighbor’s house next-door. The neighbor, a German undertaker named Nicolas Yung, had refused to sell. So Crocker put up a fence so high it blocked Yung’s views and sunlight.
As for the 24th Street building, public records show that the property in the Nutraceutical settlement was valued at close to $5 million and that their property taxes, around $50,000 a year, continue to be paid in full.
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CROSS AT THE CORNER: And why oh why hasn’t the City and County of San Francisco, through its many departments, done something about the long-existing hazards at the intersection of 24th and Church? Hello! Simply install a good old red-yellow-green traffic light, so everybody knows when they can safely drive across in their car, tricycle, skateboard, wheelchair, bus, or whatever conveyance—and don’t forget the real live walking pedestrian, the most at risk in this four-way stop-and-go disaster zone.
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Tuggey’s Hardware owner Denny Giovannoli is contemplating retirement after 37 years of running a neighborhood institution. Photo by Sally Smith
MONKEY WRENCH: It grieves me to no end that at some time in the foreseeable future I will no longer be able to go to Tuggey’s Hardware store to get the missing items I need to keep the house glued together. Looks like I’ll have to go over the hill (on my cable car) to Cliff’s Variety in Eureka Valley. But not yet.
There have been rumors for months in Downtown Noe Valley that Tuggey’s owner, Denny Giovannoli, is going to retire. Still, it was a shock when at the beginning of March the commercial blogs broadcast the news that the building he owns at 3883 24th St.—and its 1,690 square feet of store space—is being offered for lease. What!? Not Tuggey’s! The store has been a fixture in Noe for 114 years.
Also shocking was the fact that someone posing on Twitter as Tuggey’s Hardware (@Tuggeyshardware) was sending out tweets like, “Hope Noe Valley enjoys shopping at lowes or home depot next year!!” and “sad to see how much my neighborhood has changed the past 10 years. Yuppies have forced the working class out of Noe Valley.”
Perplexed about the tone, an agent from the Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) went to the store to determine who, if anyone, was doing the tweeting. The employees and later Giovannoli himself emphatically denied the tweets were coming from them—the store has no computer, no Twitter account, no e-nothing. It’s brick and mortar after all.
However, Giovannoli did confess he was going to retire, as soon as he found a good tenant for the space.
Maybe you don’t know that Giovannoli started working in the store when he was 12 years old, and bought the business from his dad in 1976. His father, Bob Giovannoli, acquired the store in 1957 from Gene Tuggey, whose own father, William Tuggey, founded it in 1898.
“I have been here for 37 years now, and have been thinking about retiring for the past two years,” says Denny Giovannoli, who commutes from San Anselmo. “I decided that I would let my representative negotiate the lease for me. If it takes some time, I am in no hurry because I love the neighborhood.”
Giovannoli says he’s thankful for his many loyal customers. “I’ve been really fortunate all these years to be in this neighborhood. It attracts nice people, it always has.”
He’ll keep the hardware store open until the new tenant moves in, but that may take a while, he says. So in the meantime he’s holding Trade Tuesdays—get-togethers at Tuggey’s for “coffee, commerce, and conversation.” They’re 9 a.m. to noon every Tuesday.
As for what he plans to do after he retires, Giovannoli wants first to take his family on a trip to Italy to reconnect with his heritage.
But what about his ties to Noe Valley?
“It’s not like I am leaving forever,” he says. “I love the neighborhood. We are thinking about moving to the city.”
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HARDWARE SOFTWARE: On the blogs and in the tweets that Giovannoli never sees, there are a lot of ideas about what should fill Tuggey’s space, with “another hardware store” coming up most often. But who is going to have enough money to rent the place? Ah, the drama of it all.
If you’re the one, the person to contact is Chris Homs at Terranomics Real Estate Group (chris_homs@terronomics or 415-677-0456). Terranomics promises that the new business will have “excellent visibility and great foot traffic” and will “join area tenants such as Whole Foods Market, Patxi Pizza, See Jane Run, La Boulange, and many other exciting retailers and restaurants in the heart of bustling Noe Valley.”
