Noe Valley Voice November 2011

Store Trek

By Karen Topakian


Store Trek is a regular Voice column profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month we introduce a designer jewelry and watch repair shop, and a title company that prides itself on customer service.


Raquel Settels displays some of the bejeweled belts she offers at her new boutique on 24th Street near Castro.    Photo by Pamela Gerard

Raquel Settels Metalsmith
4126 24th Street between Castro and Diamond streets


Raquel Settels opened the doors to Raquel Settels Metalsmith, her new jewelry boutique and studio, on June 15.

She didn’t have far to walk—the shop is tucked under her Victorian home at 4126 24th St., next to Barney’s Hamburgers.

Settels, a recent graduate of the San Francisco–based Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, designs and makes most of the jewelry sold in the shop. Trained as a metalsmith and stone worker, she beads necklaces and uses a torch to shape pieces at her jewelry bench in the back room of the 900-square-foot space.

As the Voice arrived for an interview, she had just finished stringing a necklace made of aquamarine stones, which she planned to price at $250.

On a tour around her shop, Settels pointed out flower petal shaped glass candlesticks that she had bought on the archipelago of Sweden, her country of birth. Settels liked the glass so much that she bought some to make into jewelry. “I made drop earrings that have sold very well,” says Settels. (A pair goes for $60.) “They are uneven because they are handmade.”

Displays of her earrings, beaded necklaces, rings, and brightly colored stone bracelets fit comfortably among hand-dyed scarves, a few small-press books, and wide leather belts decorated with hematite or rose quartz ($210 and $168).

Yellow walls, accented by Asian art, provide a warm background to the glass-fronted jewelry cases. Settels and her husband, Norman Fargo, decorated the shop with their own furniture, including three antique wooden tables. A customer bartered Settels for one of her necklaces, offering four matching antique chairs in exchange. The result is a setting that feels more like a home than a business.

“Since I arrived in San Francisco, I wanted a salon like the French,” says Settels, who moved to the United States from Mexico eight years ago. “Perhaps in this environment the salon will become a reality, for conversation and a good time.”

Starting on Nov. 5, Settels will share her space with another creative endeavor, a knitting workshop. Sue Appelbaum, the former manager of Noe Knits, will teach “Knit-a-Long,” a three-week series on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11. The class costs $60 plus materials. (For reservations or information, call 415-821–9979.)

Settels also plans to feature more work by other jewelry designers and artists.

In addition to selling jewelry and accessories, Settels offers a watch repair service operated by her husband. “Every day, people come in for jewelry repair and watch repair and watch battery replacement,” says Settels, who does custom jewelry work and repairs as well. “You get to use the piece of jewelry you love or the watch you love that’s been in the drawer for five years.”

Hours at Raquel Settels Metalsmith are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.


Nate Scharton, Ana Rosario, and Amy Edberg run the new branch of First American Title Insurance on Castro Street.    Photo by Pamela Gerard

First American Title Insurance Company
1354 Castro Street near Jersey Street


On the corner of Castro and Jersey streets sits Noe Valley’s newest addition to the world of real estate services, First American Title.

The Noe Valley branch of this international company specializes in title insurance for homeowners, buyers, sellers, and developers. It also offers settlement services, commonly known as escrow services. “We’re a neutral third party in a real estate transaction,” says Nate Scharton, branch manager and senior escrow officer.

“Almost every type of transaction these days requires some type of title insurance and escrow services,” says Scharton. “People won’t write a check to each other to buy a piece of property anymore. In the early 1800s, you would just write a check to someone and they would just sign over the deed. You didn’t know if there were any claims or stakes laid to that.”

Scharton explains that as title insurers they do comprehensive searches to ensure that when a person purchases a piece of property he or she actually owns it.

Along with his fellow escrow officers—Ana Rosario and Amy Edberg—Scharton works with local banks, real estate agents, and property owners of all kinds. “We wanted to open in Noe Valley to service our clients in the city and our clientele in this area,” says Scharton, who opened the branch Aug. 2. “We felt there was a need in this area. Other title companies have closed down.”

Since the cost of title insurance is based on a property’s sales price and the rates are posted with the State of California, title companies need a way to distinguish themselves from one another. “We’re a very customer service oriented branch,” says Scharton, pointing out that his office offers after-hours and weekend document signings. “We’ll send someone to your home after hours.”

Located in the former home of Michelle’s Tailor (which moved next door), First American Title features a sunny glassed-in conference room, a work area for each escrow officer, and a glassed-in office for Scharton. “I really didn’t want an office.  I like to be in the mix of everything,” he says.

He hopes First American’s small boutique office will be welcoming to visitors. “That’s why I like to have the door open. To have the blinds open. It’s inviting.”

First American Title is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.