Noe Valley Voice September 2005

Store Trek

By Laura McHale Holland

Store Trek is a regular feature of the Noe Valley Voice, profiling new shops and businesses in and around Noe Valley. This month we introduce two stores that promise relaxing and beautiful things: the Urban Nest on 24th Street and Lynn Antiques on Church Street.

The Urban Nest
3927 24th Street between Sanchez and Noe streets

From the robin's-egg-blue walls and trickling water in the fountains, to the retro tablecloths and astonishingly real-looking silk flowers, everything about the Urban Nest--Noe Valley's newest home and garden store--has been selected to soothe the urban soul.

"Life's gotten so fast-paced with computers, and we have so much stuff going on, we need to feel comforted, because nothing about all that technology is comforting. This store reminds us of a slower time," says Heather Bruchs, who opened for business in June in the block of 24th Street between Sanchez and Noe streets. Her storefront was formerly occupied by Panetti's Gifts, which closed on Memorial Day after a solid 20-year run.

In keeping with her mission, and because "a lot of people are nesting these days," Bruchs has filled the Urban Nest with charming and sentimental housewares, many with bird motifs. There are bird drawer pulls, doorstops, and door hooks, in brass and bronze. A bird bath and a large Victorian birdcage complement the shop's artful array of tea sets, linen napkins, aprons, lacy handkerchiefs, picture frames, lamps, stuffed animals, soaps, flower pots, and watering cans. Also evoking more bucolic times are French country tables and hutches made from recycled wood.

Bruchs hopes her prices will be just as soothing as the store's atmosphere. "It's easy to find beautiful things that are expensive, but hard to find beautiful things that are affordable. My prices are really affordable," she says.

Some items that have been "flying out the door" include cream-colored appetizer plates with French cheese-label designs ($24 for a set of four), infant "onesies" by Bunnies by the Bay ($14), handmade baby blankets and quilts ($34 to $74), sage-green enamel bowls ($24 for a set of three), and "mouth-blown" glass vases and candlesticks ($7 to $36).

Also popular are the dog and cat treats ($8 per bag) and pet food storage bins ($39). (Birds aren't the only animals represented at the Urban Nest.)

Bruchs, who has lived on Elizabeth Street for the past eight years, has prior retail experience in Noe Valley. About a dozen years ago, she opened the now-defunct Allure clothing store on Castro Street. She sold it after a year to free up time to care for her grandmother, who has since passed away.

"I was 25 years old when I started my first business, and I didn't really have a grasp of what the neighborhood needed. I just knew what I wanted."

Now Bruchs feels she has "a sixth sense" about what would be right for Noe Valley. "People come in and they just ooh and aah over everything," she beams.

To repay their enthusiasm, she hopes to have an opening party soon. Meanwhile, the Urban Nest invites you to drop in Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lynn Antiques and Beautiful Things
1478A Church Street at 27th Street

While she was moving furniture into Lynn Antiques and Beautiful Things during several weeks this summer, Lynn Ingham neglected to put paper over her display windows. A first-time retailer, she didn't know that most shopkeepers cover their windows until opening day. But the oversight worked in her favor.

"I opened the store at noon on Wednesday, July 10, and by 12:05 I had my first two sales. People had seen things while I was doing the windows and were rushing in because they didn't want somebody else to swoop in and buy 'their' beautiful things," she recalls.

One of the coveted items in the five-room boutique, painted in tasteful shades of green, was a crystal compote. The other was a pink glass Art Deco candelabra. "A woman bought the compote to hold potpourri.... A man bought the candelabra to put on his Buddhist altar at home, which he said it was just perfect for."

The two are now among the regular customers who come in to browse Ingham's collection of fine antiques and "beautiful things"--new and old.

About a year ago, when her management position at Advertising Age was moved to New York, Ingham decided to take a break from "the rat race. During the fall, I realized that I was just done with corporate life," she says. "I wanted to do something that kept me close to home in Noe Valley and that honored the things I really love in life."

When the spot on Church Street formerly occupied by Danu Salon opened up just a couple of blocks from her home on 26th Street, she saw it as an opportunity to share her love of antiques.

She bought much of her initial inventory from a woman who was closing an antique store on the Peninsula. "She's been so generous. She shared her sources and resources, and she's become a great mentor to me," Ingham says.

Marjory Panetti has also been a mentor. "I was really feeling the loss of Panetti's [which closed at the end of May], and Marjory has helped me figure out how to find artists so I can bring their work into the shop," she says.

On her own, Ingham found Gail Sakai, who fashions handmade cards. "People come in and they want to look at them all. We spread them out, and we talk about them, and it's kind of a little experience in the shop which encourages me that I'm on the right track," Ingham says.

Sakai's cards sell for $6. Among the other new items are bars of fine French soap ($7), which permeate the store with the scent of lilies and roses.

But Lynn Antiques specializes in high-quality restored antique furniture, as well as vintage lamps, mirrors, framed artwork, linens, stemware, and assorted pieces of china. You can find delicate Limoges porcelain, pottery from Portugal, and "lots of Depression glass."

One-of-a-kind antiques range from a small wrought-iron, glass-topped table for $225, to what Ingham calls "the most amazing piece in the entire shop," a nine-foot-tall Napoleon III, Louis-Phillippe-style armoire from the late 1800s, selling for $8,000. Other notables are a mahogany pub table with four leather-covered chairs going for $1,800 and a damask loveseat priced at $895. Also on display are hand-tinted photographs by Dianne Poinski priced from $150 to $250.

Lynn Antiques and Beautiful Things is open Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 7 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. When the shop is closed, Ingham is often scouting for great buys guided by the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Things are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, handsome, but until they speak to the imagination, not yet beautiful."