News Flash! The NVBI has just discovered that a group of investors has parlayed $10 million to buy Giovannoli’s building and develop the property as a state-of-the-art theater complex with a parking garage, 40 apartments, and a penthouse restaurant and bar with panoramic views of Noe Valley and Twin Peaks.
Gotcha—April Fool’s! Hey, for $10 million, maybe those investors could buy the Real Food Company.
Okay, I’ll stop whining now. Really.
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EARTH DAY HURRAY: Kudos to longtime (30 years) Noe Valleon Paula Ginsburg, who has just retired from teaching in the SFUSD. Back in 1990, she started a conservation project to bring environmental awareness and activism to her special ed students. The One Simple Thing Project has evolved into a poster campaign involving thousands of students and hundreds of cafes in San Francisco.
The kids tell us that one simple thing we can avoid doing every day is grabbing too many napkins. One or two will do.
Ginsburg has recently published a children’s book, One Simple Thing, which is available at Phoenix Books, Just for Fun, and Bernie’s Coffee (as well as other places around town like the Conservatory of Flowers).
The first Earth Day, you might recall, was back in 1970, when a forward-looking group of 20 million Americans led by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (Dem.) and Congressman Pete McCloskey (Rep.) staged a “teach-in for the environment” and took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate against the deterioration of our planet. Oil spills, polluting power plants and factories, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, and the loss of wilderness had a lot of people freaked out, and plenty of us still are.
This year, on Sunday, April 22, many folks are going to congregate at 9 a.m. in Dolores Park and march down to the Civic Center Plaza at 10 a.m., where there will be workshops, live music, and speakers.
Kudos should also go out to a very widely read Noe Valley author: Sonia Faleiro, who has just had her critically acclaimed work Beautiful Thing released in the United States. Says Faleiro, “[This] is a work of non-fiction based on five years of reportage in Bombay’s dance bars.”
According to Faleiro, the book was first published last year in the UK and was rated a Guardian, Observer, and Economist Book of the Year. It got rave reviews in the New York Times. Check out book critic Dwight Garner’s Feb. 29 story, headlined “For Some Women, the Misery of Mumbai’s Dance Bars Looks Like a Big Step Up.”
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PEOPLE’S PARK: Dolores Park must have been rocking on Saturday, March 31 (after this paper went to press), at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the fantastic new Helen Diller Children’s Playground. Invitees included Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor Scott Wiener, Rec and Park GM Phil Ginsburg, and Mrs. Helen Diller herself. Music was provided by the jazzy jammin’ band Orange Sherbet.
The first weekend in March was sunny and warm in Noe Valley—spring had sprung in a big way. An SFist blog reported that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg joined the thousands who took off their coats and flocked to Dolores Park. It called the gathering a “yuppie-hipster reduction sauce.” Zuckerberg reportedly was seen walking on 29th Street to Mission Street, where he had drinks at the very popular Royal Cuckoo. By the way, that night’s music was world-class: saxophone legend Jules Broussard with Chris Burns on the Hammond organ.
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SHORT SHRIFTS: Whole Foods has withdrawn the application it filed last year with Alcoholic Beverage Control for a license to sell spirits… Luv a Java, which has been serving coffee since 2004 on the corner of 26th and Dolores, has now gotten the go-ahead to start selling soup, sandwiches, salads, and other easily prepared food… Last month Chloe’s Café celebrated the 25th anniversary of it’s celebrated brunchery… The Noe Valley Chamber Music Series has been packing them in at their location one Sunday a month in Holy Innocents Episcopal Church at 455 Fair Oaks St. The series has been there since the Noe Valley Ministry shut down for remodeling over a year ago… Congrats to Noe Valley’s Ben Fong Torres, who was drawing crowds at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center for his interviews with Taj Mahal at the end of December and Maria Muldaur at the end of March…And finally, Scott Wiener’s chief of staff, Gillian Gillett, has taken a new job at the mayor’s office. Her replacement is none other than Andres “Parklet” Power.
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THAT’S ALL, YOU ALL: Have some April Fool’s fun and return, come what May. Oh, if you have any Noe Valley grouses or gripes, send them to my editors along with your phone number. I’ll give you a ring and we can commiserate. Ciao for now.