Noe Valley Voice June 2011

and now for the
behind the news

Gimme a Break

By Mazook

Taking Bows: Supervisor Scott Wiener (second from left) blew into Noe Valley May 19 to hand out commendations from the Board of Supervisors to six Noe Valley business owners (and one wacky Voice columnist) during Small Business Week. Those being honored for their years of service to the neighborhood were Ranny Viquez of Atomica Media, David Eiland of Just for Fun, BJ Droubi of the Droubi Team/Coldwell Banker, Martha Monroy of Martha & Bros. Coffee, Roger Rubin (aka Mazook), Vince Hogan of the Dubliner and Valley Tavern, and Robert Ramsey, also of Just for Fun (shown second from right, between Bob Roddick and Carol Yenne of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association). Congrats to all!   Photo by Sally Smith

BAD NEWS ON THE WAY TO GOOD NEWS: Sorry I missed you last month. Contrary to rumors, I was not “on vacation,” although I did take a break: I broke three bones in my right ankle. On the morning of April 13, I slipped and fell while walking briskly up 24th Street in my Crocs (damn them) to Good News to get a magazine. I had just had my morning coffee, and a very light April shower had recently coated the sidewalk. Whoops! I was down.

I want to thank the extremely kind Noe Valley samaritan who helped me to my car and drove me home so my wife could get me to the hospital. If you are reading this, thanks again, and I’m sorry I didn’t get your name. I also want to thank the orthopedic team at UCSF Hospital who managed to put this Humpty Dumpty back together again. I have learned that many of the doctors on that team live right here in Noe Valley. Hopefully I will be up and walking again by the end of June and liberated from my cast by the Fourth of July. Geez, what an ordeal.

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OLD BUSINESS: In olfactory news, Downtown Noe Valley’s venerable Common Scents, which was launched by Helen Norris and Linda Ramey at 3920A 24th St. in 1971, was taken over by longtime employee Jan Van Swearingen when Norris and Ramey retired at the beginning of this year.

Van Swearingen, who started working at Common Scents in 1998 (after working at Just for Fun for four years), says, “Business has been very good since Christmas, and I feel the love and support from all the people in the neighborhood, especially since our biggest competition, Whole Foods, arrived on the block and does carry some of the same brands and products that we have, at comparable prices.”

She says her customers realize “they will have a lot of choices that people can’t get anywhere else in this neighborhood—we take special requests, and provide refills for our products,” says Van Swearingen.

“I can remember the days when business here was great, back in the 1990s and up until September of 2003 when Real Food’s shut down,” she says. “Many of those people who used to shop there would then come across the street and shop at our store because of our wide selection, but after the shutdown, they were going to Rainbow Grocery for their ‘real foods,’and Rainbow carried some of the same brands as we do, and the economics became very challenging for the store.”

But Van Swearingen says things begin picking up again after Whole Foods opened, and she is confident that her store will remain a viable outlet for all you lotion and potion devotees.

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STATE OF BLISS: Fima Gelman of Fima Photography was seeing red in March when he read a rumor in the S.F. Chronicle (echoed at that Santa Rosa–based Bliss Bakery, “a gluten-free specialty bakery,” was moving into Fima’s 1414 Castro St. studio with plans to open a bakery this spring.

“I was quite surprised to read about this because I have a written lease with the landlord,” says Gelman, who opened his photography shop almost five years ago. “I contacted [my landlord], who knows the Bliss owner, Maria Balme, and the landlord told me that the building where my studio is located was the subject of a conversation she was having with Balme and that Balme jumped the gun when she talked to the Chronicle reporter, not realizing that I have a lease.”

Later, Gelman informed the blogosphere that the rumor was not true, and commented that “the Chronicle said that they would make a written retraction, but I haven’t seen it yet.”

Now, if you check the original item at the Chron’s SFGate website, you will see they have added an update at the bottom: “After a bit of a ‘situation’ with the landlord, Bliss Bakery will not be leasing the space at 1414 Castro, and bakery owner Maria Balme is now scouting for a new location in San Francisco.”

We will see if Ms. Balme has any further plans for Noe Valley, since there certainly might be a space for her somewhere else in DNV.

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UPDATING THE UPDATES on Downtown Noe Valley vacancies, it looks like the space where J&J Market used to be, at 24th and Chattanooga, is still available. As reported in the March Rumors, Realtor Sharon Cassidy, who also owns the property, is offering the 1,200-square-foot space for $5,750 per month. Cassidy says she currently is expecting an offer and will be reviewing the firm’s business plan.

Up 24th Street, the Urban Cellars wine shop, between Church and Vicksburg, is vacant. The building owner’s agent, Mike Foor, says the shop’s 1,400 square feet have been offered at $4,500 per month. However, the rent is negotiable here, says Foor. He says he is currently in serious negotiations with a prospective tenant but refused to say who. “I don’t want to jinx the deal.”

And then there is the vacant space where Tamasei Sushi bar was, on 24th near Vicksburg. The tiny sushi-teria abruptly closed in the middle of April because the owners’ lease had expired and they couldn’t find a buyer for the restaurant (it was rumored they were asking $70K for the business).

According to the building owner’s agent, property manager Stephanie Gordon, the asking monthly rent is $2,600. She says several food-related businesses have shown an interest in the space and are willing to make necessary improvements. Currently she is having serious discussions with a group who wants to open a sushi bar. It would be nice to keep the tradition going. (The space once held the Matsuya Restaurant, rumored to be the oldest sushi bar in San Francisco.)

