Noe Valley Voice June 2006

Rumors Behind the News

By Mazook

BELLS ARE RINGING: The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation (NVBI) has learned that the deal for the takeover (from Ralphs/Kroger) of Bell Market by the Harley Delano group has hit a major snag. Suddenly it's back to the drawing board: Ralph's trucks are once again making regular stops to stock up the store, the parking lot monitor is back at his post, and the grocery staff is on edge again.

It appears--although no one will comment--that just before Memorial Day weekend, negotiations with the employees union, Local 648 UFCW, broke down, and the Delano group backed off.

The NVBI contacted our man on the Board of Supervisors, Bevan Dufty, who said he suspected that the hitch was the workers' pension rights. However, in late May Dufty still had a shred of hope that talks would revive. "It's not over yet," he said, "and I would still give the deal a chance. So don't give up yet."

If this deal falls through, Kroger will be looking for other bidders to take over operation of the eight remaining local stores--six in San Francisco and two in Marin--in the rapidly shrinking Ralphs chain. (It once boasted 250 supermarkets, 53 of them in northern California.)

That could spell trouble for the loyal staff at our Bell, since there is a possibility that a non-union grocer could come in, close the store down, and then reopen with all new workers. Or, worse, Kroger could simply decide to shutter the stores.

That last scenario seems unlikely, however, since our Noe Valley Bell Market was once the most profitable per square foot of any store in the Ralphs chain.

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PROGRESS MARCHES ON: Supervisor Dufty is happy to report that he has been advised by DPW project manager Jorge Alfaro that Trico Construction has won the bid to renovate the Upper Noe Recreation Center on Day Street. He points out that Trico, which was one of three bidders, was the firm that renovated the West Portal Branch Library. "I am pleased that this well-regarded firm will do the work and that DPW's estimates were within 1 percent of the $6.7 million bid."

Dufty says the Recreation and Park Commission should approve the contract this month, and work should begin sometime in September. The project is expected to take about 18 months. "This is a great start, and we have a star in Jorge Alfaro, our project manager," Dufty beams. If any of you have questions, call Dufty's aide Rachelle at 554-6986.

Dufty helped officiate at a May 19 gala and awards ceremony at Sterling Bank, sponsored by the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association. Three venerable Downtown Noe Valley businesses were honored: Common Scents, Cradle of the Sun, and Astrid's Rabat Shoes.

Linda Raney and her Common Scents partner, Helen Norris, have been in the business of lotions and potions (and soaps and shampoos) at 3920 24th Street for 35 years. We definitely wouldn't smell as sweet without them. Dan Gamaldi and his wife Elaine opened the stained-glass emporium at 24th and Vicksburg in 1977. They've been making windows, finishing glass, and giving art classes ever since. Astrid Rabat's manager, Veronica Ruedrich, accepted the award for her store (24th and Sanchez), which has spent 30 years keeping the feet of Noe Valley stylish (I got some Frye Boots there in 1978).

Around 100 people showed up at the ceremony, including City Treasurer Jose Cisneros and Jordanna Thigpen, president of the S.F. Small Business Commission. Merchants President Carol Yenne says she was delighted by the turnout and wants to send a special thanks to the folks at Sterling Bank for hosting the event.

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A RACE FOR FOOD: Tyler MacNiven, half of the "hippie" duo who won $1 million in CBS' Amazing Race 9 (BJ and Tyler), was spotted in Noe Valley last month. Tyler lives down on the Peninsula but visits his brother Dylan, who lives in Noe Valley at 23rd and Sanchez.

Some of you know Dylan, who moved to the neighborhood last year and tried to find a location in Noe Valley to open a new restaurant. The MacNivens brothers' parents operate the popular eatery Buck's in Woodside.

Dylan gave up in Noe Valley, but found a location over the hill in Eureka Valley at 14th and Market. His restaurant is called Woodhouse Fish Company--check it out.

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A HORSE, OF COURSE: Speaking of amazing races, local equine hero and national celebrity Lost in the Fog is scheduled to race at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, June 3, in the $150,000 Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap six-furlong sprint.

According to Fog's owner, local real estate purveyor Harry Aleo, this is an important race for the 4-year-old colt. Having lost his last two races--last year's Breeders Cup and his first race of the year, at Golden Gate Fields on April 22--"this is the moment of truth for Lost in the Fog," says Aleo. "But we think that he will do just fine on this track, even though he will be carrying 5 to 15 pounds more than the other horses in the race. He's ready for the race." Aleo, well into his 80s, is also rooting for another horse he owns, Victorina, who is racing at Churchill Downs in the Dogwood Stakes, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds. "That is a horse I am very optimistic about. Victorina was the family name of our [Italian] neighbors, when my parents had the grocery store in the 1930s on Diamond just off 24th Street."

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BEST OF THE FESTS: Local celebrity Norine Maloney has agreed to be the take-charge person for the second annual Noe Valley Harvest Festival, scheduled for Oct. 21. Many of you know Maloney as chief organizer of the St. Philip's Festival for the past seven years. She's also been president of the St. Philip's PTA for four years, and describes herself as "a stay-at-home mom and a crazed volunteer."

