Noe Valley Voice December-January 2005

Store Trek

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month we introduce a curio shop, a corner café, and a custom clothing store and design studio.

Rosa Goes Shopping
1195A Church Street near 24th Street

With its 170 square feet neatly packed with vintage wares, many of which are one of a kind, Rosa Goes Shopping is about as far from a Big Box store as you can get. Felicia Weston opened the small emporium in August, in the space formerly occupied by Chatterbox Gift Gallery on Church Street near 24th Street.

"It's a unique little spot, like a Paris atelier, which translates to studio," she says.

Weston has acquired her eclectic inventory from estate sales, online auctions, local designers, and even her own closets. She also has designed some items herself. "It's a little bit of this, a little bit of that... everything from furniture to anything that can sit on top of a table in your home."

She is particularly drawn to old French and Italian porcelain, "not so much figurines," she says, "[but] plates, dishware, and bowls. I love the old gilded-edge plates, things that were beautifully made, painted, or detailed by hand. Most of these items I have in stock right now are from the 1920s and '30s."

Featured in her current collection are dinner plate sets ($40 to $100), fruit and finger bowls ($4), and delicate egg cups ($2 to $40). Weston also has Italian glass candies ($6 apiece) and an assortment of vintage lipstick holders ($35 to $85), including an Art Deco model that is still in its original box. She enjoys the responses the rare items evoke. "It's a kind of discovery when someone comes in and says, 'Oh, I know what those are!' It's great to have something someone made long ago that is no longer being made."

She stocks European ashtrays and soap dishes, as well as antique linens, but they tend to "fly out the door. I had some little napkins with poodles on them, but not for long. They were the funniest things," she recalls.

When it comes to furniture, Weston looks for pieces others might pass up. "I'll find something unique that might need a little fixing, something maybe just a little bit odd," says the former architect and industrial designer.

Her stock in November included a pale pink set of girls' bedroom furniture, complete with a doll's high-chair, priced at $200; a Victorian-era upholstered bench that was "half daybed, half bench," $1,900; a pair of 1920 Louis Vuitton chairs for $750 each; and a wing-backed chair in a floral pattern for $450.

Among her own designs on display are updated silk skirts inspired by Chanel and Yves St. Laurent classics ($350 to $400). She also carries freshwater pearl necklaces and a variety of new jewelry made with semiprecious stones.

When foot traffic is slow, Weston pulls out her gouache paints (similar to watercolors) and gets to work creating botanical scenes. "I've gotten more reaction from [the paintings] than from the old stuff," she says. They sell for $250 and up.

A resident of North Beach, Weston mans the store solo Monday through Friday, 12:30 to 5 p.m., and weekends from 12:30 to 6 p.m. Not an easy task for a wife and mother of three children, ages 12, 8, and 6. When the store was conceived and named, she had a partner named Rosa, but Rosa went shopping elsewhere on opening day. Down the road, Weston will probably change the store's name.

"I'm thinking of Charybde. That's the French spelling for a ravenous woman from Greek mythology who was transformed into a whirlpool across from the rock Scylla. She was a daughter of Poseidon," says Weston. And where did she find the name? In a 1941 dictionary.

--Laura McHale Holland

Café Ponte
751 Diamond Street at 24th Street

Approach the corner of Diamond and 24th streets around 5:00 in the evening, and your olfactory nerves will be rewarded with the fragrances--cinnamon in particular--of baking goods, gratis the Diamond Corner Café. In mid-May, Bruce Ponte took over the establishment from Bob and Christi Bennet-Hanes, who owned it for seven years. Though he has remodeled the eatery and changed the name to Café Ponte, the new owner promises that the same mouthwatering baking smells will continue to greet you.

Ponte decided to do a renaming after working with a graphic designer to update the café's logo. "Ponte means bridge in Italian," he says. The designer suggested using Ponte's name as the café's name, and "my family liked its ring."

Ponte has kept many items from the café's old menu, and spiced it up with a few new dishes. Some staples from the breakfast menu include oatmeal with honey, raisins, and nuts ($4.95) and a frittata omelette sandwich ($4.95). For lunch, there is an assortment of grilled paninis, cold sandwiches, and green and pasta salads, ranging in price from $5.25 to $7.50. Those who love the turkey Waldorf salad need fear not: it is still on the menu at $5.25 for a cup or $8.25 for a bowl. And Ponte has added a chicken caesar salad ($7.50) and a spinach salad per his customers' repeated requests.

