Noe Valley Voice May 2004

Store Trek

Store Trek is a column that usually profiles new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. But this month we feature two existing merchants, who have expanded into bigger and better storefronts on 24th Street.


3985 and 3989 24th Street near Noe Street

415-647-7144 and 415-647-5800

No, there is no secret door joining the new Ambiance (3989 24th Street) with the old Ambiance next door (3985 24th Street). You must actually walk out the front door of one Ambiance and walk 10 steps over to the other. But since both stores appear to be packed at all hours, this does not seem to be an impediment to dedicated Noe Valley clothes hawks.

When Ambiance decided to expand into the former Workwear space in February, owners Donna and Kieran O'Leary chose to put in new hardwood floors and then to dedicate the old storefront to shoes, an entire "Wall of Shoes," in fact. Along with the shoes is a vast collection of purses, plus saleware from both 24th Street stores and from the O'Learys' two other Ambiances, on Haight Street and Union Street.

The new Ambiance, with the fancy black-and-white awning, is the mirror image of the old Ambiance, except that the jewelry counter is now on the left as you walk in the door. The shop is filled to overflowing with the kind of romantic women's clothing that has made Ambiance a magnet for the young and trendy.

The feminine threads run the gamut in price, from Necessities T-shirts ($20) to Betsey Johnson chiffon dresses ($200). Ambiance also has an abundance of blouses, skirts, pants, and lingerie. Standouts in early April included a black-and-white stretchy shell by Dess ($20), a raspberry red sweatshirt by Tabitha ($95), and slinky Joe's Jeans ($125). In the shoe department, spring pumps in pink or black, from Kenneth Cole's Reaction line, were skipping out the door for $79.

Ambiance encourages fun and diversity. "We've got something for everyone, from hair clips for 5-year-olds to comfortable shoes for Grandma," says assistant manager Aimee Bullington, who is somehow able to multi-task and talk about the store while serving three customers at once. "We serve hip women from the Mission and Noe Valley moms with their kids in strollers."

The O'Learys launched Ambiance about eight years ago. Donna O'Leary was a manager for Georgiou before that, and says Ambiance's success is due to Basic Retailing 101: great clothes and excellent customer service.

The new and old Ambiance are open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

See Jane Run Sports

3910 24th Street near Sanchez


It wasn't a huge move for Lori Shannon. Her sports shop, See Jane Run, had been operating successfully on 24th Street next to Martha's Coffee for four years. But when the opportunity arose in March to take over a larger spot one block away--on 24th near Sanchez--Shannon decided to make the leap.

Now, in the storefront previously occupied by Toko Imports, See Jane Run has basically moved the same amount of stock into a much bigger box. The result is a dramatic improvement, with the shop taking on an almost suburban air. More space surrounding the displays means more room for customers to browse, and the entire rear of the store is now dedicated to footwear.

Though it has more space, and a cool yellow floor, the new See Jane Run is not much different from the old one in the inventory (or philosophy) department. Its mission is still to provide a non-threatening atmosphere in which women can buy sports apparel at their own pace. As marketing manager Jessica Fewless says, "We serve everyone from triathletes to women deciding for the first time to jog around the block. Our girls will spend 45 minutes with any customer--she can try on 10 pairs of shoes if she likes."

The clothing and accessories are available at all prices--water bottles or Fox River running socks are $10; Hind Sports tops are $20 to $30; Champion sports bras also run $20 to $30; Prauna climbing and yoga pants sell in the $30 to $40 range; Timbuktu bags are $30 to $100; and you can spend as much as $135 for Saucony or Asics running shoes, though most shoes cost considerably less. Check out the Merrill After Sports purple mules for $65.

Fewless, a triathlete herself, is excited to announce that See Jane Run is sponsoring a Triathlon Training Program, in which 150 women are already participating--with the program set to expand to 200 by summer. The first annual See Jane Tri is set for Lake Berryessa on Oct. 9.

Obviously, the store has tapped into a rapidly growing desire among women to first become fit and then expand their athletic horizons. (Along those lines, Shannon has opened a second See Jane Run in Oakland's Rockridge District.)

Hours at the new 24th Street digs are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See Jane Run will hold a housewarming party on Thursday, May 13. So you are advised to run or walk on over to the shop and see Jane eat cheese and drink wine with all the guests. Everyone who comes in to say hello will also receive a free gift.

Remember also that every Sunday morning, See Jane Run sponsors a 5K Fun Run. It steps off from in front of the store at 10 a.m.

--Doug Konecky