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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Barry for Pets closing after 60 years

Mark Ulriksen's Dogs Only, set in Alta Plaza Park, is featured in his new book.

Mark Ulriksen’s Dogs Only, set in Alta Plaza Park, is featured in his new book.

By BARBARA KATE REPA

Barry for Pets at 1840 Fillmore, reputedly the oldest independent pet supply store in the city, is closing at the end of April after six decades on Fillmore Street.

“It comes to a point, with the demographic changes on the street, that this business just doesn’t pencil out anymore,” says owner Gary Collings.

“Now the big box stores have just done us in,” adds co-owner Alice Barkley. “If you look at the pet industry, the same thing is happening to us that happened to the pharmacy industry a while back: The small independent drug stores were put out of business by the big chains like Walgreen’s.”

Barry for Pets opened in the early 1950s up the street in the building in which original owner Janet Barry lived, at 2328 Fillmore, now occupied by Cottage Industry.

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Charting change on Fillmore Street

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LUXURY APPAREL chain stores have made a major incursion onto Fillmore north of Bush Street in recent years, a new survey confirms, and clothing stores now make up nearly a third of all businesses on the street.

But the survey also finds there are still dozens of service businesses and non-apparel retailers — and that most businesses on upper Fillmore have been open for more than a decade.

The analysis of city data, Yelp price rankings and news articles was conducted by Hoodline, a neighborhood news website based in the Lower Haight that aims to help people better understand what’s happening in city neighborhoods by quantifying businesses and services.

“Why have so many luxury apparel chain stores opened on upper Fillmore?” the surveyors ask. Their conclusion: “Beyond the general economic growth of the city, our findings suggest that the success of independent retailers created an especially attractive environment for them.”

On Fillmore south of Bush Street, it’s a different story.

“For a variety of historical and architectural reasons, the quaint Victorian storefronts aren’t available south of Bush,” the survey says. “The area unfortunately reflects the decades of failed experiments in urban redevelopment. Vacancy rates are higher.”

Hoodline also finds that fewer storefronts are available in the redeveloped areas of lower Fillmore.

“Large portions of the blocks are dominated by blank concrete walls, and the decline in density of shops is unmissable,” it concludes.

Read more: “A victim of its own success?

Lots of chic new shops, not so many shoppers

The new Rag & Bone boutique at Fillmore and California.

The new Rag & Bone boutique at Fillmore and California, formerly a coffee shop-laundromat. Photographs by Daniel Bahmani

RETAIL REPORT | BARBARA KATE REPA

It’s impossible to ignore the cries and whispers: Fillmore, long loved and lauded by locals, has been transformed from a neighborhood street serving residents who live nearby into a high fashion shopping destination.

In recent years, two dozen new clothing boutiques have set up shop on the street, most offering single lines with corporate roots and identities. They have renovated aging storefronts, many of which needed attention, into chic new showplaces for their brands.

But one key element seems to be missing: shoppers. Most of the stylish new shops are empty much of the time, except for sales associates checking their cell phones and security guards stationed at the front doors. And very few shopping bags are in evidence on the street.

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Ever more fashionable Fillmore

Heidi-outside

The new HeidiSays at 2426 Fillmore. Photograph by Justin Schuck.

HEIDISAYS: CONSOLIDATE

Heidi Sabelhaus, the name behind three HeidiSays boutiques on Fillmore Street, says she’d been looking for the perfect spot to consolidate her two clothing shops, Collections and Casual, into a single HeidiSays San Francisco. Then she realized she had it all along in her original store at 2426 Fillmore. The new HeidiSays now presents the casual collection as a “store within a store” in its reconfigured home.

“It was time to give it a facelift,” Sabelhaus says. She divines her customers will be happy to find everything under one roof, and wanted the facelift to result in an elegantly beautiful shop, heavy on warm wood and marble. “There’s such a trend of sterile contemporary environments, but I know my customers want a more feminine feeling,” she says. The grand opening is not until March 5, but raffle gifts will be given away all during the month of February.

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Rebecca Minkoff at 2124 Fillmore. Photograph by Daniel Bahmani.

HANDBAGS AND HOT BEVS AT REBECCA MINKOFF

There are two short racks of clothes and some shoes and wallets at the Rebecca Minkoff store just opened at 2124 Fillmore, but it stocks mostly handbags — befitting the store’s namesake and owner, who broke into the fashion business a decade ago with her iconic Morning After Bag. While the handbags help fill somewhat of a retail gap on the street, the real draw so far is the high-tech shopping experience.

