Noe Valley Voice October 2009

This Land Is Your Land: Folksinger Pete Seeger and friend Carmen Mendieta spent a relaxing Indian summer afternoon in Noe Valley on Sept. 17. After stopping by Noe Valley Music and Savor Restaurant, they visited Phoenix Books, where they found enthusiastic company and fascinating literature. Photo by Pamela Gerard

Rumors Behind the News

Back to the Future Again

By Mazook

STAR MAGIC: THE SECOND GENERATION is what longtime Noe Valleyan Robert Hanfling is calling the space he has rented from Elisa Ining in front of her venerable Health Spa at 4028 24th Street. (The previous tenant was Simply Chic.)

Hanfling, aka "Quicksilver," opened a store called Star Magic (with then-business partner Justin Moreau) at that location in 1979. The pair originally launched the shop under the name Gifts of the Magi in the storefront on the corner of 24th and Noe where Starbucks currently pours.

As neighborhood oldtimers will remember, Star Magic became a true "star" in Downtown Noe Valley. It was a place where amateur astrologers and astronomers, those into astral arts and celestial charts, could mix and mingle while staring into beautiful stones, crystal objects, stained glass, mobiles, toys, and statuary; listening to spacy New Age music while "wow"-ing at the light show on the ceiling and peering into elaborate display cases (which were manufactured by Hanfling's other business, Magic Glass, and distributed worldwide).

In 1982, Star Magic opened another store on Broadway in New York City, which also became an instant success. By 1988, Hanfling and Moreau sold their interest in the business to a New York investor who took over control. Over the next nine years, the "magic" was replaced by "schlock," and the Noe Valley business finally closed in February 1998, with the New York owner being evicted. You can go online to the March 1998 Noe Valley Voice, where Voice reporter Denise Minor tells the sad story under the headline: "Star Magic Now a Black Hole." (FYI, Quicksilver nee Hanfling is and has been, since 2001, producer of San Francisco's New Living Expo as well as the Whole Life Expo in Los Angeles.)

Hanfling ("I prefer to be called Quicksilver") says he and his son Michael are the ones partnering up now, to rekindle the Magic one more time.

"My son and I have rented the space from Elisa for the last three months of the year to create a second generation of our Star Magic gift shop for the 2009 holiday season, and hopefully word will get out and the neighborhood will support this project," says Quicksilver. "Our inventory [will] include more contemporary items relating to ecology and have more natural clothing and a good mix of gift items," he says.

Michael, aka "Three Satza," will be managing the store's daily operations, and Quicksilver says the doors should be open by the middle of October. As for beyond Dec. 31, 2009, "We will see how it goes, and as a gift of our own, we will be giving a 10 percent discount to neighborhood residents who can show us a 94114 or 94131 zip code on their driver's license or ID card."

The store may have a good chance of succeeding on our commercial strip. Yes, it's still Very Noe Valley (VNV).

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A VNV HOLIDAY SEASON officially starts on Oct. 24 with the neighborhood Harvest Festival and Street Faire on 24th Street between Church and Sanchez streets. It's sponsored by the Noe Valley Association (NVA), the Friends of Noe Valley (FNV), and the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association (NVMPA). The NVA and NVMPA have invested in some new holiday lighting.

The NVMPA will also be sponsoring the hayride during the festival. The horse-driven wagon will leave Walgreen's starting at 11 a.m. and clip-clop down to Sanchez.

NVMPA "pro-tem" president and NVA chairman Robert T. Roddick has also confirmed that the two associations have obtained the permits and insurance to offer a Harvest Festival bonus: an outdoor screening of Lost in the Fog at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, in the "Harry Aleo Parking Lot" (the city parking lot on 24th Street just below Castro).

As anyone reading this column knows, Lost in the Fog was a world-class racehorse owned by an eccentric Noe Valley realtor, Harry Aleo, whose Twin Peaks Properties (across the street from the parking lot) was in business for over 60 years, until Aleo died last year.

Aleo gained national attention for his political window displays, which were and still are a Downtown Noe Valley window-shopper-stopper. Way back in 1959, about 20 merchants banded together and bought the vacant lot (actually, it was the site of a public meeting place which had been demolished) and gifted it to the city. It got turned into a parking lot to help the stores along our commercial strip. Now, thanks to the NVA, it has a mini-park and bulletin board, too.

