Oldest Japantown grocery becomes a new Korean spa

The new Pearl Spa is located in Japantown at 1656 Post Street.

The new Pearl Spa is located at 1656 Post Street in Japantown.

BODY & SOUL | BARBARA KATE REPA

There was a message on my phone marked urgent: “There’s a new spa in the neighborhood — and it looks really, really nice.”

The alert came from Melody Sams, a friend who had spied the newly opened Pearl Spa & Sauna on Post Street, just a few doors down from her acupuncture clinic. In addition to practicing Chinese medicine and massage on her own, Melody has worked as a masseuse at both the neighboring Kabuki Springs & Spa and the Nob Hill Spa. She knows spas.

We made appointments to try out the new place together. At 1656 Post Street, jammed into a block of disconnected retail shops and restaurants, it’s an unlikely locale for an oasis. But the spot also has a venerable act to follow: It’s in the former home of Uoki K. Sakai, the oldest grocery store in Japantown, which closed its doors at the end of 2011 after 105 years in business.

An amazing transformation has occurred. The fish market and aisles of tall metal racks stacked with groceries have been replaced by gleaming marble and tile and whimsical light fixtures. The space has been reconfigured as a classy, immaculate, modern day spa for women. Owners Ray and Tracy Giron have spared no detail.

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A pair of important homes

The Vedanta Society's "new temple" at Fillmore and Vallejo.

The Vedanta Society’s “new temple” at Fillmore and Vallejo.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

The Vedanta Society of Northern California was founded in 1900 by visiting Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda, who earlier gained fame and admiration at the Chicago Parliament of World Religions in 1893. The society owns two neighborhood landmarks: the “old temple” at 2963 Webster at Filbert, completed in 1905, then further expanded in 1908; and the “new temple” at 2323 Vallejo at Fillmore, dedicated in 1959.

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In Vino veritas no more

After 20 years, Vino closed on New Year's Eve.

After 20 years at 2425 California Street, Vino closed on New Year’s Eve.

By CHRIS BARNETT

On New Year’s Eve, when most wine and champagne purveyors were tallying up their holiday sales receipts, Vino at 2425 California Street closed its doors forever after a 20-year run — the victim of a potential $1,000 a month rent hike, shrinking profits and a retailing strategy that no longer works in the neighborhood.

Unpretentious, with decor fashioned mostly out of wooden shipping boxes and paper tubes, and resembling a ground level wine cellar without the chill, Vino was known for its straight talk on wines, good values and its 350-bottle inventory of mostly eclectic imports.

Actually, Vino’s owner, seasoned wine retailer and wholesaler Alan Pricco, decided to pull the plug even before the property manager hit him with a  $12,000 a year rent increase. “I called him and said we’re leaving,” Pricco says.

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Full House, fuller street

Fans of the Full House TV show flock to 1709 Broderick Street.

A new sign greets fans of the Full House television show flocking to 1709 Broderick Street.

FOR YEARS, residents of the 1700 block of Broderick Street, between Bush and Pine, have struggled with an overabundance of love from fans of the beloved ’80s sit-com Full House, supposedly set at 1709 Broderick.

When a sequel, Fuller House, was launched last year, the opening credits still showed the Italianate Victorian at 1709, and the daily confluence of fans intensified.

Now neighbors are bracing themselves for what comes next after learning the house has been sold, for $4 million, to Jeff Franklin, the creator and producer of Full House and Fuller House.

“The house came on the market and really, I just thought, I have to buy this house,” Franklin told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s great to have the house in our Full House family and be able to preserve it for the fans.”

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Kelly’s Corner

Kelly on Fillmore, a portrait of Kelly Johnson by Anne Ruth Isaacson

Kelly on Fillmore, a portrait of Kelly Johnson by Anne Ruth Isaacson

LOCALS | ANNE RUTH ISAACSON

After a long walk back home from the Hardly Strictly Blue Grass Festival, I stopped at Fillmore and Sacramento for coffee. Outside on the corner there were no free tables, but a gentleman signaled that I could join him and his friend.

