Forget Lower Pacific Heights — now it’s LoPa

By BARBARA KATE REPA

When Vasilios Kiniris opened a huge new home for Zinc Details, his upscale design and furniture emporium, last month at 1633 Fillmore in the former dollar store, he called it an “expansion” and a “remaking.”

Others called it brave. Or foolhardy.

But Kiniris, with 24 years of design and retail experience — most of it in the neighborhood — sees the move as a way to change with the times: to meet the needs of a changing demographic, to take his business in new directions and to build a sense of community among other independent business owners who call the area home.

“We’re stretching the goodness of Fillmore down the street,” he says.

It’s a tough stretch. Imbibing dudes hang out on the Geary bridge, chic by jowl with the line forming nearby for the best new restaurant in America, as the James Beard Foundation last year dubbed State Bird Provisions.

What was once the Western Addition is now Lower Pacific Heights, according to the real estate listings. But Kiniris has another idea. “We’re calling it LoPa,” he says.

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No more group yoga at International Orange

AFTER A DOZEN YEARS upstairs at 2044 Fillmore, with its oversized windows overlooking the heart of the neighborhood’s retail row, International Orange is demonstrating its flexibility by shaking up its yoga and retail offerings.

As of November 15, group yoga classes will be eliminated and instruction will only be given one-on-one or semi-privately to two or three practitioners at a time.

yoga_group

Leslie Su, retail and brand manager, says the change was prompted by current clients asking for more “individual wellness” when they come to the studio and spa.

Future yoga clients will meet with IO staff to assess what they would like to work on and their preferred styles of practice. “We will then pair each person with an instructor and set up sessions based on the time and style that works for them,” says Su. “We like to go first with the style.”

Five of IO’s current instructors will stay on to work with clients in private sessions: Allison Hodge, Lindsay Thomson, Nicole Cronin, Marie Murphy and Erin Gilmore. Su says that collectively they have experience in offering athletic, rejuvenative and pre- and post-natal styles of practice.

The individualized instruction comes with a price: $125 for a 60-minute session — a substantial hike over the current rate of $12 for a drop-in class, several of which run 90 minutes.

And while private yoga clients get the added perks of full access to the spa amenities — steam, shower, sun deck and “relaxation lounge,” Su acknowledges that some longtimers are bucking at the price hike — and especially at the move away from group practice.

“Certain clients are pretty sad about it going away. But restaurants take away your favorite dishes. And many people just don’t like change of any kind,” she says. “Besides, there are a ton of other yoga studios in the area. We are seen as a luxury spa in San Francisco. The price for one-on-one yoga instruction is comparable to the cost of a facial.”

She adds that IO aficionados have been given a month’s notice, and that those with outstanding credits for classes can use their value for private yoga or spa treatments such as waxing, facials and massages.

A “transition celebration” is slated for Sunday, November 2, when all final group classes will be free. Juice cleanses and other wellness samplings and discounts will also be offered.

As part of the transition, the spacious group studio will be divided into a more intimate space for private clients and an additional treatment room and more retail space. The yoga studio and spa will be closed from November 17 through 20 for construction.

IO has offered organic In Fiore complexion and body treatments nearly since its opening. In Fiore founder Julie Elliott will relocate her Post Street parfumerie to a shop-within-a-shop as part of the remodeling.

Su says this change, too, was prompted by client demand. “More clients care about what they’re putting on their skin, but the science behind it also needs to be top-notch,” she says. That includes organic make-up as well. “We will certainly be growing this segment as part of our retail expansion,” Su says.

Shell station makeover moving slowly

WHEN PLANS WERE UNVEILED earlier this year to remake the Shell service station at California and Steiner and add more pumps and a 24-hour Loop food store, neighbors were up in arms. Many decried the prospect of added traffic and “a 7-11 with a salad bar.”

According to city planner Sharon Lai, the project is proceeding, but still awaits an environmental report and further review. She said it is unlikely to come before the Planning Commission until next year.

“It has not moved very swiftly,” Lai said. “There are still outstanding issues to be resolved.”

Much of the opposition to the project was sparked by its elimination of Shell Auto Repair, the garage independently owned and operated by mechanic Doug Fredell. Nearly 200 supporters and customers of the garage have signed a petition opposing the project.

“We’re certainly aware there’s a lot of neighborhood concern,” Lai said, adding that the department’s position is not influenced by public opinion. “The commissioners are the appropriate body to consider comments from the public,” she said. “That’s their job.”

A similar Loop convenience store is being built at the Shell station at Lincoln and 19th Avenue by Golden Gate Park.

EARLIER: “Shell station may lose garage

Hip ice cream shop on the way

smitten

 

By Chris Barnett

SMITTEN, a made-to-order ice cream venture that opened its first shop in a converted shipping container in Hayes Valley, is scooping up the small space recently vacated by Copynet at 2404 California Street.

