Eunice Ashizawa and her nephew Aaron Katekaru help run Soko Hardware in Japantown.
By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS
After Masayasu Ashizawa came from Japan to San Francisco nearly a century ago, he opened a hardware store in 1925 in the heart of bustling Japantown and named it Soko — Japanese for “that place.” Soko Hardware’s founder could not have imagined the family business would be thriving in that place today under the management of his grandson Philip, born years after his grandfather died.
Soko Hardware, at 1698 Post Street, thrives not just as a local hardware store, but also as a destination for Bay Area residents and visitors who come for the paper lanterns or the authentic teapots or the delicate china — sometimes even for the hardware.
“I think of going to Soko as a special treat, like going to a museum and finding things I didn’t know existed,” says Mill Valley resident Sue Steele. (more…)
Gary Mureta and Eric Trabert operate side-by-side shops on Fillmore.
LOCALS | JENNIFER BLOT
“He can sell ice to an Eskimo,” says Eric Trabert of Gary Mureta, his next-door neighbor at the top of Fillmore Street.
But Mureta doesn’t hear his friend’s admiring endorsement. He’s busy juggling the demands of what appears, at first, to be a small and sleepy antique store. But the store phone is ringing. Then his cell phone rings. A customer comes in to pick up a massive — and heavy — bronze sculpture. His only employee is due to go on a break. And Trabert, owner of Trabert Goldsmiths, has popped in to say hello.
Mureta walks out the door to talk to someone on the street and leaves Trabert to hold down the fort. But Trabert doesn’t seem to mind. Inevitably he’ll spot something in the golden glow of the store he’s never seen before. There’s a massive vintage silver and enamel Margot de Taxco cameo pendant, a Scottish agate silver buckle bracelet and numerous Victorian gold insect brooches with semi-precious eyes and bellies. Beyond jewelry, the store is brimming with an eclectic assortment of decorative pieces, silverware, sets of pastel colored stemware and oil paintings by 19th century California artists.
Trabert’s shop next door is a contrast in both ambience and inventory. Brightly lit, with high ceilings, its cases sparkle with contemporary baubles: stackable rings, pieces anchored with unusual pastel sapphires, pearl chokers and thin gold bangles. Trabert offers his own designs as well as pieces from about a dozen contemporary jewelry lines.
The attack occurred on the sixth floor of the apartment building at Fillmore and Pacific.
CRIME | BARBARA KATE REPA
A federal appellate court has denied the latest challenge to a second-degree murder conviction in a case that rocked the neighborhood 15 years ago when a horrific attack by two large dogs in a Pacific Avenue apartment building left one local resident dead and landed two others in prison.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on February 3 affirmed a lower federal court’s denial of habeas corpus relief for Marjorie Knoller, a former neighborhood resident.
Black Bark chef David Lawrence: “We might as well go for it.”
By BARBARA KATE REPA
When David Lawrence and Monetta White announced plans to open their high end but homey restaurant, 1300 on Fillmore, eight years ago, friends cautioned against it. “They said, ‘You’re going down to lower Fillmore? Are you nuts?’ ” says White, whose mother and grandmother both grew up in the neighborhood.
But soon after the doors opened, the joint was jumping, fueled by foot traffic brought in by the adjacent Yoshi’s restaurant and jazz club. The club was part of the Fillmore Heritage Center — a 240,000-square-foot mixed-use complex that included Yoshi’s, 1300 on Fillmore and a nonprofit art gallery, with 80 condominiums rising above — all constructed in an ambitious attempt to revitalize Fillmore south of Geary.
For a few years, the $75 million bet seemed to pay off, as the new businesses and residents brought a vibrancy, unity and goodwill to the nascent jazz district, along with new patrons and customers. Then suddenly things changed. Fingers pointed at various culprits: a lagging economy, changing neighborhood demographics, bad management, the new SF Jazz Center in the Civic Center. The Lush Life Gallery closed first. Then Yoshi’s declared bankruptcy. An attempt to revive the club as The Addition quickly failed. For the last year, it has sat empty — an eerily silent space nearly a block long. Many people assumed 1300 on Fillmore was no longer in business, either.
I’ve been a resident of Pacific Heights for almost a century. I grew up in the 1920s, living with my folks in an apartment on Pacific Avenue. Then I bought my own place on Washington Street in 1959, raised four kids there with my wife Nancy — and we’ve lived in that home ever since.
There were really only two major interruptions to my neighborhood residency: going to Stanford, and going to war. While college attendance had expanded my horizons and given me new perspectives, going to war changed everything.
“The war has changed me in ways that will take the better part of my life to understand, let alone make peace with. Don’t ask me how. If you have to ask, you’ve never been to war.”
Those are the opening lines of my just-published book, Battle Rattle: A Last Memoir of World War II.
Being in WWII was the major event of my life. The experience still haunts me to this day — even 70 years after the fact. This is why I spent countless hours in my study on Washington Street sitting in front of a computer to write my memoir.
Isabelle McGee, owner of Regard Interiors: “I work to simplify lives and add a little zest.”
SHE’D WORKED FOR THE RITZ in Paris and other international corporations, mostly designing hotels, but French designer Isabelle McGee wanted something different — something more intimate — when she set out to establish her interior design atelier in San Francisco.
One day she was walking on Sutter Street, just a block from Fillmore, when she struck up a conversation with Joan O’Connor, longtime proprietor of Timeless Treasures at 2176 Sutter and a notorious neighborhood networker.