The movie, by the way, was produced by Noe Valley filmmaker John Corey, who was born and raised here. He heard about the famous sprinter, introduced himself to the owner, and decided to tell the story of Harry and his horse. For those who have not seen the documentary, do mark your calendars and bring some popcorn, a blanket, and for greater comfort, maybe even a collapsible chair.

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THE HARRY ALEO STORY also appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal's weekend edition for Sept. 19. In a story headlined, "In Left-Leaning San Francisco, There Was Something About Harry," writer Conor Dougherty describes Aleo as "a conservative gadfly known for sparring with his liberal neighbors," and quotes one of Harry's most quoted aphorisms, describing his office as "an island of traditional conservative values in a sea of latte-sipping liberal loonies."

The WSJ story focused on the current efforts of Downtown Noe Valley Realtor Joel Panzer to preserve and archive Aleo's personal effects so they might someday be exhibited in a museum. It looks like the probate case involving Aleo's estate will be finalized sometime around the end of the year. All this personal property and the four buildings owned by Aleo, including his office and adjacent stores (and the private parking lot in the rear of those stores), will be placed in a trust for the benefit of his three children. The trustee is longtime friend Anthony Lyau, who you might remember was the manager of the Noe Valley branch of the Bank of America. Lyau retired from the bank in March of 2005.

According to Panzer and Lyau, they are working to get Aleo's memorabilia added to the Noe Valley Archives. Panzer says he has talked with the curator of the Archives, Bill Yenne, who has been storing papers and artifacts accumulated by neighborhood historian Paul Kantus. (Kantus, who died last November, was the chief organizer of the Noe Valley History Day event held annually at the Noe Valley-Sally Brunn Library.)

When pressed on the WSJ story, Panzer said he realized it might be difficult to find a space in Noe Valley for an Aleo museum. Lyau says by next spring Harry's office will be cleared and put on the market for lease.

Hey, how about renting it to someone who could call the business "Harry's Place" and leave all of Aleo's banners and clippings in the front window?

Or better yet, how about building some water- and vandal-proof display cases on the walls of the parking lot/mini-park and call it Harry Aleo Plaza?

The WSJ writer Dougherty, by the way, was born and raised right here in 94114, and knew of Harry in the olden days.

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WHOLE DAY WHOLE FOODS: The bread-breaking ceremony at the grand opening (9:45 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 30) of Whole Foods was also très Valley-Noe. It was attended by well over 100 friends and neighbors, the press, a score of police officers backing up our 24th Street beat officer Lorraine Lombardo, who stationed herself at the front of the parking lot on her bicycle, and a gaggle of Whole Foods personnel ready to deal with the traffic problems that would be created by the onslaught of 94114/94131 locals who had been anxiously waiting to shop at the store.

The San Francisco Chronicle heralded the event in Andrew Ross' column on that morning's page 1 of the Business section. Ross also reported, "There have been calls by 'Boycott Whole Foods' supporters on Facebook 'to raise a ruckus [at the opening].'" He suggested that the protest might be similar to the "rakes" that was reportedly created by a group in Oakland at a store opening last week. Ross, who lives in 94131--Glen Park now, and used to live in Upper Noe Valley--was there for what appeared would be a demonstration.

Even the Noe Valley Voice had two reporters and a photographer at the event when we learned from our Google Alert that a group called "San Francisco Citizen" was encouraging members and friends to go to the ceremony and protest Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's very public statements about his very conservative approach to health care reform. There were no rakes and no demonstrations. About five protesters did appear on the sidewalk in front of the store, and they peacefully handed out information about the single-payer plan.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who was instrumental in coordinating city permits to facilitate reopening the market, spoke very briefly and invited everyone to follow him into the store.

On his way in, Dufty handed Joe Rogoff, who is in charge of Whole Foods Northern California, a letter addressed to John Mackey, welcoming Whole Foods to Noe Valley and expressing appreciation of their commitment to San Francisco. However, writes Bevan, "I am concerned that today's celebration has been affected by national issues related to health care and the employee Free Choice Act legislation pending in Congress." Dufty enclosed the Kaiser Family Foundation report on Healthy San Francisco, and asked Mackey "to reconsider his views."