Gordon also manages the building where Accent on Flowers used to bloom (4080 24th). She says that the remodel being done now by the building owners, the Harry Aleo Trust, should be finished and ready to rent by mid-September, although she would not say on what terms. “Anyone interested in the space should make an offer.”

Moving right along, the patrons of Michelle’s Tailor were very grateful when they heard that her landlord, who was taking over Michelle’s commercial space, was building a new space for Michelle next door on the busy corner of Castro and Jersey. As you can see, Michelle’s old corner spot is under construction and will likely become an office space.

And then there’s that small store on 24th Street next to Mylene’s Hair Salon that was once occupied by Nina the fortune teller. It has been vacant, with paper covering the windows, since Nina disappeared last spring. Phone calls to that property manager have not been returned, so it looks like there might be a spell on the space.

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FLY, BUDGIE, FLY: There will be a storefront available at 4298 24th St. (at Douglass) when the Animal Company moves, after more than 30 years on that corner, to the space that was just vacated by Cover to Cover Books, on Castro near Walgreen’s.

“We are really excited to be able to move to this great location with a lot more foot traffic than we get where we are now,” says Ellen French, who with her husband Rick has operated the pet store for the past 10 years. “We have just signed a lease and began redoing the space already, and hope to open our doors on July 1.”

As you ornithologists know, the Animal Company not only specializes in pet food and supplies, but is famous for its birds— parakeets, cockatoos, canaries, macaws, finches, and parrots. “Probably our most popular bird is the African Grey Parrot, which is a good talker but otherwise very quiet,” says Ellen French, “unlike some of the other birds, which can be much louder. You know there are talkers and then there are screamers.”

This move could have a significant impact on those of you who spend time across the street at the bathroomless Noe Courts and find you need to make use of the Animal Company’s bathroom. Says French, “It was kind of understood by all the Noe Courts regulars, including many of our own customers, that they could come here if they wanted to.”

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SHORT SHRIFTS: Sad to report that fro-yo and gelato are no mo’ at the corner of 24th and Sanchez. On May 3, the owners of Noe Valley’s Tuttimelon abruptly turned off the refrigeration and moved out their fixtures and equipment, without even saying goodbye. An eviction notice appeared on the door, so a “For Rent” sign should not be far behind.…

Many in Glen Park are sorry to see their Chenery Street yoga studio, Kiki-Yo, closing this month after seven years of rave reviews.…

Viral on the real estate blogs is a multilevel house at 3843 22nd St., with an indoor swimming pool next to the living room, that has a price tag of $1.8 mil. One observer noted for that amount of money, “I sure hope that the pool’s deep enough for me to do a cannonball from my bedroom.”

What was all that ruckus on Fountain Street on the first Monday in May? According to SFWeekly blogger Erin Sherbert, a woman who had just moved into her new home was cleaning out drawers and found a hand grenade. She called the police who arrived with the bomb squad, who promptly disposed of the explosive.…

Congrats to Green Twig Salon (Church and 25th) on winning second place in SFBayList’s Best Haircut in the Bay Area category. The shop was the only San Francisco salon in the top five in the stylin’ contest.…

Congrats also to Noe Valley Association Executive Director Debra Niemann for winning the “Woman of the Year” award for District 8, presented by Scott Wiener, our representative on the Board of Supervisors.…

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WE GOTTA GET BACK TO THE GARDEN: The Friends of Noe Valley’s Garden Tour last month (May 21) was a huge success! Richard May and his committee (Doug Lockyer, Linda Lockyer, and Erin Rice) report that over 300 tickets were sold, and counting the kids who went for free, there were 350 attendees at the event. “At our last count,” says Doug Lockyer, “we have a little over $4,300 from ticket sales and hope for more after we get part of the profit proceeds from Pizza Night at Patxi’s.” Tickets cost $15.

Net proceeds will go to two local beautification projects: landscaping the Sanchez Street side of the Upper Noe Recreation Center and providing shade structures for the James Lick Middle School garden.

“What I thought was pretty impressive was the great support we got from [FNV] members and our 14 board members,” says Lockyer. “We had about 40 volunteers working on the tour, which is probably why it was such a success.”

The only problem that came up was that the shuttle between gardens was a little too infrequent. “The shuttle was very challenging, and we all learned a lot for the next time we have the garden tour,” says Lockyer.

The tour attendees might want to know that after tabulating all your votes for the Top Garden, the winner was Jeff Parker and Jim Collins’ greenery on 27th Street. Second place went to a garden on Liberty Street, and the third favorite was on 26th Street.

By the way, FNV President Todd David is asking you to please mark your calendars for the evening of June 23 for the Friends’ next meeting. The exact time, place, and agenda will soon be available on the FNV website, If you want to add something to the agenda, let Friends know at

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HOT TICKET: The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation has issued a parking alert to all residents of Noe Valley and their guests: the SFPD is on a ticketing rampage for those who try to park on the sidewalk.

In late April, Ingleside Police Captain Louis Cassanego advised the Voice and others there would be strict enforcement of Vehicle Code 22,500(f), which is your basic “no parking on sidewalks” nowhere no how. The warning was also broadcast in cyberspace via the NoeValleySF blog, where you can find a long thread of comments and complaints about strict enforcement in streetparking- poor Noe Valley. Also check out Lorraine Sanders’ story in the May 2009 issue of the Voice (at, which is aptly headlined: “Where the Sidewalk Ends…Perhaps Not Where You Think.”

FYI, at the end of May, Captain Cassanego was transferring out of Ingleside and Captain Daniel Mahoney, last working in the chief’s office, was taking command.

Remember, the city is looking for revenue, and car owners are in their crosshairs…so watch out!

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THAT’S 30, FOLKS. See you right here again in July. Ciao for now.