That was the day I met Kelly Johnson. I found him instantly likable and engaging. Soon I would learn what many locals already knew: that he can usually be found on that corner, nursing a coffee, available for interesting conversation.

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From the Fillmore to the stratosphere

The artist Bruce Conner ran an unconventional campaign for city supervisor.

The artist Bruce Conner ran for supervisor in 1967.

ART | JEROME TARSHIS

During the early and middle ’60s, when I was thinking about moving from New York to San Francisco, one of the inducements was that Bruce Conner lived here. My avant-garde film friends thought his first film, A Movie (1958), was an instant classic, followed by one success after another.

The objects he made — assemblage sculptures — were being shown at major galleries in New York, London, Paris, Rome and Mexico City. He was in great collections on both sides of the Atlantic. Not bad for a 30ish artist born and brought up in Kansas.

A more complicated Bruce Conner is the subject of “It’s All True,” his fullest retrospective so far, almost worshipfully received earlier this year at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and now at SFMOMA through January 22.

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TV for a desert island

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BOOKS | DAVID THOMSON

In writing my new book, Television: A Biography, I revisited a lot of shows that were old favorites. Some stood the test of time; some did not. What follows is a list of 10 shows I’d like to have on a desert island — not my top 10, you must understand, just an assortment of good stuff. I hope the island has a sofa.

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A home for the telephone king

Both client and architect of this corner house shared a fascination with telephones.

Both the owner and architect of 1900 Pierce Street shared a fascination with telephones.

LANDMARKS | BRIDGET MALEY

The wonderfully designed corner house at 1900 Pierce Street was built in 1887 for John I. Sabin, an early investor and proponent of the telephone, under the direction of architect William F. Smith.

John I. Sabin

John I. Sabin, first owner of 1900 Pierce

Both architect and client appear to have shared a fascination with telephones. In 1877, Sabin founded the American District Telegraph Co., the first telephone company on the west coast. Later he became the president of the Pacific States Telephone Co. and acquired the nickname the “Telephone King.” In 1901, architect Smith filed for a patent for a “message transmitting and recording mechanism for telephone systems.” This device was capable of passing a message from one switching station to another and recording it on paper tape at the receiving end.

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Val Kilmer is Mark Twain at the Clay

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FILM | ANDREA CHASE

The last generation or two thinks of Hal Holbrook when it comes to one-man shows about Mark Twain. Not to take anything away from Holbrook’s dry wit and perfect timing when performing Twain’s words, but Val Kilmer with Citizen Twain makes a compelling argument to join him as another master interpreter of those words. He will be presenting the piece one night only in San Francisco, December 22, at the Clay Theatre on Fillmore Street.

In Kilmer’s telling, the voice is deeper than Holbrook’s, the performance more physical, but the delivery is just as spot on. Kilmer is also more sardonic, yet finds an almost self-deprecating way with Twain’s take on humanity, making it clear that he doesn’t spare himself when passing judgment. He brings a contemporary vibe to Twain’s reminiscence about a particularly sadistic schoolteacher he enjoyed taunting, despite the teacher’s liberal use of corporal punishment, his still prescient take on politics and his unabashed love of adulation.

Distilling a lifetime of Twain’s splendid writings into a 90-minute piece cannot be easy, but Kilmer — who wrote and directed the play now filmed from a live performance for cinematic presentation — has made choices that are equally splendid, leaving viewers tickled and wanting more.

“Citizen Twain” is a thoroughly engaging reminder of why Twain is still a pleasure to revisit for both his biting satire and his uncanny insight about what makes people tick.

Instead of a general release, Kilmer is presenting his film one city at a time, hosting the screenings he calls Cinema Twain, and making himself available for a Q&A with the audience. More information about the December 22 screening at the Clay here.

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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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