Noe Valley Voice May 2007

Store Trek

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new shops and businesses in the neighborhood. This month, we fill you in on two well-known and energetic small businesses that have moved into prime storefronts along 24th Street.

High Class Nails
3953 24th Street between Sanchez and Noe streets

Tiffany Truong knows the importance of strong client relationships. After operating the High Class Nails location on 24th Street between Mylene's and Pasta Pomodoro for over 10 years, Truong and her family, who own the business, were more than ready to expand into a larger space.

But it wasn't until longtime client Thomas Roberts told Truong about a new store space on 24th Street that the move became a reality.

"Without him, we would not have gotten this place. I didn't know about [it]," Truong says.

The new storefront, which Truong estimates offers double the square footage of the old one, sits between Fresca Restaurant and Noe Knit and is on the ground floor of the shiny modern Victorian that replaced the old Lunny House in 2005. Truong says that the new location, despite being in the same block as the long-vacant Real Food Company, has brought her more foot traffic.

"I feel more in the center. Every day, I get some new clients," says Truong, who lives in the Sunset District.

With more space, Truong has been able to outfit the salon with two brand-new massage chairs, as well as new carpet and fresh paint on the walls.

Manicures and pedicures cost $7 and $12, respectively, or $17 when clients have both during the same salon visit. Another draw (yes, pun intended)? Truong and her team are known for their skills painting flowers and other designs on nails. They're $1 to $2 each, depending on the number of designs you order.

Although the nail salon has been open for about two months, there is still work to be done. In the coming months, Truong plans to upgrade the lighting and do finishing touches on the walls and ceiling. The salon may also add waxing services in the future.

One thing that's certain not to change is Truong's main objective each day.

"I like to make my clients pretty, and I like to take good care of them," she says.

High Class Nails is open every day: Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

--Lorraine Sanders

Navarrete's Black Belt Academy
1201 Church Street at 24th Street

Who knew, when you used to browse the movies at First Choice Video at the corner of Church and 24th streets, that there was enough space over your head for a viewing gallery? You couldn't tell because of a false ceiling.

One of the first things new tenant Fernando Navarette, founder of Navarrete's Black Belt Academy, did after he signed a lease in January was remove the dropped ceiling. Two and a half months later, parents were sitting tall in comfortably padded seats in the gallery, watching their youngsters do Taekwondo kicks on wall-to-wall red-and-blue rubber mats.

Taekwondo is a form of martial arts that originated in Korea and was introduced to the United States in the mid-1950s, shortly after the Korean War. Literally translated, it means "the way of the hand and the foot." The discipline focuses on mental as well as physical training, and emphasizes values such as loyalty, respect, and self-control. Navarette discovered Taekwondo about 25 years ago.

"I was in a car accident, and I needed to do some exercise," Navarette recalls. "A friend was joining a gym that had martial arts. I joined with him and got hooked. It's really fun, and you get in really good shape really quickly." Taekwondo is characterized by fast kicks utilizing powerful leg muscles and is said to be excellent training for women and children who may face larger and stronger opponents.

The Church Street location is new for Navarrete's academy, but the school has been active in the neighborhood for 20 years, in the Bethany United Methodist Church gymnasium.

"We actually outgrew the space," Navarrete says. "We had so many students, we needed a full time school." So, when he got wind of the video's store's impending closing, he applied to be the next tenant.

"There were actually lots and lots people who applied for the space," he notes.

The fact that his is a proven, viable business helped his cause. "We also have an extremely good reputation as far as martial arts schools go and what we do for the community, and the landlord liked that," Navarrete says. About a year ago, the academy was honored by the Board of Supervisors for the work it had done with families. The school also has received a commendation letter from the mayor's office.

One of the school's charity events raised $30,000 in one afternoon three years ago for the San Francisco Leukemia Society. "We were excited, we worked very hard," Navarrete said. "We did a kick-a-thon, and basically students got sponsors for however many kicks they could do in five minutes."

The academy holds classes for all ages, from 3-year-old preschoolers to 70-year-old retirees. They can check their form in the mirrors hung a foot away from the wall. "They are back-lit and look like they're floating, so they're very striking," Navarrete says.

Several teachers teach each class, breaking students into small groups of comparable ability.

"Students all get a lot of one-to-one. They work on kicks and punches, and the more important thing is that we have themes. The theme we're working on now is honesty--what it looks like here, at home, and at school," he adds.

The school is open Monday through Friday, 4 to 9 p.m., and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A pro shop is on site, too. So students can buy uniforms, headgear, boots, gloves, and other related items, in addition to toys and snacks.

--Laura McHale Holland