Noe Valley Voice November 2011

And Now for the Rumors Behind the News

Occupy 24th Street

By Mazook

What a Kick:This summer, 6-year-old Makenna Kramer (left), a student at Navarrete’s Academy on Church Street, was awarded a black belt in taekwondo, making her the youngest black belt at the school at the time. Here she is shown demonstrating her form with sister Riley, who at 10 already holds a second-degree black belt. “I was so proud when I earned my black belt,” said Makenna. “Taekwondo makes me strong and teaches me to take care of myself.”We’re sure her big sister would agree.    Photo by Pamela Gerard 

HOLIDAY PILE-UP: Halloween just flew by on its proverbial broomstick, so get ready to roll out the turkeys for Thanksgiving, with Hanukkah and Christmas hot on its heels. Then there’s New Year’s a week after that. But wait, we’ve forgotten something—the 93rd anniversary of Armistice Day, on 11-11-11.

Yes, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, in a railroad car sitting in the forest of Compi¸gne, France, an armistice was signed to end the war they said would end all wars, World War I. It was a seminal point in American history, and it’s been celebrated since 11-11-19. After WWII and the Korean conflict, Congress in 1954 renamed Nov. 11 Veterans Day, to honor all those who have served in the U.S. military in any war.

This year’s Armistice Day is very special because on New Year’s Eve, President Obama will end the war in Iraq, fulfilling a promise made by his predecessor, George Bush. Obama has pledged to withdraw our occupying military forces. That leaves “only” one war the military is still fighting, in Afghanistan. Hopefully, by 11-11-12 we will be war-free.

Probably Noe Valley’s most distinguished WWI soldier was Joseph “Frenchy” LeCours (1900-1984). He was at the wheel of history when, as a bilingual master sergeant in the 335th Motor Transport Corps of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), he drove French field marshals Henri Pétain and Ferdinand Foch, and American general John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, to Compi¸gne to sign the aforementioned armistice with the Axis powers. 

You may want to check out the Rumors in the November 1985 issue of the Voice (archived at the Main Branch of the library). It tells Frenchy’s story.

(That issue, to digress, has a fantastic feature by Steve Steinberg about the ­Chenery Street mansion built by ad man Robert Pritikin, where many neighborhood and school events have been held over the past 25 years. On the front page is a story by Denise Minor [“Flopped Fair Raises Ire”] about a Noe Valley street fair that didn’t happen.)

This Armistice Day, the Noe Valley Department of Veterans Affairs is asking that Noe Valley merchants and residents put a red rose in their front windows for all those veterans of foreign wars who, like Frenchy, were lucky enough to become old soldiers.

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DATELINE OCT. 31, 2011: On Halloween, 24th Street became occupied by thousands of people dressed in outrageous garb, going from store to store and house to house in search of treats. The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) estimates that over a ton of candy was given out by Downtown Noe Valley merchants, with four times that hauled in by kids roaming our neighborhood’s suburbs.

There was a vast cast of costumed characters this year. According to Mardie Vandervort, owner of Church Street’s One Stop Party Shop, the most wanted kid costumes were “for the boys a pirate and for the girls a flight attendant, as well as Mickey and Minnie Mouse. For all the years the Star Wars characters have been here, they are still in demand. And the prisoner outfits are the newest popular ones.”

She says the store had many adults coming in to create their own costumes, buying top hats, canes, goggles, and beards. “Our Steampunk fashion items and accessories have been very popular,” says Vandervort. “Steampunk” is defined on her website as “remixing styles from the Victorian era, classic Goth, gypsy, and industrial fetish.”

“We just sold a crown, wig, beard, and red cape to a teenager who has been coming here since he was five and this Halloween was dressing up as the Burger King,” she laughs.

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WALGREEN PARTY: Over at the Walgreen’s Halloween department, “a lot of girls were angels, and the pirate costumes were in great demand by the boys,” says manager Jackie Cheung. He wouldn’t comment on how many pounds of candy went out the door. He just smiled.

The bigger news is that Walgreen’s is applying for an ABC license, and sometime after Jan. 1 will be inaugurating  its “Fresh Program” in Noe Valley (it already exists in about 17 other Walgreen’s in San Francisco). Cheung says the store will put in new refrigerators, which will have fresh fruits, sandwiches, and fruit bowls. Ah, lunch at Walgreen’s.

By the way, I want to remind Rumors readers that the Walgreen’s parking lot is free for one hour to all Downtown Noe Valley shoppers, thanks to promises the store made last century when it took over the space. The signs posted in the lot tell you that the one-hour limit is “to ensure parking for our customers,” and that the limit is enforced by an attendant. As you may have found out the hard way, there is a steep fee for staying longer than an hour. There still remains one sign posted (by the handicapped blue zone), saying “Walgreen’s customers only,” but according to Cheung, it is intended for their handicapped customers.

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WHERE THE ELITE MEET: All those chauffeured town cars on Church Street pulling up in front of Incanto Restaurant the first Wednesday in October were carrying some Fleet Week honchos for dinner, including former Secretary of State George Schultz and his wife, Charlotte Mailliard Schultz, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, and former S.F. Mayor Willie Brown. Brown mentioned the dinner in his S.F. Chron column but didn’t tell us what he ate. He also would not reply to an email from the Voice asking for comment. Oh well.

