| September 2012
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By Heather World
End of the Run: July saw the closing of a Noe Valley institution, Tuggey’s Hardware. The venerable icon had served 24th Street shoppers for over 100 years. What will fill the storefront? A new kind of service business, one that Tuggey’s owner Denny Giovannoli hopes you’ll find just as helpful. Photo by Jack Tipple
Venerable Tuggey’s Hardware closed its doors July 16 after serving Noe Valleyans for 114 years, but owner Denny Giovannoli isn’t sad, and he hopes the neighborhood won’t be, either.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy, and I really loved what I did,” said Giovannoli, 63, reveling in retirement at his San Anselmo home. “I was very fortunate to be able to walk away with a great retirement because it’s a great neighborhood.”
The decision to close wasn’t easy, and he could have tried to re-tool the store, he said. But the trend toward shopping online and at big box stores—with their unmetered parking lots—sealed the deal.
“Everything changes,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just changed.”
Giovannoli still owns the one-story building at 3885 24th St., and he had hoped to lease it to another hardware business. He soon realized the rent could not be made low enough, however. Restaurants and clothing stores approached him to lease the space, but he demurred, holding out for a more unique tenant.
“I wanted to make sure whoever came in would be an asset to the neighborhood,” he said.
Enter One Medical Group, a San Francisco–based chain of private physician offices whose mission is to combine old-fashioned medical care with modern technology, according to founder Dr. Tom Lee. The group is currently renovating Tuggey’s spot, with plans to open later this fall. Lee said One Medical sought the 24th Street location because the company’s other Noe Valley location, at Sanchez and 23rd streets (formerly called the Noe Valley Clinic), could not keep up with demand.
Like at other doctor offices, services at One Medical are covered by clients’ insurance. Unlike at other offices, One Medical patients pay a $199 annual membership fee. The fee, Lee said, means the medical group can offer on-time, same-day appointments and 24-hour-a-day email and phone access to physicians.
“The key ingredient we’ve added back in is time,” said Lee, who is also a co-founder of Epocrates, an online medical reference program for physicians.
The new practice on 24th Street likely will have three MDs, plus physicians assistants and “complementary and alternative specialists” like an acupuncturist and a nutritionist, Lee said.
With his space requirements, Lee felt lucky to have secured the former hardware store.
“We love Tuggey’s and what it represents,” Lee said. He’s asked his design team to incorporate elements of the former business. “We want to honor the history of the space.”
Tough as Nails for Over a Century
The history is long. Tuggey’s opened under a different name in 1898, Giovannoli said. Why, then, did the sign outside his store date it to 1900?
“Purely cost,” he said. “It was cheaper to go with two zeroes than “98.”
The original Tuggey, William, bought the one-year-old business in 1899 and passed it along to his son, Gene. Gene Tuggey hired Giovannoli’s dad, a neighbor, to do deliveries, eventually selling him the business in 1957. Giovannoli’s dad sold it to him in 1976. At each sale, the ownership of the building changed hands too, Giovannoli said.
Giovannoli’s ties to the neighborhood are deep. He was a store proprietor who offered free handyman advice to generations of residents needing everything from socket wrenches to sandpaper. Friendships developed over burned-out bulbs, lost keys, and broken pipes.
“I have more friends in Noe Valley than over here [in San Anselmo], and I have plenty of friends here,” Giovannoli said.
While he doesn’t miss the 10 hours a week of commuting and the $900 a month in bridge tolls and gas, he does plan to come back now and again to see his Noe Valley friends, he said.
He may make new San Francisco friends, too. Hardware beckons, and he’s been in contact with the owners of Cliff’s Variety over in the Castro.
“I might work there a couple days a week,” he said.