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Coffee, clay and community

Wheelhouse Clay Studio is a new ceramics studio at Sutter and Pierce.

STREET TALK | CYNTHIA TRAINA

Fillmore is the beating heart of the neighborhood — the crossroads of a vibrant and welcoming community created by the people who live and work here. The epidemic of loneliness said to be rampant in the U.S. is not to be found near Fillmore Street.

The town square: Start your day, as many do, at Peet’s Coffee, the undisputed social hub of the street. Here regulars like Chris and his dog Wolvi gather daily for coffee and conversation, ranging from neighborhood updates to heated political debates. Chris explains the vibe at Peet’s: “It’s Main Street meets Sinclair Lewis.” Favorite current topics include what should happen with the Clay Theater and the story behind Palmer’s extended closure. … Anchalee, who took over as manager of Peet’s after the pandemic, carries the torch lit by her predecessor, Eric, ensuring a welcoming environment for all. Grab a cup of coffee, sit on the bench in front and join the conversation. … Early birds rejoice: Peet’s is again serving coffee as early as 5:30 a.m.

How to meet your neighbors: Wheelhouse Clay Studio, the new ceramics studio at Sutter and Pierce, strives to create community through clay. Wheelhouse is run by a group of women instructors and was launched by Alden Enriquez, a Filipina artist who studied at San Francisco State University, where she graduated with honors in ceramics and art history. The studio offers a library of ceramic resources and plans to introduce scholarships and community programs. Trained ceramicists can become members. All teachers are trained artists, ensuring high-quality instruction. … Or connect with other knitters at a class at Atelier Yarns on Divisadero Street, or by taking painting, fashion and craft classes at Honey Art Studio at 1981 Sutter Street.

Local stores also bring the community together. Check out The Finerie’s website to join their speaking events and trunk shows (champagne is served!). … Or join the LuluLemon running club each Thursday at 5:45 p.m.

Community clean-ups through Refuse Refuse offer another way to connect with neighbors. The weekly clean-ups start at popular spots including Compton’s, Social Study and Pinsa Rossa and culminate in post-cleanup social gatherings over drinks. … Lend a hand and connect with neighbors at the Neighborhood Beautification Day slated for July 20, starting at Sherman Elementary School on Union Street.

Neighborhood libraries offer other opportunities to connect. The Western Addition Library has a calendar of events for all ages, from author talks and book clubs to hands-on workshops including smoothie-making and embroidery. … The Presidio Library fosters a love of reading in younger residents with its dedicated children’s room. … And there’s no more beautiful reading room in town than the oval Golden Gate Library on Green Street.

A new mural in the ’hood: Fillmore’s iconic goldfish mural is gone, but Crossroads Trading has filled the void with a vibrant new mural on its Bush Street side. It’s by Brijean Murphy (above), and it celebrates the fashion and the jazz scene. Murphy, a multi-disciplinary artist, is also making waves with her partner, Doug Stuart. Their new album, “Marco,” was recently featured on NPR and they’re gearing up for a nationwide tour.

New on the street: Fillmore continues to attract new businesses, with House of Nails taking over the former Drybar space at 1908 Fillmore. … Ministry of Scent, birthed on Valencia, has opened a second location at 2408 Fillmore. It offers niche fragrances from around the world and adds to Fillmore’s growing reputation as Perfume Row.

Emily Winston, founder of Boichik’s bagels, has had an appetite for the former Glaze location at Fillmore and Pine for more than a year. Her persistence paid, and she was on the scene on June 18 to launch the local Boichik’s with a free bagel day. The neighbors have been lining up ever since every day from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Boichik’s chewy, malty bagels are made fresh in Berkeley, where they bake 35,000 bagels a day.

Upcoming events: Enjoy the free music experience at Kokoro Soul, with a performance by Audiopharmacy on July 13 at Hotel Kabuki. … Don’t miss the 50th anniversary of the Nihonmachi Street Fair in Japantown, featuring music, dance and artisan booths, on August 3 and 4.

Cynthia Traina is a longtime Fillmore resident and an agent with Vantage Realty San Francisco. Send items for Street Talk to CT@cynthiatraina.com.

New on Perfume Row: Ministry of Scent

By SHELLEY HANDLER

Step into Ministry of Scent, the newest addition to Fillmore Street’s burgeoning Perfume Row, and inhale. That first whiff may be a symphony of disparate yet appealing notes, or one unwavering deep and delightful tone you can’t quite put your finger on.

Either way, you’ll find this new shop at 2408 Fillmore both an adventure and an education.

