Noe Valley Voice October 2003

Store Trek

By Olivia Boler

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new shops in the neighborhood. This month we've scouted out two businesses occupying different levels of the same building on Castro Street: Spring Pilates Studio, a center for exercise and physical therapy; and Lisa Violetto Designs, a handbag and accessory studio that has blossomed into a gift and home design store.

Spring Pilates Studio

1414A Castro Street between Jersey and 25th streets


The second-floor space formerly occupied by Purely Physical Fitness near the corner of Castro and Jersey is once again a place for getting in shape. On Sept. 15, owner Izabel Loinaz opened the doors of Spring Pilates Studio, offering classes and one-on-one sessions in an exercise that has grown in popularity in recent years.

Pilates, named for fitness pioneer Joseph Pilates, is a way of improving muscle strength and flexibility through gentle movements. The exercises often rely on a piece of resistance equipment called the Reformer, which works with springs (hence the studio's name). Other studio equipment includes a trapeze table, a ladder barrel, and "the Chair." Pilates mat classes are done on the floor with gear such as mats, balls, and foam rollers. Loinaz and three other independent trainers run the classes and also hold personal sessions with clients.

"Because Pilates is low-impact, it appeals to a wide variety of people--people with arthritis, osteoporosis, or scoliosis; athletes with sports injuries; pre- and post-natal women; even children and adolescents who are trying to learn about better posture," Loinaz says.

Before opening the studio, Loinaz was the director of Dance Medicine at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital on Hyde Street. A former professional flamenco dancer, she suffered a back injury and found Pilates to be helpful in her recovery. Although she didn't go back to dance, Loinaz found her new calling--Pilates physical therapy. At Spring Pilates Studio, she plans to focus on both rehabilitation and general body conditioning.

The studio's two rooms take advantage of wide windows overlooking Castro Street. But otherwise, says Loinaz, the décor at Spring is "Zen in its simplicity."

Loinaz, 31, grew up in Noe Valley but now resides near UCSF.

"It's great to be back in the neighborhood and see what's changed and what's stayed the same," she says with a smile. She recalls going into Colorcrane after school as a girl and buying things like Hello Kitty pens. "Colorcrane hasn't changed at all!"

Spring Pilates Studio offers private and semi-private sessions, primarily for those needing rehab or physical therapy. For people interested in general conditioning, there are group mat classes, at beginner or intermediate levels, as well as classes focusing on problem areas such as the lower back or the neck and shoulders.

Mat classes run in a series, and Loinaz says it's best to start at the beginning. A six-week Wednesday-night series starts Oct. 8 at 6:30 p.m. A Saturday-morning series begins Oct. 11 at 11 a.m.

Group classes cost $16 for a single class, or $84 for six classes ($14 per class). Private sessions are $70 per session, or $520 for an eight-session series ($65 per session). Semi-private sessions are $45, or $200 for five sessions ($40 per session). It's best to register in advance.

Through Oct. 15, Loinaz will offer a grand-opening special: the first three sessions can be purchased at 25 percent off. Call, check the web site, or stop by for details.

Spring Pilates Studio is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Lisa Violetto Designs

1414 Castro Street between Jersey and 25th streets


The tenant reshuffling at 1414 Castro this fall has been a tad confusing. But the gist of it is: Lisa Violetto Designs, once situated on the second floor of the small building, has moved down to street level, into what had been the temporary home of Zephyr Real Estate.

For over a year, construction on the two-story building made locating the boutique difficult for customers. So, it was with a great deal of relief that co-owners Lisa Violetto and Judy Frangquist opened the doors of their newly remodeled storefront on Aug. 29.

"No one could find us through the maze of construction," said Violetto, who first moved her silk handbag business to Noe Valley a year and a half ago (see July/August 2002 Voice). "People didn't believe we were really here. They got scared and turned back."

Now, passersby will see an array of sparkly jewelry, throw pillows, beaded lamps, and flowered teacups in the store's window. Upon entering the shop, which is painted a pale shade of purple (purple is, naturally, Violetto's signature color), patrons may spy a small tray upon which they can leave their lattes. There's also a bucket full of dog biscuits, and outside on the sidewalk, flower boxes for parking one's pooch while browsing (the owners love dogs, but not in the store). The entrance is also a good place to park strollers because there are a couple of steps up into the main room. And then you're in.

Violetto and Frangquist have expanded their shop's wares from purses, scarves, and jewelry, to a selection of hats, belts, gift items, and furniture.

"These are whimsical, unique, fun things that really catch your eye and warm your heart," says Violetto, a designer with 17 years in the business.

Violetto says she will continue to make one-of-a-kind bags and other fashion accessories in her upstairs studio. She also will still offer home-staging services (and is expanding into slipcover design).

But the store will now feature items made by other designers as well. "It's wonderful to be able to sell items from local designers as well as our own designs," says Violetto.

The shop has soaps and lotions ($8 to $12); serving trays by Piatti ($40); pictures frames from England ($29); original artwork ($40 to $125); beaded nightlights ($29); mirrors ($225); and made-to-order armoires ($1,000).

Violetto's bags sell for $39 to $69 and are made with silks, wools, and cut velvets. Her silk and velvet scarves start at $39, and jewelry, designed by both Violetto and Frangquist, runs from $20 (earrings) to $150 (a "fabulous" necklace).

"If you don't see a price tag on something, ask us, because it's probably for sale," says Frangquist.

Frangquist, 22, is an Alvarado Street native, who joined her next-door neighbor Violetto as an assistant about a year ago. Violetto lives with her husband, Gary Taormina, and their son and daughter, ages 11 and 14. Frangquist and Violetto have been business partners for about seven months.

Lisa Violetto Designs is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.