A graphic screen lining one wall beckons shoppers to touch it for more information. They can then access a Lookbook and press prompts to “Send favorites to a fitting room” or “Order a complimentary beverage.” Shoppers get a text when their items have been gathered in a fitting room and once inside, they can beckon sales associates to bring in additional colors and sizes and even adjust the lighting from daylight to twilight — again, with the swipe of a screen. While the brand is distributed in more than 900 stores worldwide, the Fillmore location is the third freestanding store in the U.S.

ministry

The pop-up Ministry of Supply at 1903 Fillmore. Photograph by Daniel Bahmani.

AT MINISTRY OF SUPPLY, FASHION MEETS TECHNOLOGY

Now open at 1903 Fillmore, in what was once the other half of Zinc Details, is a pop-up called Ministry of Supply that offers men’s clothing “integrated with performance technology.” Case in point: Its Apollo dress shirts, which look much like regular shirts but are crafted from a knit synthetic blend said to control heat, moisture and odor. And they’re designed to flex with the wearer, based on Strain Analysis Technology — the same technology NASA uses in its spacesuits. Hence the name Apollo.

The store also stocks pants, T-shirts, socks, vests and jackets — all for men, and all backed by some sort of technological research. The pop-up will be open through June. Ministry of Supply sells mostly online. It currently has one brick and mortar store in Boston and is casting about for additional locations.

peruvian

Ex-Peruvian Connection at 2326 Fillmore. Photograph by Dickie Spritzer.

PERUVIAN DISCONNECTION

The storefront at 2326 Fillmore was transformed with vintage wallpaper, artisan weavings and antique fixtures as the home of clothing company Peruvian Connection for nearly four years. Then, on January 1, it suddenly stood stripped and empty. “It broke my heart to leave,” says company founder Annie Hurlbut. “The store there just ended up being unmanageably small. We couldn’t get much of our collection in the spot and ended up disappointing customers.”

Fredericksen’s seeks to rescue Hardware Unlimited

Hardware Unlimited has been at 3326 Sacramento Street for almost a century.

Hardware Unlimited has been at 3326 Sacramento Street for almost a century.

By CHRIS BARNETT

The neighborhood is on the verge of losing another hardware store — the beloved Hardware Unlimited on Sacramento Street — unless the landlord and property manager can come to terms with the owner of Fredericksen Hardware & Paint in Cow Hollow, who says he is trying to honor a deathbed request from his friend to buy the 90-year-old shop.

Barring an 11th hour agreement, the late Dick Norwood’s hardware and housewares emporium at 3326 Sacramento will wind up its liquidation sale and close its doors on January 18.

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Shell garage told to close

Owner Doug Fredell and his fellow mechanic Chelse Batti have built a loyal clientele.

Owner Doug Fredell and his fellow mechanic Chelse Batti have built a loyal clientele.

DESPITE AN OUTPOURING of support from its customers in the neighborhood, Shell Auto Repair at 2501 California has received notice it must close by January 31.

UPDATE: Just as they were preparing to pack up their tools and shut down, the mechanics at Shell Auto Repair got a three-month reprieve. The business will continue through April 30, giving its two mechanics extra time to find a new location.

“We’re going to see about lining up an alternative location for the shop,” said owner Doug Fredell. “If not, we’ll close. We at least have a fighting chance.”

The owners of the Shell station have submitted plans to the city that would eliminate the garage, add gas pumps and replace the current building with a two-story 24-hour Loop Marketplace convenience store and cafe. The proposal is expected to come before the Planning Commission early in the new year.

More than 200 people signed an online petition opposing the plans and dozens sent letters and emails to City Hall.

Mechanic Doug Fredell, who has leased the garage for the past decade, said he and fellow mechanic Chelse Batti have been overwhelmed by the support they received from the community.

“The neighborhood really stepped forward,” Fredell said. “It’s pretty incredible to know people care that much.”

Ultimately, that support appears to have backfired. When the owner of the station, Nick Goyal, learned that officials at City Hall were listening to neighborhood sentiment against his plans, he notified Fredell he had to be out by January 31.

“It’s a lot cleaner to have the space empty for whatever they want to do,” said Fredell, who had a month-to-month lease. He sought legal advice about his options and found he had none.

Fredell said he has hired a broker to look for another space, preferably nearby, but has found nothing so far.

“Anything that’s a car repair shop is being turned into something else,” he said. “Too bad there isn’t a nice little place on Sutter Street, where everybody else is going.”

Fredell said he remains hopeful a new location will surface — perhaps through a client — in the new year.

“We spent a lot of time building up a good business,” Fredell said. “We wanted to be that place in the neighborhood that is indispensible to people.”

He said telling customers the garage has a definite closing date has been tough.

“Customers get so outraged,” he said. “They found a good place they liked and could trust.”

The garage has operated continuously on that corner for decades. It was owned by Bud Martinez for nearly 60 years. After Fredell took over, Martinez continued to work part time until his death in 2012.

EARLIER: “This Bud’s for you

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.