First opened a decade ago as Tigerlily on Valencia Street by co-owner Antonia Kohl — and since rechristened the Ministry of Scent — this bijou black and white showcase is a smaller sister shop. The Ministry has been a passion project from the start, driven by Kohl’s own obsession with niche and indie scents. An avid collector, she realized that any trip she took would find her on the hunt for yet another unusual perfume.

In 2014 she took the leap, leaving her work in integrative design and taking a deep dive into the world of scent, opening Tigerlily. She bet on her love of niche perfumes and made that the shop’s focus. In gathering her stock, she passed over ubiquitous designer scents for independent perfumers who brought their distinctly personal tastes into play when crafting niche, often quirky, perfumes.

After six and a half years as solo owner, Kohl teamed with formally trained perfumer Ineke Rühland, creator of the IneKE line of perfumes. Together they transformed Tigerlily into Ministry of Scent, expanding their reach with a considerably larger choice of indie scent houses and individual perfumers. Among the shop’s selection of 80-plus lines are those headed by totally self-taught scent crafters and others, like Rühland, who have deep formal training and years of industry work informing their creations. The inspirations for these perfumes range from the obvious to the wildly obscure, some encompassing entire fantasy worlds from which their scent tales spring.

Take Imaginary Authors. The foundation of this line and source of its scent names is a collection of novels, none of which actually exist, all “written” by imaginary authors. The title of each book hints at the structure of the scent housed in a box made to look like a book. Lined up, the entire collection resembles a custom-bound library, each volume the story of a place or experience held in the bottle within.

A City On Fire, Imaginary Author’s industry-award winning scent, stands you solidly in the midst of a conflagration. Dark, decidedly smoky, it is both the match that lit the fire and the smoke billowing around you. My tastes lean toward the woodsy-smoky realm, so the idea of this perfume grabbed me immediately. That first spritz did not disappoint; this is a burnt match/smothered campfire delight, just the slightest bit bitter, but pleasantly so. It holds fast to its fiery theme for at least an hour, and then, still smoky, slowly begins to caramelize, holding the smoke profile all along. It dwindles very slowly; the next morning there was the tiniest pinpoint of vaguely sweet caramel in its place.

Venturing into co-owner Ineke Rühland’s eponymous IneKE line took me on a lovely, meandering stroll from garden to shore to high-desert forest. These are all places beloved by Rühland and she brings the full force of her Versaille-trained, industry-honed skills into play to capture them in the bottle.

Her Idyllwild scent celebrates California’s high desert enclave in the dusty upper reaches of Riverside’s San Jacinto Mountains. Notes of Douglas fir and pine mark the resinous hit of forest made sharper by the desert sun, and sage brings in the leafy, dusty notes that come to life as you hike the hills. Rhubarb unites this all with a gentle citrusy tang right through the middle. And just below dust and fir forest, the scent retains a bright, gently green note that both comforts and urges you on.

For all its serious scent-aficionado wares, the Ministry invites exploration in a relaxed and welcoming way. The staff, a group of four self-professed “scent nerds,” are at their happiest pulling samples from the simplest prompts. If all you know is that you like lavender, say the word and they will quickly gather four lavender-forward fragrances. If amber is your jam, manager Michael Ryan will show you amber woven into forms you never knew it could take. This is one place where it helps not to be too certain about what you want, because there is so much to discover, and so much of it delights.

“We looked for a long time on Fillmore Street, and the small, welcoming spot we found is perfect for us,” says Kohl. “This is such a beautiful stretch of an altogether welcoming neighborhood. We are just so happy to be here.”

I can honestly say, from watching the shoppers who lingered to sample and sniff, the delight is mutual.

Fillmore’s Perfume Row

Follow your nose down Fillmore Street’s Perfume Row.

Aesop | Australian import offering luxe proprietary skincare products, home and body fragrances, 2450 Fillmore.

Ministry of Scent | New to Fillmore, an S.F. original known for its wide selection of niche and indie scent houses, 2408 Fillmore.

Le Labo | French perfumer selling proprietary perfumes and home scents, 2238 Fillmore.

Credo Beauty | A small national chain focusing on a “clean” line of all-natural scents and beauty care, 2136 Fillmore.

Diptyque Fillmore | Paris-born scent house known for proprietary candles, perfumes and candle-related decor, 2122 Fillmore.

Byredo | Swedish perfumer popular with fashionistas offering high-end beauty products, 2000 Fillmore.

