Noe Valley Voice March 2007

Store Trek

By Lorraine Sanders

Store Trek is a regular feature of the Noe Valley Voice, profiling new shops and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we spotlight two stores that have recently changed ownership and expanded their inventory.

Noe Valley Natural Foods
3813 24th Street at Church Street

When Armida Paez, husband Francisco, brother George Montiel, and mother Caroline Perez decided to open Noe Valley Natural Foods in the storefront formerly occupied by Jim and Son's Produce, they had no idea that the neighborhood had spent the last three years suffering the loss of the Real Food/Fresh Organics store on 24th Street. They soon found out.

In the first few weeks following their Dec. 1 opening at 24th and Church streets, the family received ample input from concerned neighbors who feared the store's new owners would stop carrying fresh produce. Luckily, Paez and her family were planning just the opposite. "When we started getting more comments from people, it really encouraged us to bring in more organics," says the mother of two and former office manager at UCSF.

From the outset, stocking healthy foods of all kinds was one of the family's primary goals. While they're too young to work at the store, Paez's sons Alex, 9, and Paco, 4, are a large part of the inspiration for Noe Valley Natural Foods' focus on nutritious foods.

"I have a son that struggles with weight, and I do too," Paez says. "I've always been very frustrated with school lunches, and I've been trying to learn more about health foods for my kids."

Now about half the market's produce is organic, and the owners plan to keep that ratio constant.

"There are people in the neighborhood who are used to having conventional produce, and we don't want to take that away," Paez says.

Among the organic offerings are apples, pears, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, and red chard. A six-foot display of organic grains, baking ingredients, nuts, and dried fruits greets patrons as they enter the store. All of the store's produce comes from local farmers who display their goods at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market. In addition to organics, Noe Valley Natural Foods now stocks an increased supply of basic and specialty grocery items, including gourmet cookies, crackers, olive oils, preserves, juices, pasta, and sauces.

Every week, the family meets to discuss the store's inventory. Customer input and suggestions for new items are welcome.

"We kind of put our heads together. Mom and I are the ones who do the flowers. The guys don't get involved in that," Paez says, laughing. The two women buy the store's fresh flowers from local growers at the San Francisco Flower Mart.

What's next for this new Noe Valley shop? As soon as they can install the proper refrigeration units, Paez and family plan to beef up the store's offerings with a selection of organic meats and cheeses.

Noe Valley Natural Foods is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

1306 Castro Street at 24th Street

Over the last year, longtime Noe Valley retailer Peekabootique has gotten a makeover. When Mike Stanton and Michele Furlong took over the children's clothing boutique in late 2005, they knew they had lots of work to do.

"The store before was dark. The carpet was worn through, and half of the lights weren't working. We just wanted to create a bright, friendly, open environment," explains Stanton.

Stanton, who owns the ad agency Agit Prop, and Michele Furlong, a mortgage broker, have updated almost every aspect of the store, right down to the hang tags punched into the clothing. In addition to a new citrus-hued awning that stands out from its neighbors even on the foggiest San Francisco days, pint-sized patrons now walk away with helium balloons sporting a new company logo. Stanton and Furlong also opened up rooms once used as office and storage space to increase the retail square footage by about 35 percent, Stanton estimates.

With more space, the shop has more room for inventory from local designers, including Connie Walkershaw, Pixel, and Stanton's own line of kids' clothing emblazoned with the label Made in San Francisco. Automoblox toy cars, Crocs shoes, Plan Toys products, the California Baby organic bath and skin care line, colorful Baby Legs tights, and McLaren strollers are among the other new items to arrive in the store over the past year.

But the new additions haven't gotten in the way of the store's original niche: used children's clothing. "We actually have more used [clothing] than before," Stanton says.

While in the past, patrons could bring secondhand clothing to sell or trade anytime during store hours, the store now requires sellers to make appointments during established buying hours (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 1 to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The store requests that folks who want to sell their used clothing bring a maximum of two large bags per appointment. Any clothing in good condition--for expecting moms or for kids sizes newborn to 6--will be considered, but Stanton says he and Furlong only buy seasonally appropriate items and often need kid sizes 3T to 5T.

Unlike consignment stores, Peekabootique buys clothing from sellers, who can opt to take their payment in cash or trade. The store will begin accepting spring and summer items at the end of the month.

Peekabootique is open Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.