Preparing to be Smitten

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CONSTRUCTION has been underway for weeks, and at the end of April a new red awning and a sign for Smitten Ice Cream went up proclaiming: right here super soon.

The neighborhood’s new gourmet ice cream shop will soon be scooping up made-to-order frozen treats at 2404 California Street, formerly the longtime home of Copy.net. This will be Smitten’s fifth location and its second in San Francisco, after its original shop in a shipping crate on the green in Hayes Valley.

Founder Robyn Sue Fisher says the new location is a dream come true.

“I had been staring at this spot for years thinking it would be the perfect home for Smitten,” she says. “It is in between two great pizza joints (Delfina and Dino’s) just off Fillmore Street.”

As Fisher tells the story: “One day I decided to just walk in and talk to the owner of the current business. After five minutes, she told me she had been operating her business at the location for 20 years and just a few hours ago had called the landlord to tell him she was relocating.”

“Crazy,” Fisher says. “It’s meant to be.”

Smitten will be hosting a series of opening events, including a family ice cream social, an evening beer ice cream tasting and other neighborhood pop-up parties.

In addition to its remodeled shop with an open kitchen, Smitten will also sport a new outside courtyard.

EARLIER: “Hip ice cream shop on the way

Shell station revamp postponed

The Shell station and garage at California and Steiner Streets.

The Shell station at California and Steiner.

OWNERS OF THE Shell station at 2501 California Street were sent back to the drawing board by the Planning Commission on April 30 and told to return in a month with revised plans — ideally plans that would keep the garage they hoped to eliminate.

The owners, a company called AU Energy that owns more than 100 Shell stations, had sought permits to raze the existing station and garage and replace it with a Loop convenience store and twice as many gas pumps.

“Car repair is a higher amenity than grab and go items,” said commissioner Dennis Richards. “I challenge you to come back with something where you have better integration with the community . . . hopefully including car repair.”

The owners of the station had agreed a week earlier — after neighbors showed up at a Planning Commission hearing to oppose their plans — to scale back the hours the convenience store would operate and to expand only from five to eight fueling stations, rather than the 10 they originally sought. They also extended the lease on the garage, which is owned by an independent operator, through June 30.

The commissioners were clearly sympathetic to the Shell station owner’s desire to renovate the station in a way that would keep it economically viable as environmental upgrades are made.

“We need gas stations,” said Richards, who noted they are disappearing all over the city.

But the commissioners also had heard neighborhood opposition to shuttering the garage and concerns about intensified traffic on an already-busy corner. There were doubts about the appropriateness of the expanded convenience store.

“I am concerned about further suburbanizing that corner,” said commissioner Kathrin Moore. “It looks backward rather than forward.”

The commission voted unanimously to continue the issue until its meeting on May 28.

“We’re directing you to try to incorporate service,” said Richards. “That would be necessary and desirable and hugely compatible” with the location and the needs and desires of the neighbors.

EARLIER: “Shell garage told to close

Freda Salvador: classics with a twist

Photograph of Freda Salvador, at 2416 Fillmore, by Melissa McArdle

Photograph of Freda Salvador at 2416 Fillmore by Melissa McArdle

RETAIL REPORT | BARBARA KATE REPA

Entrepreneurs and shoe designers Megan Papay and Cristina Palomo-Nelson say their lives and designs have been inspired by confident, commanding role models. Perhaps that’s what helped them accomplish the near-impossible recently when relocating their flagship shop from Union Street to 2416 Fillmore: They did it a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.

“We moved from our former store one day — and opened up here the next,” says Papay. “We just decided to do it.”

Their boutique, Freda Salvador — the newest addition to Fillmore Street — offers flats, sandals, boots and heels for women. All feature signature artisan elements including luxurious leathers, studded soles, covered heels and straps that can be converted for different looks. The shop’s exotic moniker is a play on Palomo-Nelson’s roots in El Salvador, where her family ran a shoe-making business for 65 years, and their shared admiration for feisty artist Frida Kahlo.

“We both love her strong sense of being and her boldness,” says Papay, who says she and Palomo-Nelson create their designs for their fictitious woman, Freda Salvador. “She’s just no-nonsense, urban, has a true sense of style. And most of all, she needs a pair of shoes she can put on her feet from 7 in the morning and wear until 11 at night, without thinking about her feet hurting or needing to change.”

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New life for an old garden

The house and garden at 1901 Scott Street in San Francisco circa 1980.

The house and garden at 1901 Scott Street in San Francisco circa 1880.

GARDENS | JOAN HOCKADAY

The cow is gone, the windmill torn down, the pharmacy delivery trucks missing from the garage behind the house. The gas pump and the water well no longer pump at all. But some reminders of the storied past of the historic Shumate house and garden at the corner of Pine and Scott remain — including the cobblestones.

Unearthing hidden cobblestones in any San Francisco garden is an instant reminder of the city’s Gold Rush days, when ships with cobblestones used as ballast sat in the harbor after sailors rushed for the gold fields. The heavy stones weighted down the ships during long voyages west, but after 1849 the ships — and the wood and the cobbles — were there for the taking.

After the city took its share to pave dusty or muddy streets, the abandoned stones were commandeered by treasure hunters of a different sort — and now adorn gardens around San Francisco, a link to the early days of the rush to gold.