EARLIER: “The poetry of perfume

A life in lights

Photograph of Yury Budovlya by Sharon Beals

By NIKKI COLLISTER

To step into Yury’s Lights & Beyond is to enter a palace of lights, a dazzling collection of one-of-a-kind sconces, mid-century Italian floor lamps and ornate crystal chandeliers overhead. But if you care to look a little closer, you’ll also find a truly impressive showcase of accessories, from gracefully shaped fabric shades to specialty bulbs to colorful glass finials.

The name is apt, for the shop at 1849 Divisadero Street offers much more than lamps for sale. Proprietor Yury Budovlya is also a master restoration artist, capable of bringing antique chandeliers and broken lamps back to glowing form with a skilled craftsman’s hand. Working dutifully from the back corner of his shop, amid an organized chaos of cords, switches, and lightbulbs, he spends his days deconstructing, diagnosing, and revitalizing lighting fixtures of all kinds.

An immigrant from Ukraine who had previously worked in a metal fabrication factory, Yury and his family came to San Francisco in 1989 looking for a new life. He found himself searching for a job with limited English and no job leads, but a wealth of determination. In those first uncertain months, he found Light House Lighting on Geary, whose owner saw that Yury was adept with a wire and socket and hired him on the spot. 

It was an act of generosity Yury has never forgotten, and the start of a new life in lights. 

After 13 years of learning the ins and outs of lighting sales and repair, Yury took a bold step and opened his own shop in 2003, just as his previous manager at Light House Lighting was looking to retire. Starting with four empty walls in a former antique store on Divisadero, he built Yury’s Lights & Beyond into a haven for all things lighting.

Since then, Yury’s unwavering dedication to his craft and his customers has earned him a loyal clientele, from local residents to high-end designers. He’s seen the neighborhood and his own industry change, which he accepts with grace and a dash of nostalgia. As with fast fashion and fast tech, lighting fixtures have also become more expendable, despite the shift to energy efficient LED bulbs. The lighting fixtures themselves, he explains, are designed to be replaced rather than repaired: “You just have to throw it away and buy a new one.” In contrast, older lamps, even those from the early 1900s, can be repaired and fitted with modern LED bulbs, offering both longevity and sustainability.

It’s taken Yury his whole life to build up the knowledge and skills he applies to each unique piece. “Even today, sometimes people bring in challenging questions,” he says. “I have to think: What do I do, and how do I do it?” As the shop’s sole full-time employee, there’s a risk that this knowledge will be lost when he retires. He does have a part-time assistant who helps with customers’ orders. For now he’s unsure if the shop will find an apprentice, but he’s willing to teach his ways to the right person.

One thing he does know: He’s not ready to give up the joys of his work just yet. A recent job found him fixing a lamp a customer brought in; it was for the nursery she’d been preparing for her new baby. After upgrading the lamp with a three-way light bulb and soft white shade, Yury says, the customer was so happy that she told him she would think of him whenever she turned on the light to see her baby. To Yury, who is a family man himself, comments like these “are like gold,” he says.

And so, the shop on Divisadero will stay lit for the foreseeable future. More than a retail and repair shop, Yury’s Lights & Beyond is a testament to the enduring value of craftsmanship in a city on the cutting edge of technology and automation — and a gentle reminder to pause and appreciate the stories of our city’s hardest-working business owners.

This article is part of a series produced by reThinkRepair, a grassroots group that has interviewed and photographed 40+ local repair businesses since 2018. Composed of a small team of eco-conscious San Franciscans, reThinkRepair celebrates the art of preservation by sharing stories of local repair shops with the broader community.

Fillmore Jazz Festival celebrates 35 years

SAN FRANCISCO’S ICONIC Fillmore Jazz Festival returns for its 35th year on July 6 and 7, promising a vibrant weekend of music, arts and community spirit. Spanning Fillmore Street from Jackson to Eddy, this year’s festival is back at full strength, presenting an impressive lineup across five stages and showcasing the talents of 25 local and nationally known artists.

Music enthusiasts can enjoy performances at three outdoor stages located on Fillmore at the intersection of California, Sutter and Eddy streets. Indoor concerts at Calvary Presbyterian Church and Jones Memorial Methodist Church offer intimate settings for more music.

This year’s festival — which attracts more than 100,000 people to the street every Fourth of July weekend — kicks off with a special concert honoring three Bay Area musical legends. “Remembering Calvin Keys, Bobby Hutcherson & Joe Henderson” takes place on Saturday, July 6, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Sugar Pie DeSanto Sutter Stage. The stage is named for a favorite performer from Fillmore’s days at the Harlem of the West, the theme of this year’s festival.