Healthy smoothies, like the Sweet Diamond (mango, peach, and honey) and the Fruity Ruby (strawberry, blueberries, and orange juice), should please those looking for a liquid meal ($4.25 to $4.50). And of course, there are the café's mainstays: blueberry and orange-cranberry muffins ($2.50), a variety of scones ($2.75), and brownies and giant cookies ($2.50).

Almost all of the baked goods, including the bread, are made onsite by Roger Medina, who has been the café's baker for 10 years. He and Ponte plan to add some mini-pizzas and low-fat items soon. Those looking for libations other than tea, coffee, or lemonade can now find beer and wine as well.

As for the remodel, the interior walls have been painted in a khaki olive and latte cream. Ponte also replaced the cobbled floor with a laminate. The old floor was difficult to clean, and it caused tables to wobble. "I can't tell you how many parents thanked me because now they can eat with their kids and not hold their glasses so they don't spill," says Ponte.

The art on the walls comes from local artists, is available for purchase, and rotates every six to eight weeks. And wireless laptop users will be happy to know that the café now sports wi-fi.

In his previous life, Ponte, 47, worked as a lawyer, legal secretary, and patent paralegal. He has lived in or around Noe Valley for 22 years, for the past 11 years in Diamond Heights. "The three-minute commute is awesome," Ponte says with a smile.

Café Ponte is open Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

--Olivia Boler

Walkershaw Clothing
1400 Castro Street at Jersey Street

It's not technically a storefront because Walkershaw Clothing's display windows are less than five feet tall, but that didn't deter designers Connie Walkershaw and Liz TerboLizard from setting up shop at 1400 Castro Street, kittycorner from Walgreen's Drug Store. In August, the two longtime friends and business partners unveiled their new design studio and retail store selling clothes for men, women, and children, the bulk of which is stitched on the premises.

"Our retail area has a Persian rug and all sorts of luxurious clothes, and lots of mannequins that are dressed up, so we have a lot of display for people to see," says Walkershaw, who grew up in the neighborhood and has been designing and marketing clothing under her own label since 1986. There's also a workshop space with a large cutting table and eight sewing machines, and a small lounge area where the designers' two young daughters (one apiece) often play and do homework after school.

Most of Walkershaw's designs have a retro look and feel, and she tries to keep her prices affordable. Blouses average $60, skirts $60 to $80, and pants around $80. Jackets range from $150 to $200; 100 percent wool, silk-lined coats are priced from $200 to $300.

Her signature design is a wool crepe, rayon-lined swing coat in black, red, cobalt, or green, selling for $250. "I also have matching father/son bowling shirts [$35 to $64]. They're the sort of '50s-looking shirts that are in fashion today. The women's designs are retro too, and classic. I use a lot of jewel tones, like deep red and dark green, especially at this time of year, and I spend a lot of time on details like buttons and cuffs to make it a little extra special," she says.

TerboLizard, who owned the popular children's shop Lit'l Lizards on 24th Street for many years, still loves to create clothes for tots and older kids. Her bright, whimsical designs lend a modern flair to the studio. She offers basic cotton leggings and T-shirts for infants ($16); circle skirts and pants in various floral or striped designs ($32), and fleece jackets with scalloped bottoms and ribbon ties, for little girls (about $38).

TerboLizard, who lives in the Mission District, also has a line called Tiny Tyrants, which features animal characters like Boli the Lizard and Skip the Frog. A Tiny Tyrants layette set goes for $38.

Both designers are happy to do custom work, as well as bridal fashions and home décor. And if you have a favorite pair of pants or a shirt that's wearing out, they'll make a pattern from the garment and sew you a replacement. They also carry wares from other local designers, including hats by Lola, handbags from Trisha McFee, and jewelry made by Stefanie Walker, Walkershaw's sister.

In addition to retail clothing, the duo offer sewing classes for children and adults. Students pick their own project, ranging from making a simple skirt to creating a pattern for a new product. "There is a huge level of satisfaction in creating your own clothes," says TerboLizard.

Classes, which cost $25 per hour, are held on Tuesday afternoons, Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings.

Store hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Also, on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the shop is having a special sale and party, showcasing winter overcoats, cocktail dresses, and holiday party designs.

--Laura McHale Holland