One of the city’s oldest and largest gardens harbored just such a stash of stones when new owners purchased 1901 Scott Street in 1999. Fifteen years after moving in, they have kept the cobbles and the best of the old while adding modern essentials — and opening the house to the south-facing garden.

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‘Exposition Church’ inspired by the Swiss

Photograph of St. Vincent de Paul Church by Shayne Watson

Photograph of St. Vincent de Paul Church at Green & Steiner by Shayne Watson

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

Constructed a century ago amidst the frenzied preparations for San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition — and conveniently located near the bayside fairgrounds — St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church soon became known as the “Exposition Church.” The church opened with a celebration mass on October 26, 1913, about 16 months before the exposition’s February 1915 festive opening day.

The building sits imposingly at the corner of Green and Steiner Streets, on land purchased for the parish by Henry Hoffman. Perhaps because of its location, but possibly also as a result of its unusual design, worshipers — both locals and visitors — flocked to the church. So popular was the church that the mass schedule was expanded during the run of the exposition.

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Focusing on ballerina moms

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PHOTOGRAPHY | LUCY GRAY

When I was 10, my parents divorced — and I watched with fear and admiration as my mother got her first job so she could support five children. That made me sensitive to the subject of working mothers. It wasn’t surprising that later, as a photographer with children, I would try and get at that subject. I asked friends who were working mothers to pose for me.

One was an executive who pumped milk in her car as she drove to work each morning. But I couldn’t get the dare in what she did in my pictures. You couldn’t see the baby crying at home, or her anxiety about expressing enough milk, or her cool in doing it right before a meeting with business executives.

I knew almost nothing about ballet or dancers but when I met Katita Waldo, a prima ballerina at the San Francisco Ballet, holding her 3-day-old son James at CalMart, I wanted to photograph her. Her work was visual and, when she brought her son to the studio or the stage, what I would capture would inherently show the two worlds.

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The Bodhisattva barters time

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BOOKS | ERIN C. MESSER

In 1981, the poet Latif Harris was working at — and living above — Browser Books in its former location a block up from the current store on Fillmore Street. Harris was behind the front counter when, he says, “the most beautiful woman in the world” walked into the store.

They did what you do in a bookstore: talked about books, with Harris recommending something he was reading at the time. After she left, he hesitated briefly before chasing her down the street. He asked her to dinner and, to his surprise, she accepted. The most beautiful woman in the world is Alpha Gardner, and she and Harris have been together now for 34 years.

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Vivande returns for an evening

Vivande owner-chef Carlo Middione was celebrated and seranaded at a dinner in his honor.

Vivande owner-chef Carlo Middione was celebrated and seranaded at a dinner in his honor.

FILLMORE’S LEGENDARY Vivande Porta Via was reborn for a night as chef-owner Carlo Middione and his wife Lisa were celebrated on April 16 at a dinner of Vivande classics at Luce restaurant at the InterContinental Hotel.

“It was a packed house, full of regulars and friends, some who traveled from quite far to be there,” reported the Tablehopper. Middione “was looking great, beaming like a happy man with a roomful of friends and past regulars should.”

The dinner was organized by InterContinental boss Peter Koehler, a neighborhood resident and longtime friend and fan of Vivande and the Middiones.

MORE PHOTOS FROM THE DINNER

The menu was all Vivande, including its famous hazelnut meringue cake.

The menu was all favorites from Vivande, including its famous hazelnut meringue cake.

Vivande was one of a kind

Photograph of Carlo Middione at Vivande by Daniel Bahmani

FIRST PERSON | MARK FANTINO

The kitchen phone rang.

It was concealed on metro shelving between a mound of recipe binders camouflaged in a thin veil of flour, clipboards clamped with stacks of checklists, inventories and ordering forms, plus all of Carlo Middione’s published cookbooks. Just to the right was a two-way mirror on the other side of which stood Carlo, invisible and watchful.

“Mark speaking,” was how I answered. Carlo barely knew me then, and vice versa.

“This is Carlo,” said the voice. “Please go to page 124 of La Vera Cucina and follow the recipe carefully and bring me the results.”

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Blue Bottle may open on Fillmore

By CHRIS BARNETT

Trendy Blue Bottle Coffee has confirmed it may open a cafe in the storefronts previously occupied by Tully’s Coffee and Juicy News magazine shop at 2453 and 2455 Fillmore. The new landlord reportedly intends to demolish the wall between the stores and combine them into a single space.

Several real estate sources claim that James Freeman, founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, based in Oakland, bought the two spaces to create his fifth coffee shop in San Francisco.

However, Freeman, identified on the Blue Bottle website as “a slightly disaffected freelance musician and coffee lunatic,” refused to be interviewed about the Fillmore venture.

A representative at his publicity firm said the project “is very much not confirmed.” Then the firm issued a one-paragraph statement in which Freeman confirmed he does indeed hope to open on that key corner:

Blue Bottle Coffee is excited to be pursuing a new cafe located at Jackson and Fillmore Streets in San Francisco. Like most cafes, there are a surprising amount of steps that need to take place in order to make it a reality, but we’re very excited about the prospect of joining this lovely neighborhood. I have admired the building for many years. We will have more details regarding the process and timing of the cafe very soon.

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