Noe Valley Voice April 2003

Store Trek

By Heidi Anderson

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new businesses in the neighborhood. This month, we take a look at a one-man shop on Church Street selling kitchen counters and cabinets; and a hair salon on Diamond, which also offers skin care and massage.

Bamboo Salon

810 Diamond Street near 24th


Hairstylist Alicia Elliott just can't stay away from Noe Valley. "We missed it here. Besides, those Wisconsin winters are brutal."

Some Noe Valley residents may remember Elliott from her days as the owner of Mop, a salon on 24th Street that is now operated by Bella Neimerovsky.

"I built Mop from the ground up, and ran it for three years. But then I got married, got pregnant, and wanted to move back home to Madison."

One winter and a baby girl later, Elliott and her husband, Kyle Elliott, decided they'd had enough of the Wisconsin weather and headed back to San Francisco.

"People are so friendly here, and they really remember you," she says, recalling a recent stroll down 24th Street with an out-of-town friend. "I was saying 'hi' to all the people I knew, and my friend turned to me and said, 'It's like walking around with a rock star.'"

After settling into her new home on 24th Street between Diamond and Douglass, Elliott started cutting hair for a few of her old clients. It wasn't long, however, before that became a problem. "All my stuff for hair was taking over the house!"

Not long after, during a casual conversation over the back fence with neighbors Ana Maria and Arturo Peña, Elliott landed the perfect place to open a salon. "[The Peñas] own their building, just around the corner from our house, and it had unused storefront space. They said they'd been thinking about opening the space up for retail."

The two couples struck a deal, and Elliott and her husband, a commercial architect, got to work on creating Bamboo. The salon opened on Feb. 14 in the storefront next door to Edward Jones Investments, on Diamond near 24th Street.

"I wanted to be as eco-friendly as possible, so we installed floors with wood from sustainable forests, and I used glass tiles from a company that uses 90 percent of its material from recycled sources."

Elliott feels that vinyl is harsh on the environment, so she used a kinder type of rubber for the shampoo room floor.

And the name Bamboo?

"Well, I bought this painting at a thrift store on Mission Street. I fell in love with it so much I named my salon after it." She also displays a couple of bamboo plants at the front of the shop.

In keeping with her eco-friendly ideal, Elliott visited Salvation Army on Valencia Street and bought four old wooden vanities to be used as styling stations.

The homey furniture and soft, bamboo-green walls, along with an elegant oversized chaise longue (Elliott found it at Harrington's Antiques on Valencia) and a picture-window view of the Diamond Corner Café, create a calm and inviting atmosphere for Elliott's clients.

She tries to make her customers feel comfortable in other ways as well.

"It's important to me that I understand my clients before I do anything," she says. "I take a long time talking with them. I ask them things like, 'How did your last haircut work out? And 'What kind of time are you able to spend on your hair every day?'"

The next step, shampoo, lasts about 10 minutes and includes a head massage. The whole process, from consultation through haircut through final blow-dry, takes about an hour and costs $50.

A basic "shampoo-and-set" costs $40, getting a semi-permanent hair color costs $40 and up, and permanent color is $60 and up. Elliott also will style an "up-do" for special occasions, at $65 and up.

For clients who really like to be pampered, Bamboo Salon offers the services of aesthetician and massage therapist Carla Martino. Martino joined Elliott several months ago and helped her open Bamboo.

"I just love this work," she says. "I get to know people and I get to be myself."

Martino does all her facial and body treatments in a private, well-heated room. Muted tangerine walls and vintage furniture (more finds from Salvation Army) create a comfy feel. Skin-care products Martino likes to use, such as a line of moisturizers and oils called Credentials, are on display on a large hutch. "People notice that the packaging isn't fancy, but it really works and you can afford it."

Martino has prior experience as an aesthetician and is also licensed to perform full body massage, including foot, hand, and back massage.

Clients can get a 40-minute "express" facial, which includes a double-cleansing, a light neck massage, and a facial mask ($50). Or they can luxuriate in a 70-minute European facial, with deeper cleansing and a custom mask ($80).

The full body massages, ranging from 45 to 90 minutes, start at $60.

Martino also offers waxing treatments, as well as eyebrow and lash tinting. A touch-up eyebrow waxing is $10, and a bikini wax costs $25.

Bamboo is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


1752 Church Street near Day


Tucked into a tiny storefront on the outer reaches of Church Street is a shiny new kitchen--one that has never seen bacon grease. That's because this kitchen is actually a showroom, for the products that shop owner Gary Craddock sells.

Craddock says his new business, called KitchenSync, offers high-quality kitchen countertops and cabinets at reasonable prices. And if you like, he'll also throw in some remodeling tips.

Until recently, Craddock worked as a sales manager for Surface Technology Corp., a local countertop and cabinet supplier for Home Depot. It was in that line of work, he says, that he began to notice a customer service problem.

"A lot of people who use Home Depot's services for kitchen remodeling, by the time they get to the countertop part of their remodel, are very frustrated with their experiences."

Craddock lists several complaints, ranging from long installation delays to setbacks brought about by poor measuring. "It would start as a call about countertops. Then all of a sudden, I'd be playing therapist, while customers told me about their whole remodeling nightmare."

He decided he wanted to provide better service, and he thinks he can do it for a better price than Home Depot. "I have much lower overhead," he laughs.

Though his shop is only 325 square feet, KitchenSync showcases a number of Craddock's favorite brands of countertops and cabinets, such as DuPont's Corian line and KraftMaid cabinetry.

The current trends in kitchen styles, he says, relate to color and texture.

"Cabinets styles themselves haven't changed that much, but what people like now is mixing the colors. For instance, a kitchen will have one cabinet stained indigo, another one charcoal, and another one spice."

Another big demand is for durable countertops.

"Granite is still very popular, but I recommend a brand called Zodiac, which is a combination of Corian and granite. It wears much better than granite, which stains easily and can be unforgiving when something gets dropped on it."

KitchenSync is located at Church and Day, in the spot where Pietro Fonda used to have his shoemaker business (Fonda recently moved across the street). As part of his own remodel, Craddock removed the false ceiling, fixed the floors, and painted the walls a shade of "muslin" by Ralph Lauren. Most of the wall space, though, is filled with sample cabinets and counters. He hopes the room is a welcome place for Noe Valleyans to come in and talk about their kitchens. "Since I opened [in early February], I've gotten many customers who say they want to keep their business in the neighborhood."

Craddock knows several neighborhood contractors, such as Kevin Wallace of Wallace Remodeling (three blocks from KitchenSync at 400 Day Street), and he has begun talking with others in the business. "I provide the certified countertop installation, and I'm glad to connect customers with local professionals like Wallace, who can install the cabinets. That's where the 'sync' part comes in."

He is happy to offer his experience with kitchen design as well. "I visit your place, do a design with my 3-D software within a day or two, and work with you to get it how you like."

From there, he provides customers with a list of vendors and trade showrooms, so they can make sure they've chosen exactly what they want.

Craddock claims Home Depot charges anywhere from $700 to $1,500 for this service, plus more for visits to the customer's home.

"My design consultation is free, including visits to the home."

Craddock's background includes architectural drafting, commercial lighting sales, and for the past 10 years, countertop sales throughout the Bay Area. His wife of 14 years, Takami Craddock, teaches dance for children at the Noe Valley Ministry.

Only a few weeks after opening, he has already started work with several Noe clients, and says things are going well. "People around here tend to have done a lot of remodeling work on their house already, and they know what they want."

Still, he's been working late each night on clients' designs.

"I'm not complaining at all. It's how it is with a new business!"

KitchenSync is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.