Fillmore’s Beauty Row

Atelier Cologne from Paris is the newest beauty and body shop on Fillmore Street.

Atelier Cologne from Paris is the newest of many beauty and body shops on Fillmore Street.

THE ONRUSH OF new fashion and cosmetics brands and boutiques onto Fillmore Street in recent years has been astonishing — and beauty and body products are the indisputable trend of the moment.

There is understandable confusion about why so many have located so near each other and what sets them apart. And those seeking something new or a special gift are met with a barrage of adjectives: ethically sourced, cruelty-free, anti-microbial, sustainable or hypoallergenic.

But step inside any of the stylishly sleek shops and you’ll find knowledgeable sales associates with a true passion for their products. Lotions and potions are formulated not just to prettify, but also to fortify the health of the skin and the spirit of the soul.

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Mom and pop shop bucks the trends

Asmbly Hall’s Ron Benitez (center) offers Mayor Ed Lee fashion advice

Asmbly Hall’s Ron Benitez (center) offers Mayor Ed Lee some fashion advice.

By BARBARA KATE REPA

Five years ago, when many saw the neighborhood becoming inhospitable to mom-and-pop businesses as ever more corporate chains moved in, Tricia and Ron Benitez turned a deaf ear to the naysayers and opened their one-of-a-kind clothing boutique at 1850 Fillmore Street.

They stocked it with pieces for men and women by indie designers for the customer they described as a “sophisticated prepster” and named it Asmbly Hall, a moniker they said “describes a gathering place for the community that brings fashion, art and music together.”

Five years later, it’s all come true — even the mom and pop part, since the couple welcomed daughter Harlow 21 months ago. Mayor Ed Lee recently chose Asmbly Hall to kick off the “Shop and Dine in the 49” campaign, a holiday initiative to encourage spending in to the city’s neighborhoods. And Ron this year became president of the Fillmore Merchants Association.

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From Blue Bottle, prolonged silence

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NEARLY TWO YEARS ago, the firm announced: “Blue Bottle Coffee is excited to be pursuing a new cafe located at Jackson and Fillmore Streets.” Since then, nada. A PR rep says only what she has said for months: “I will be in touch as soon as I have more details.”

Confirmation, of a sort, that Blue Bottle still intends to open on Fillmore came in mid-September when the windows were papered with a Blue Bottle logo and a quote from writer Yukio Mishima before his ritual suicide: “When silence is prolonged over a certain period of time it takes on additional meaning.”

Letter to the editors

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Fillmore shops empty, but leased

The former home of Paolo Shoes at 2000 Fillmore will eventually become Space NK.

The former home of Paolo Shoes at 2000 Fillmore will house Space NK cosmetics.

W ITH THE CONTINUING onrush of national and international fashion and cosmetics brands onto upper Fillmore Street, retail space has become so sought after that corporate tenants are willing to pay rent for months while their storefronts sit empty, waiting for city permits to be approved.

A dozen storefronts north of Bush Street are now vacant, but almost all are already leased.

“It looks terrible,” said Lynne Newhouse Segal, new president of the Pacific Heights Residents Association, whose group has expressed concerns about the empty shops.

Among the stores in the works:

• Intermix, the Gap’s newest acquisition, is taking over Brooks Brothers’ Black Fleece space at 2223 Fillmore.

• 45rpm, a Japanese clothing brand, got the go-ahead April 14 from the Planning Commission to open at 1905 Fillmore.

• Space NK, a cosmetics company based in London, won approval for its plans to open at 2000 Fillmore, former home of Paolo Shoes, from the commission on April 28.

All are considered “formula retail” chain stores and require a conditional use permit to open on Fillmore. It can take many months to get the permit, although none has ever been rejected. Then building permits must be arranged and approved.

“Everything’s taking longer,” said commercial real estate broker Pam Mendelsohn, who has leased many of the Fillmore storefronts. “There’s a lot of things in process. It just takes a lot longer to get permits.”

Two of the empty spaces housed businesses owned by Starbucks Coffee. Starbucks still controls the vacant corner at 2201 Fillmore. “Unfortunately, we still have no additional details to share at this time,” a Starbucks spokesperson said. The space at 2043 Fillmore that housed Starbucks’ La Boulange has reverted to founder Pascal Rigo, who said he is contemplating a pizzeria, a rotisserie or another Boulangerie.

“We should be making a final decision within the next two weeks,” Rigo said. “We should be reopen by midsummer if everything goes well.”

Among the other businesses with leases on the street are Frye Boots at 2047 Fillmore and Ardis Coffee at 1903 Fillmore. The Mac cosmetics shop at 2011 Fillmore is being remodeled and will reopen. Blue Bottle Coffee is coming to 2455 Fillmore.

The jewelry bros

Gary Mureta and Eric Trabert operate side-by-side shops on Fillmore.

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.

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Facing the future in Japantown

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By TOMO HIRAI
Nichi Bei Weekly

At the dawn of its 110th year, San Francisco’s Japantown faces challenges in maintaining its identity as a regional hub of Japanese and Japanese American culture. About five decades since the Japan Center was built, many of the neighborhood’s longtime business owners have come of retirement age. As these businesses close, the neighborhood faces questions on how it should promote itself and preserve its legacy.

Read more: “The state of Japantown’s businesses

Rising from the ashes

Glenda Queen and Terry Brumbaugh founded Union Street Goldsmith in 1976.

Glenda Queen and Terry Brumbaugh founded Union Street Goldsmith in 1976.

By JENNIFER BLOT

For a small retailer to survive in San Francisco for 40 years — and rebound from earthquake and fire — takes something more than luck. For Union Street Goldsmith, scheduled to reopen November 14 after a fire in early June shut down its longtime Union Street home, the key to longevity is no mystery. It’s having loyal customers.

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For Jet Mail, the end is here

Photograph of Jet Mail's Kevin Wolohan by Kathi O'Leary

Photograph of Jet Mail’s Kevin Wolohan by Kathi O’Leary

IT SEEMED AS IF Jet Mail had cheated death.

Two and a half years ago, with its prime retail space at 2130 Fillmore coveted by the onrush of fashion boutiques eager and able to pay far higher rent, the packaging and mailing store moved south to 2184 Sutter. In the process, they sparked new life on a sleepy stretch of Sutter Street.

Now the gig is up.

Jet Mail will go out of business on September 15, ending a 25-year run in the neighborhood. The space will become an insurance office.

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Shell gets go-ahead, garage gets the boot

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THE CALL CAME shortly after noon on July 1. Time’s up, Douglas Fredell was told. Do no more work in the garage of the Shell station at 2501 California, and have your tools and machinery out by the end of the month.

It had appeared the neighbors were gaining ground in their battle against a big chain convenience store with additional gas pumps the owners of the gas station want to build as a replacement for the garage, which has operated there for decades.

Yet another crowd of locals showed up to protest on June 4 when the Planning Commission took up the issue again, a month after sending the owners back to the drawing board and directing them to redraw their plans to keep the garage.

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