Copynet relocated to 2174 Sutter Street  at the end of September as its 20-year lease was about to expire and the rent was to increase by $4,000 a month.

Selling just four to six flavors of ice cream at any one time, Smitten’s founder, Robyn Sue Fisher, is in the final stages of signing a lease with the landlord, Russell Flynn of Flynn Investments. The longtime San Francisco property investor owns the venerable Preston Apartments on the corner of Fillmore and California, which includes six street-level storefronts.

Flynn hoped to rent the 960-square-foot storefront on California Street to Wells Fargo Bank as a limited service branch filled with automated teller machines. Wells Fargo, which theoretically could easily pay the $10 to $12 per square foot asking price for monthly rent, is in a dispute with the city over claims its two ATMs embedded in the exterior wall of the bank building facing California Street violate local disability codes because the sidewalk is too steep.

But the deal fell through.

Flynn said he approached First Republic, his longtime bank, with a similar offer but was turned down.

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A life in leather

Photograph of Peter James and Susanne Rundberg by Susie Biehler

Photographs of Fog City Leather’s Peter James and Susanne Rundberg by Susie Biehler

By Barbara Kate Repa

PETER JAMES STILL REMEMBERS when he got smitten by leather. He was about 10 years old, living in San Francisco, having immigrated with his family from Sweden four years earlier.

“I sat in my dad’s new 1955 Studebaker, and when I shut the door I was instantly intoxicated with the leather aroma,” he says. “It just knocked me out. It had black and white checkerboard upholstery — and it hit me like a thunderbolt. I was hooked.”

Becoming an artisan and a leathercrafter wasn’t on his radar screen back then, growing up in a family where the mantra repeated each night at dinner was: “Be willing to work a little harder.”

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Rising rent moves more shops south

Fillmore and California, Labor Day 2014 | Photograph by Dickie Spritzer

Fillmore and California, Labor Day 2014 | Photograph by Dickie Spritzer

FILLMORE STREET is “the hot retail spot in San Francisco” for fashion and beauty brands, Women’s Wear Daily proclaims, and the rent on commercial storefronts is rising rapidly to reflect the neighborhood’s newfound favor.

This year has already brought Ella Moss and The Kooples to the street, joining dozens of other clothing and beauty boutiques. Soon Rag & Bone will open its new showplace on the prime corner of Fillmore and California. And Rebecca Minkoff is bringing its designs to the former Pure Beauty store at 2124 Fillmore, the only empty storefront on upper Fillmore.

Now two more longtime neighborhood shops are packing up and moving south, where the rent is significantly less expensive.

• Copynet, the printing and graphic design firm that has occupied 2404 California Street for 20 years, will move this month to 2174 Sutter Street — a few doors from Jet Mail, which made a similar move earlier this year.

• Zinc Details, the home furnishings store that has been on Fillmore near Bush Street for 20 years, will move in October three blocks south into the empty National Dollar Store space at 1603 Fillmore, next door to the Boom Boom Room at the Geary
bridge.

The owners of both businesses see fresh opportunities in their new locations, but both acknowledge they were facing big rent increases that made it impossible to maintain their longtime homes.

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Paolo Shoes staying on Fillmore

Photograph of Paolo Iantorno, owner of Paolo Shoes, by Daniel Bahmani

Photograph of Paolo Iantorno, owner of Paolo Shoes, by Daniel Bahmani

By Chris Barnett

THE RANCOROUS LEASE DISPUTE between Paolo Shoes and its landlord has been resolved out of court, and the custom Italian shoemaker won’t be taking a hike from the corner of Fillmore and Pine for at least two more years.

The clash between the two San Francisco real estate dynasties was recently settled as Paolo Shoes and Webco Group LLC and their lawyers met in the halls of the courthouse awaiting a mandatory settlement conference of a lawsuit based on a disagreement that had dragged on for 10 months with neither side budging.

“We made amends and settled on a rent that is twice what I am paying now, but still below market,” says Paolo Iantorno, the tenant and owner of the store. Under terms of the agreement, he will pay $10,000 a month rent for the first year and $10,500 a month in the second year. Previously, he was paying $5 a foot for the 1,000-square-foot storefront at 2000 Fillmore Street.

Patrick Szeto, a member of the family that owns Webco Group and American Realty and Construction Co., did not return calls or respond to an email seeking comment.

“We met for four hours in the halls and we each had our lawyer with us,” Iantorno says. “The mood, to be honest, was fine. Very constructive. There was no anger or emotion and we talked everything out.”

