Noe Valley Voice July-August 2010

Store Trek

By Karen Topakian

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we introduce two new businesses in the 3900 block of 24th Street: Joseph Andrade Floral and Sway, a women's apparel shop.

JoAnn Andriese selects flowers for a bouquet at 24th Street’s newest florist, Joseph Andrade Floral. Photo by Pamela Gerard

Joseph Andrade Floral
3961 24th Street between Sanchez and Noe

Were you one of the lucky people who received a free orchid or votive candle from Joseph Andrade Floral? If so, you can stop by the floral design studio located at 3961 24th Street and thank Joseph Andrade in person.

Shortly after opening on May 20, Andrade began an eight-week sidewalk giveaway to introduce his business to Noe Valley. "A great way to get to know people is to offer them something--a keepsake," says Andrade, who is a specialist in everything floral, from arranging to designing to teaching. "I've always been in flowers."

He began his career at age 12 in an after-school job at a local florist's. After owning floral businesses in Chicago, New York, and L.A. (where he once provided weekly flower services for actor Harrison Ford), he launched Joseph Andrade Floral on Geary Boulevard near Polk, where he flourished for five years.

Moving to 24th Street made good sense, however. "People who live here shop here," says Andrade, who resides in the South of Market area. "I know Noe Valley as being loyal to independent business."

In Noe, Andrade is intent on providing "affordable elegance. You can come in with $10 and walk out with something," perhaps a mini flower arrangement for $7.50. His bestselling item--a bouquet of mint, garden roses, scented geraniums, and sweet peas--goes for $15.

Located in the former home of Artsake, the shop, now painted a eucalyptus green, has a variety of blooms, tools to make floral displays at home, tree roots that serve as vessels for orchids, branches of birch and willow, and bamboo, moss, and dried pods--"anything of nature that can be dried and preserved," says Andrade.

Vases, starting at $5, are organized by color. "I keep everything in blocks of colors to make it easy to work," says Andrade. "I'm big on color."

Walk-in customers account for most but not all of his business. "I specialize in commercial businesses that need floral arrangements on a weekly basis and see it as a necessity, not a luxury," says Andrade, who delivers fresh arrangements twice a month for a minimum charge of $50. An example of his larger displays can be seen at Fresca restaurant on 24th Street.

Joseph Andrade Floral also offers a full range of services for weddings and other celebrations. "We assist with invitations, theme parties, venues, food, catering--anything you would need to put an event together, or we can just do the flowers," says Andrade.

The arrangements often live beyond their day (or night) of glory. "We encourage our clients to repurpose, to donate them to hospices and hospitals for the full extent of their life." For a nominal fee, he'll deliver the flowers for you.

Andrade believes that what sets him apart from other florists is his design classes. "I specialize in design D-I-Y [do-it-yourself] assistance," he says.

In July, he will start hosting monthly Saturday-morning class in floral design from 8 to 9 a.m., for 10 to 12 people for $50. He wants to show that you can "buy ordinary flowers and make something extraordinary. It's about how you put it together," says Andrade.

Photos of his arrangements can be found on his website, but "no business can be done online," says Andrade. "I'm an old-fashioned proprietor. I like to meet people."

Joseph Andrade Floral is open seven days a week: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Managers Daniela Belo (left) and Katrina Cairo model fashions at Sway, a shop now occupying the former Streetlight Records. Photo by Pamela Gerard

3979 24th Street

"There's a story behind every shopping trip. Our salespeople should find it out," says Jason Knight, co-owner of Sway, the newly opened women's clothing and accessories store at 3979 24th Street. "Customers are the reasons we exist."

Once Sway's salespeople find out what the customer needs, they can direct them to the best choices for their body type, because "we ask our salespeople to try on our clothing constantly," says Knight. "The foundation of success is all of our salespeople look cute in lots of different ways." Knight describes his business as "a fun environment--the clothing is fashionable, the prices are affordable, and the salespeople are accessible. We are not too cool for school."

Knight and his wife and business partner, Jane Lee, opened Sway, their sixth in the Bay Area, on May 25 in the long-vacant home of Streetlights Records. "Our initial plan was to open in San Francisco, but we couldn't find a place," says Knight, who launched his first store on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley in 2002. "Coming to Noe Valley is coming back home, something we've wanted to do for many years." (They are former residents of NoPa­North of the Panhandle--but now live in Oakland.)

Redesigning the 2,200-square-foot space took effort. "We had to standardize the ceilings into square, level the floor, and modernize the whole space," says Knight. "What made the space compelling are the two points of natural light. There is an 18-inch skylight in the back and another around 20 feet on the right hand wall that's subtle and warm."

Knight admits he organized the store's aisles with one thought in mind--"to take in a doublewide stroller and shop comfortably."

Customers can roll or stroll across the shop's Brazilian cherry wood floor, and browse in the glow of creamy yellow walls and ivory ceilings. There are five dressing rooms, including one larger one to accommodate the needs of the disabled or a mom with twins.

The most popular item so far is the denim jean, which Sway carries in sizes ranging from 0 to 13/14 for $35 to $70. "Anyone can find great denim for $145," says Knight. "Our job is to find the right cuts that are flattering to women's bodies that are at a price that you can afford."

Sway also features colorful print cocktail and daytime dresses, plus bright sundresses by Oakland-based clothing designer Many Belles Down, whose look store manager Daniela Belo labels "very retro." Dresses sell for $35 to $60.

If a professional look is in order, the shop can put together a soft white blouse and a dark pencil skirt, coupled with a certified vegan handbag by Urban Expressions and a pair of shiny heels or flats. Sway also sells vintage-inspired jewelry ($1 to $16) that Belo describes as "small and delicate or big and bold."

With new inventory arriving every two weeks, styles have a high turnover rate, says Knight. "Fridays are a good day to stop by. We almost never reorder the same product. We buy one pack and we're on to the next thing. If you see it in your size and like it, you should buy it, because there won't be more coming back."

Sway holds bi-yearly fashion shows and invites local shoppers to model the clothes. "You can expect a fall fashion show from Sway," says Knight. "We like to keep in touch via email and Twitter or share email addresses. We never spam."

The store is open every day: Sunday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.