"I have four children ranging in age from 4 to 32. Since this is the first year I have had a break at the school, I decided to help put on the Harvest Festival, which was just great last year," says Maloney.

Maloney and her husband Shawn have lived on Hill Street for 10 years. Their last stop was New York City. "He's great," she says. "He asks me, 'Where can I go and how can I help?' So we keep pretty busy."

Maloney is already excited about the Harvest Fest, and wants to get the word out about the kids poster contest. Like last year, the festival committee is looking for kids to submit their entries for a poster to advertise the fair, which will be on 24th Street from Church to Sanchez. The deadline for entries will be July 31, so, kids, start sharpening those colored pencils.

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WHO WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT? Hearts were racing last month as word spread that Carol Yenne might not stay for a fifth term as president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Profs Association.

"It's time for me to step back and take a break, and time for new blood in the leadership of our group," says Yenne.

During Yenne's tenure, the Merchants Association has been instrumental in creating the Noe Valley Community Benefit District, in expanding the parking on Castro and 24th streets, and in changing the restrictions on restaurants (we can now have three more on 24th!). With other neighborhood groups, the NVMPA cosponsored and developed the Harvest Festival, which has turned into an annual street fair (see above), and published a guide to Noe Valley businesses.

Who the next Merchants leader will be is currently under discussion among the membership. A new slate of officers will be presented at the association's next meeting, on Wednesday, June 28, 9 a.m., at Joe's 24th Street Café.

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BACK TO THE GARDEN: After a six-year run, Yukio Iwamura has closed Art Garden, his small Asian arts and furniture store on Cesar Chavez near Church Street.

"I was working all the time, every day," says Iwamura. "Now I want to do something new, maybe export American collectibles overseas." He says he is moving his residence and work space to a large space in San Bruno, where he'll collect and restore old furniture. Ironically, instead of importing Japanese artifacts to Noe Valley he will now be exporting American art from San Bruno to Japan. "It's just the opposite," he laughs.

"I want to thank my many Noe Valley customers," Iwamura continues. "The people here have very good taste."

And what will fill Art Garden's space? Look for an expansion of the Noe Valley Pet Company, which operates next door.

Meanwhile, down Church Street to Duncan, the city is taking extraordinary measures to alleviate the double-parking crunch outside Martha's Coffee. In response to neighbors' complaints, Dufty, in concert with the Department of Parking and Traffic, has introduced a measure that would add a 10-minute green zone (two parking spots) on the Duncan Street side, but only from 6 to 9 a.m.

"We are busy in the morning starting at around 6 a.m., and it stays pretty busy until 9 a.m.," says Martha's manager, Ivonne Mariel. "We have been trying to make sure no one blocks our neighbors' driveways, because we do understand how they feel." She says the parking control officers usually give warnings before handing out tickets, but drivers should avoid tempting fate.

Hearings will be held the first week of June.

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SHORT SHRIFTS: Castro Computer will be moving soon, and the storefront will be transformed into a restaurant, with the chef and his family moving upstairs in the residential unit--a true neighborhood restaurant. Meanwhile, Noe Valley Computer at Church and Clipper has moved to 29th and Church.... Rosa Goes Shopping, which replaced Chatterbox on Church near 24th, has folded in less than a year, and the rather small space will be taken over by a children's clothing store called Les Petits Nournous (or similar spelling), which means the little teddy bears.

Koichi and Hiroka Tamano will soon open Tamasei Sushi in the spot where Matsuya used to be, on 24th Street near Vicksburg.... The Last Laugh Coffeehouse, on Dolores at Valley, is expanding its hours and menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Owners Kristen Adams and husband Bill Schwartz (a musician from Those Darn Accordions) say they'll be offering hot food, salads, and eventually beer and wine.

The rumor that Mia was going to reopen her flower shop, located on Church Street near 27th, is not true. The building has now been listed for sale.

Shufat, contrary to what you read here last month, is not a town in Jordan but rather a suburb of Jerusalem.

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LOCAL COLOR: Check out the new mural on the west wall of Martha's Coffee on 24th Street. It was created by Noe Valley artist J. Arthur Milestone, who started getting his morning coffee there in 1984, when it was known as San Francisco Coffee. Milestone says that the 35-foot-by-31-inch mural, depicting coffee beans traveling from Nicaragua to Martha's shop, is "a mixed media on canvas painted digitally and then printed on canvas. I worked on it since October of last year and just finished installing it last month." Can you identify the fireman who is the recipient of the brewed coffee at the end of the storyboard? Also, can you see where Milestone has hidden an image of Abraham Lincoln (which he says he does on every work of art he creates)?

Milestone will be having a show of other works of his, at Martha's on 24th Street, beginning June 16.

And don't forget to mark your calendars for the Mayor's Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, July 19, at 6:30 p.m., in the community room at St. Philip's on 24th near Diamond.

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THAT'S 30 for this month. Congrats to all the grads in our local schools. Ciao.