Still, both sides were at an impasse and ready to go to trial until Iantorno’s father, Sergio Iantorno, showed up and acted as unofficial mediator. His son will not disclose what precisely brought the factions to an agreement. But he hints that his dad made certain amends and pointed out that Paolo had been in the storefront for 10 years and in the Fillmore neighborhood for 15 years and had been a good tenant during those years.

“For Patrick, I now understand that it was business and not personal,” says Iantorno. “We settled our differences — despite the fact that he had a prospective tenant ready to move in and pay $15,500 to $16,500 a month.”

The amiable resolution was a 180 degree turnaround from earlier this year when Paolo Shoes faced eviction on Valentine’s Day when his lease expired. Webco would not extend the lease, claiming Iantorno’s request in July 2013 for an extension did not meet a deadline in the existing lease.

Both sides hired lawyers and spent the fall and winter haggling.

These days, Paolo Iantorno, who has two other retail stores in Hayes Valley — including one called Duke et Duchess that sells its own line of jeans and accessories, — is spending most of his time working for the family real estate business, Realty West. He is doing hands-on renovations of apartment complexes and mixed-use retail and residential properties.

Iantorno says he is grateful his Fillmore Street hassle is behind him.

“My dad and I were talking,” he says. “Maybe there is some way our two families can work together on a deal. I would like that.”

EARLIER: “Getting the boot

Shell station may lose garage

The Shell station and garage at California and Steiner Streets.

The Shell station and garage at the corner of California and Steiner Streets.

PLANS HAVE BEEN UNVEILED to demolish the Shell station at 2501 California Street and replace it with a new high-end convenience store called Loop.

Loop is the next evolution in service station retail,” said Nick Goyal, one of California’s largest operators of Shell service stations, who now controls the local station and more than 100 others. During the past year he has opened six Loop stores at Shell stations in the Bay Area, with more on the way.

Loop stores offer groceries and fresh foods along with wine, espresso, smoothies, frozen yogurt, sushi and a soup and salad bar. “It will change your expectation of what you can purchase at your next fill-up,” Goyal said.

Shell Auto Repair would be eliminated and the fuel pumps reconfigured and rebuilt, if the project is approved by the city.

EARLIER: “50 years at the Shell station

Fillmore a case study on chain stores

The Kooples, now under construction at 2241 Fillmore, has more than 300 clothing boutiques worldwide but only six free-standing stores in the U.S. and therefore is not considered a chain.

The Kooples, now under construction at 2241 Fillmore, has more than 300 clothing boutiques worldwide but only six free-standing stores in the U.S. and therefore is not considered a chain.

FILLMORE STREET CONTINUES to remake itself into a mecca of high-end fashion labels from around the world, despite the city’s professed intent to limit chain stores in neighborhood shopping districts.

Partly that is because the rules limiting “formula retail” — defined as companies with 11 or more stores — do not include stores outside the U.S.

An attempt to change the rules to include international stores and spinoffs of existing chains was put on hold last year when the Planning Department commissioned a study of the issue. Now the Berkeley consulting firm conducting the study, Strategic Economics, has produced a draft of its final report, which will be the basis of policy recommendations to be presented to the Planning Commission on May 22.

The report includes detailed case studies of three neighborhoods, including the Upper Fillmore Neighborhood Commercial District, stretching from Bush to Jackson Streets. The other neighborhoods included in the study are Ocean Avenue and a portion of outer Geary Boulevard.

“Upper Fillmore . . . is a rapidly changing district that in recent years has seen a significant shift in the types of retailers occupying local storefronts,” the report says, including “a growing number of new high-end formula clothing stores and other chain retail establishments.”

The report notes: “As the mix of retail in the district has changed, residents have raised concerns about a loss of neighborhood-serving businesses, while some independent retailers have expressed unease over competition from national brands.”
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The buzz on Divis: change is coming

Photographs of Divisadero Street by Erik Anderson

Photographs of upper Divisadero Street in San Francisco by Erik Anderson

By Chris Barnett

THE FOUR CORNERS of the dingy intersection of Divisadero and Bush won’t win any architectural awards today, but the location is increasingly prized by investors, and all four corners are in transition.

Bulldozers are rumbling over the dirt on the southwest corner, home for decades to the San Francisco Community Convalescent Home. More recently it has been a slot machine for speculators. Owner Jocelyn Carter cashed out seven years ago for $4.6 million from a San Francisco builder and his Manhattan money partner. Then, in foreclosure, they lost the location to a Mill Valley condo developer and investor who paid $14.6 million in 2012 — and quickly flipped it to Los Angeles-based megabuilder KB Home for a jackpot $38 million.

Now a six-story residential and retail complex with 81 condos is under construction, with a grand opening slated for early next year. Price tags on some units are sure to top a million apiece.

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