Of course, 24th Street was jammed that whole day as seemingly thousands of people showed up to shop--or at least survey--the new store.

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SHORT SHRIFTS: Updating the updates on the opening of Noeteca Café and Wine Bar on Dolores and Valley: yes, it finally got the final-final from city inspectors, and the doors opened on the second day of October, after a six-month permit delay, despite the help of Bevan Dufty....

There are no takers yet for renting the Riki space or the space vacated by GNC on 24th Street, and the real estate agents for those spaces indicate that the only non-food inquiries are coming from people who want to open a yoga studio, exercise gym, or nail salon....

Over at the Streetlight Records building, which is for sale, the broker for the owner says he is getting many inquiries from those who want to open a restaurant or some type of food service business....

Meanwhile, Chris Matthews, manager of Old Republic Title Company, said he was very pleased that he opened the doors for business on Sept. 28, and called it a good move for his office, which used to be located in the Upper Market neighborhood.

We learned at the end of the month that Noe Valley's candidate for "worst man of the year," TV reality show Wife Swap bad boy Stephen Fowler and his wife were moving out of the neighborhood and put their 25th Street Victorian house on the market for $2.8 million. Conversely, the Twitter CEO was putting his SOMA loft on the market for just under $1.5 million and moving to a Noe Valley Victorian.

La Boulange is set to open its new location at 24th and Sanchez sometime around the middle of November, according to co-owner Thomas Lefort, with open hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m....

Mi Lindo Yucatan restaurant (which got good reviews from critics and patrons) closed unceremoniously on the last day of September, having been on a month-to-month tenancy and given notice to vacate....

The blogs reported that workers allegedly in Real Food's to prepare for a reopening were in fact there only to replace some broken windows and ugly writings on the storefront. They were gone within two days....

A dance studio looks to be opening in the space vacated by Andiamo on corner of Diamond and Elizabeth streets.... And yes, that was folksinging icon Pete Seeger and friend Carmen Mendieta spending a relaxing Indian summer afternoon at Savor, then paying a visit to Noe Valley Music, and finally browsing and chatting with the staff at Phoenix Books and Records.

Finally, it was quite awesome how quickly Just Awesome Games moved out of its Diamond Street store after co-owner Erik Mantsch sent the Voice a message on Sept. 30, announcing that the board game store "will be moving during the month of October," because "fate has extended us the opportunity to grow and relocate the store to a different location, and with our current situation this is something we can't pass up."

When contacted later that day at the store on Diamond, where business seemed to be normal, Mantsch said he was not able to say exactly when or where the store would move, but hoped he could stay in Noe Valley. The next day, Oct. 1, the store was empty, with only a note on the door telling people where to inquire about their gift certificates.

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SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT COMING: The calm in Downtown Noe Valley was shattered a minute after two o'clock in the afternoon of Sept. 11. Witnesses report that a Jeep pulled up in front of Nina's Fortune Telling salon, which opened last month on 24th Street near Noe, and two women got out of the vehicle, rushed into Nina's salon, and started slapping her face and screaming. Somebody phoned 911 and a police car came upon the scene about a minute later. The officers broke up the fight, detained and cited the two perpetrators, and sent Nina to San Francisco General Hospital. She returned to the shop about three hours later, seemingly all right.

According to police reports, Nina Stevens told them there was an ongoing family feud over two separate psychic shops owned by the family. Evidently, the two women charged in the assault have a psychic shop down near 24th and Mission, and they were upset that Nina opened her shop so close to their shop. A hearing on the criminal charges has been continued to November.

It appears that Nina's family also filed, four days later, a petition against the two women for civil restraining orders in Superior Court to stop the "harassment," and they have obtained a temporary restraining order pending the November hearing.

According to San Francisco Police Inspector Gregory Ovanessian, who happens to be a nationally recognized expert in the psychic businesses field, there is an unwritten rule that psychics will not compete with other psychics within a three-block radius. In San Francisco, says Ovanessian, all psychics must be registered with the Police Department and only then can they give readings, obtain a business license for the location, and post their fees on the wall.

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THAT'S 30 for this month, folks. See you all at the Harvest Festival or at the horse movie. Ciao for now.