Noe Valley Voice May 2012

Store Trek

By Karen Topakian

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we introduce a men’s clothing boutique featuring designs fresh from Paris, and a children’s “playhouse” located in the heart of Downtown Noe Valley.


Youngsters Sophia (left) and Izabella show Teresa Blea the pictures they drew at Playhouse at Noe Valley.    Photo by Pamela Gerard

The Playhouse at Noe Valley
3961A 24th St. at Noe Street


Children love to play. They love to make puzzles, root around in dress-up trunks, and build castles with colorful blocks. Now they have a place to play and learn right on 24th Street: the Playhouse at Noe Valley.

Teresa Blea and brother John Blea, along with Teresa’s son Marino Cacciotti, opened the Playhouse in early February in the former Vivon storefront at 3961A 24th St., across the street from Whole Foods Market.

They describe their business as a child enrichment program, offering classes and drop-in play time for toddlers to age 5, accompanied by parent or caregiver.

“It gives the parents who don’t put their children into a day care or school other options to provide enrichment in a child’s life,” says Teresa Blea, who also owns Mio Preschool in the Excelsior.

The morning schedule, aimed at children 18 months to 3 years, is made up of a variety of classes which change from day to day.

On Mondays, kids can jump and roll in Gymnastics for Children. Wednesdays, they can dance to the sounds of Alison Faith Levy’s “Big Time Tot Rock.” Then on Thursdays, all can relax and stretch in Yoga for Children. Classes are $25 each, $90 for four, or $100 for five.

“I wanted to make each class not only something interesting to the children, but something that the parent could enjoy participating in,” says Blea, who has 35 years in early childhood education.

She says she and the Playhouse staff—which includes her niece Candice Caceres and daughter Isis Walls—like to engage the kids in hands-on activities, “because that’s how children learn.” But they also teach proper social behavior, courtesy, and safety skills.

Four afternoons a week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 3 to 6 p.m.), the Playhouse shifts to a more informal program. Children from infancy to 5 years—also with caregiver—choose their own activities and play at their own pace. If they like building with Lego bricks or putting on a puppet show, they can sit on the floor beneath the sunny bay window in the front room of the remodeled Victorian residence. For those who prefer snuggling up with a picture book or acting out stories, there is a comfy sofa and a trunk full of costumes. Drop-in play time is $12 an hour.

A resident of Potrero Hill and a third-generation San Franciscan, Blea says she picked Noe Valley for her second location because of the great family-feeling in the area. “There are a lot of little children out in strollers all day long,” she says.

She hopes Noe Valley parents will try Date Night Child Care, a $22 per hour babysitting service the Playhouse offers on Saturday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m.

The space is also available for birthday parties on weekend afternoons. And on Sundays it hosts a free parent and infant meet-and-greet from 10 to 11 a.m.

The Playhouse at Noe Valley is open every day but Tuesday. For detailed costs and schedule, visit the school’s website,


Casual but elegant is how store manager Thomas Farmer describes the menswear at the new Sean boutique.    Photo by Pamela Gerard

4080 24th St. at Castro Street


Paris fashion has arrived in Noe Valley. Men’s fashion, that is. Sean, a new men’s clothing store on 24th Street near Castro, sells everything from T-shirts to suits, designed exclusively by French couturier Pierre Emile Lafaurie.

Sean Cassidy, a resident of New York City, met Lafaurie in Paris at the opening of Lafaurie’s flagship boutique in 1995. The pair became friends and eventually launched a partnership, opening their first New York store in 1997. Now they have nine Sean boutiques scattered around the U.S., including three in San Francisco.

After an extensive remodel of the space at 4080 24th St., once the home of Accent on Flowers, Cassidy unveiled the Noe Valley Sean in mid-February.

The boutique is currently showing Sean’s spring/summer collection (Lafaurie designs two collections a year). “The collection is conceived as a whole—the clothes are made to go together,” says store manager Thomas Farmer. “We do have people who buy everything here except shoes and underwear.”

Racks of European-made suits and jackets and shelves of neatly folded sweaters and shirts line the neutral-toned walls. Two curtained dressing rooms and a large mirror provide ample room for customers to experience the look and feel of the collection. “We wanted the store to be like the clothes: really elegant and casual, open, friendly, airy, and chic,” says Farmer, a former New York art dealer.

Farmer says the clothes are selling extremely well in San Francisco, because the style is a good fit for the city. “The clothes are based on classic lines—not overdesigned,” says Farmer, as he arranges the sleeves on a brown cardigan with a subtle row of white stitches running up the zippered front ($138). “It’s simple. Good fabric and beautiful cuts.”

Sean offers a casual, 100 percent cotton blazer ($295) in four colors—gray, navy, khaki, and brown. Farmer suggests pairing it with a collared or buttoned-down shirt or T-shirt and jeans. “The weight is perfect for here. It’s a nice step up from North Face without being overly dressed; a great weekend jacket.” 

Lafaurie also designs European-style wool suits ($620). In keeping with European tradition, pants and jacket are sold in any mix of sizes.

Final transactions at Sean take place with the parties seated in chairs around a white marble table. “We wanted it to be friendly to the neighborhood—that’s why there are chairs,” says Farmer, who rings up sales on an iPad. “Shopping for clothes should be fun. We don’t want it to be work.”

Sean is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.