“I need a space like this,” McGee told her. So O’Connor promptly called upstairs and introduced her to the landlord of a nearby vacant storefront.
She had found her home. In late 2013 McGee opened her consultancy and showroom called Regard at 2182 Sutter.
Nick Nickolas could be the poster boy for a happy retirement. A tanned 78-year-old who looks and sounds 20 years younger, he built and ran a fine dining empire of 30 restaurants that stretched from Honolulu to Miami, is madly in love with his new fiancee and has all his hair and his buttons.
But he simply can’t stop working.
For the last four years, Nickolas has been managing, maitre’d-ing, setting and bussing tables at Dino & Santino’s at Fillmore and California, spelling his nephew, Dino Stavrakikis, on Thursdays and Saturdays so the single-dad owner could have time with his young son, Santino.
Now, with Santino turning 5 and heading to kindergarten, Dino might be expected to spend more time at his pizza palace, with his Uncle Nick backing off to take a cruise for two and play couples golf. But Nickolas isn’t one to sit on the sidelines.
In fact, he is taking the reins of the 28-year-old restaurant and ramping up to five days a week. Stavrakikis has given him carte blanche to change the menu, with some exceptions: Uncle Nick can’t touch “Mama’s meatballs or her spinach pie,” he says, or a few other house signature items.
He’d lived in the flat on California Street near Steiner for 37 years. Suddenly late one afternoon Jim Scott realized something was wrong.
He called 911 and tried to answer all the dispatcher’s questions. Finally he told her: “Look, I have to get out of here. My room is full of black smoke.”
Sparks from a welder working next door had started a fire. The squadrons of firefighters soon on the scene flooded the blaze before it reached Scott’s apartment — but only after they had bashed in his ceiling and windows, leaving his home a soggy and sooty mess.
In his new book, The Al Tarik, Scott, now 93, gently unfolds the story of the three years that followed and landed him in a residential hotel on Sutter Street he describes as “a century-old San Francisco pile” that is “a refuge for those like myself who in their last years have been roughed up and tossed on the rocks and shoals.”
At first his landlord assured Scott he would be back in his apartment within a few months. He moved in temporarily with a neighbor across the alley. But as the renovation of the building languished, he needed another place to stay, and found no good options. So he moved back into his charred apartment.
Daisy and Yonekazu Satoda in their apartment in Japantown.
By PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN
The New York Times
Until recently, Yonekazu Satoda says, he did not recall the diary he had written in neat cursive in the laundry building of an internment camp in Arkansas. He would eke out his entries at night amid the washboards and concrete sinks, the only private space in the camp with light.
Satoda, who gives his age as “94½,” was 22 when he and his family were uprooted from their home in San Francisco and sent to an assembly center in Fresno, and then to the Jerome Relocation Center in the mosquito-ridden Arkansas Delta. They were among an estimated 120,000 people of Japanese descent, about two-thirds of them United States citizens, who were regarded as enemy aliens and incarcerated after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Pascal Rigo reopened his original Pine Street boulangerie October 5, barely two weeks after it was shuttered by Starbucks, which in 2012 bought the maison mere and the 22 La Boulange cafes that grew from it. In the coming weeks he will also reopen five of the cafes, including the prime locations on Fillmore and Union.
For Rigo, it is a homecoming that rarely happens — a return to the place it began 17 years ago when he built his dream bakery and lived with his family above the shop.
More than a year after it went dark, Yoshi's jazz club and restaurant at 1330 Fillmore is still looking for new life.
City officials have announced they are looking for interested buyers — and for local citizens to help choose among the ideas proposed. More information and applications are here.
To stir up activity in the meantime, the city is offering to lease some of the public areas in the building to community groups. Book here.
BEFORE IT'S MAKEUP,
IT WILL BE FASHION
While Space NK is getting ready to bring its curated selection of beauty and wellness products from around the world to 2000 Fillmore, New York designer Rachel Comey will pop up in the former home of Paolo Shoes.
At 1905 Fillmore, where clothier 45rpm is coming, Amour Vert's green fashions have popped up on Fillmore for a third time.
Likewise next door at 1903 Fillmore: the menswear line Ministry of Supply's pop-up has been extended through the end of the year, at least, before Ardis Coffee opens the newest link in its chain of coffee roasteries.
COMING AND GOING AT
DIVIS AND CALIFORNIA
The busy intersection of California and Divisadero is getting ever livelier — and tastier.
• While longtime local favorite Food Inc. has closed after more than 20 years, it will be replaced by a new wine bar called Scopo Divino.
• Across the street, Tataki has moved its sushi bar a few doors west into a sleek new home. In its old space, the owners have opened Limu & Shoyu, which they’re billing as “San Francisco’s only sustainable poke bar.”
• On the corner, Wild Hare has been taken over by the owners of Lightning Tavern on Union Street. The name will remain the same, but there’s a new menu, and changes to the look of the place are coming. “It doesn’t feel like a frat house anymore,” says staffer Stephanie Mancia. “A lot of the regulars have come back.”
• And more change is coming: Bistro SF Grill, the burger joint that got its start as a pop-up on Saturday mornings at the Fillmore Farmers Market, will be closing within a couple of months and moving to Castro and 24th. “We’re sad to leave,” says co-owner Hasim Zecic. “We know our neighbors. When we got here it was just cars, no people. Now it’s friendlier and busier.”