According to Incanto’s Mark Pastore, the dinner was held in the private Dante Dining Room. As for what Willie Brown, or anybody else, ate, Pastore’s reply was simple and discreet: “I don’t know.”

Two weeks later, Carolyn Alburger reported at that on another occasion “a who’s who of the San Francisco chef world gathered at Incanto in Noe Valley to discuss an issue very close to their hearts, the impending foie gras ban slated for July  of next year.” As you may know, Incanto’s world-class chef Chris Cosentino opposes the California ban, saying it infringes on our freedom to choose. According to Alburger, the chefs were either commiserating or planning efforts to protect other restaurants and chefs around the country beset by anti-foie-gras protesters.

Another local chef, Abed Amas, doesn’t have to worry. Amas has put his restaurant Fattoush, located at 1361 Church St., up for sale. A Craigslist post informs potential buyers that there are almost five years left on his lease, with rent just over $5,200 a month and two five-year options through 2026. The asking price, reportedly, is $250,000.

As many of you know, the 1,500-square-foot restaurant, which serves Middle Eastern and American food, is packed with brunchers on weekends, so you might want to hurry to be served everybody’s favorite, the Corn Flake Crusted French Toast.

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’IGH ’OPES: A mortgage company is opening in the space recently vacated by Joseph Andrade Floral (3961 24th) across from Whole Foods. Namely, Opes Advisors, which has eight offices in California and Oregon. The San Francisco branch is owned and operated by Noe Valleyan John Ebner.

“I have lived on Vicksburg Street since 1997, and I’m really excited about having offices right around the corner from where I live,” says Ebner, who has worked 25 years in the real estate industry. He says Opes (Latin for “wealth”) specializes in residential mortgages with a focus on new buyers or refinances. “We originate our own loans, and are not brokers,” says Ebner, “which makes us very competitive with the local banks—and an option for real estate brokers—in the neighborhood.”

He goes on to say, “I moved to San Francisco in 1993 and lived in Eureka Valley, but always came over to shop on 24th Street. Luckily I found a place on Vicksburg and moved over the hill as soon as possible.” 

Next door at 3961A 24th Street, Vivon women’s clothing store is moving to Pinole. “We close on December 1, after 11 years here in Noe Valley,” says Vivon Chan, “five years on the corner of 24th and Castro, and then six years down here.” She says that all her inventory is on sale, with prices up to 75 percent off.

Chan says her lease ran out and the owner wanted more rent, “which was more than [we would pay]. So we are moving, but we don’t have a store [in Pinole] yet.” Meanwhile, you can shop Vivon online at

But 3961A will not be vacant for long. Moving in will be the “Children’s Playhouse at Noe Valley.” Says Teresa Blea, “Our service will include enrichment classes and activities, with drop-in times for children birth through 4 years.”

Blea currently operates the Mio Preschool in the Excelsior and says she has been involved in early childhood education in the Bay Area for 35 years.

“The activities will provide children with a learning experience,” she says, “and also give the parents or caregivers a way to bring forth from themselves a child’s perspective of creative and imaginative ways to live.” She emphasizes that the youngsters must be supervised by the parent/caregiver, who is interactive in the play. “We are not a drop-off.”

A big plus is there looks to be ample space in front for free stroller parking.

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I WALK THE WINE: The day after Thanksgiving is the official start of “HoliDAYS” in Downtown Noe Valley. The Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association will turn on the lights in over 50 trees along 24th Street. According to NVMPA president Bob Roddick, the group has underwritten $4,500 of the cost (which is $170 per tree), so that members pay only $70 per tree. “It really is a good benefit of being [an association] member,” says Roddick.

Roddick says that all the poles on 24th Street will be candy-striped with ribbons, “and we will be ready to celebrate our ‘24 HoliDAYS on 24th Street’” series of events. On the first Saturday (Dec. 3), be ready for hayrides and music, he says.

“One thing that people might want to plan ahead for is the Noe Valley Holiday Wine Walk,” says Roddick. It has been scheduled for Dec. 7, from 4 to 8 p.m. “If you buy the tickets before the event online, the price is $15, but the price is $30 on the day of the event.” He says to Google Steve Restivo Event Services at www.sresproductions.comclick on “Events,” and you’ll find the scoop.

As with the first Noe Valley Wine Walk held last September, Roddick wants to remind everyone that there will be a motorized cable car available to wine walkers, and what’s more, you can board the shuttle for a ride without being on the walk. Cool!

Roddick was also very pleased to report that dues-paying membership in the NVMPA has increased from 83 to 97 in the past six months, “and hopefully we will reach 100 by the end of the year.”

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YENNE FOR YOUR THOUGHTS: The San Francisco History Association is sponsoring a great neighborhood event on Nov. 29, 7 p.m., at St. Philip’s Church ($5 at the door): a discussion about Noe Valley history led by local historian and author Bill Yenne.

I’ll see you there, and I’ll bring my copy of the November 1985 issue of the Noe Valley Voice for you to see.

P.S. Don’t forget to vote on 11-8-11.

Ciao for now.