Renowned vocalists Paula West and Kim Nalley headline the Saturday lineup on the Mary Stallings California Stage, named for another longtime local with an international following. The Sunday lineup is a triple treat, with The Dynamic Miss Faye Carrol, Kenny Washington and Fillmore’s own Kim Nalley all performing. 

For a complete lineup of performances and more details, go to fillmorejazzfest.com.

Calvary’s choir on a European tour

Members of the choir before the tomb of William the Conqueror in Caen, France.

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

Members of Calvary Presbyterian Church’s choir are on a two-week tour of Europe, taking the high-level musicianship of the Fillmore Street church to historic sites in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The choir joined singers from other choirs in commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day in the Normandy region of northwestern France. On Monday night they performed Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, written just after the end of World War II, at the Abbey of Saint-Étienne, the burial place of William the Conqueror, in Caen, France. Earlier they toured Omaha Beach and the hedgerows of Pointe du Hoc and sang America the Beautiful at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

“It felt sacred in all the right ways,” said Calvary pastor Marcie Glass.

Under the leadership of Calvary’s music director, Michael Conley, the choir will perform on Wednesday in Beauvais, France, and then on to Ghent and Antwerp, Belgium, over the weekend. They will conclude with a concert on June 25 in Amsterdam.

This is not the Calvary choir’s first European tour. Three decades ago, longtime music director Alden Gilchrist led the choir on a similar tour.

“A meaningful, memorable day touring the beaches of Normandy,” said Michael Conley.
At the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Ever-evolving vitality on Fillmore

STREET TALK | CYNTHIA TRAINA

Every time I take a walk, there’s something new. Fillmore Street is constantly evolving. 

Every stroll up the street brings new signs of vitality — new stores and restaurants, creative opportunities, neighbors meeting friends and going about their daily lives. In recent weeks returning college students have arrived, eager to fill the “help wanted” signs dotting the street. And the Fillmore Jazz Festival — everybody’s favorite street party — is coming up on July 6 & 7.

With the transition go familiar friends: Gone is the iconic goldfish mural (above) at the corner on Wilmot and Fillmore. The static aquarium was a favorite of Instagram influencers. Now it has been painted over to match the minimal aesthetic of SVRN, the men’s store soon to open in that building, formerly home to Prana. There are now a number of striking murals near Geary. But who will create the new Instagrammable backdrop to entice selfie fans to celebrate shopping and dining on upper Fillmore? 

Pop-up shops Little Words Project and Pollen and Wool are gone. … Merchant Roots is moving its Michelin tasting menu from 1365 Fillmore to 7th and Mission later this summer.

The fates of popular corner restaurants Palmers and Noosh remain mysteries. That warm and woody Palmers interior, ruined by a massive water leak, has been stripped of its long bar and furnishings; litigation is said to be involved. Noosh shows no signs of reopening.

Welcome to the neighborhood: After much anticipation, Sue Fisher King has now opened at 1913 Fillmore. Her upscale home furnishings emporium, long a mainstay on Sacramento Street, is a beautiful addition to Fillmore’s offerings.

Several “For Rent” signs have been taken down — including those for the old Mio and Dry Bar locations — but no new tenants have been announced. … Sterling Bank’s successor at Fillmore & Bush will be a sister act. The owner of Chapeaux by Michelle next door is being joined by her sister, an artist who is still deciding on the space’s future. Stay tuned.

Dr. Aja Hall has opened OneDental, a comprehensive dental care clinic at 2226 Bush, next to Mattina. Check the website for new patient specials.

OneDental’s sleek new office at 2226 Bush Street.

New eateries: Fillmore just got a PHD — the new Pac Heights Deli on California near Fillmore. They’re serving made-to-order sandwiches, smoothies, wraps and coffee from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, with variable weekend hours, at 2411 California in the old Sift Dessert Bar spot. They come to the neighborhood with experience: owner Al Alhaj also operates Marina Deli on Chestnut Street.

Kevin Chen’s intimate sushi restaurant Bubu has opened a few doors west at 2417 California. Don’t miss happy hour, with $5 drinks and sushi specials. Chen opened the cozy izakaya Nono at 1730 Fillmore last July.

Hotel Kimpton Enso, in Japantown at Sutter & Buchanan, is home to Hed11, an 11-course Thai tasting menu from chef Piriya “Saint” Boonprasarn, renowned for his work in Michelin-starred restaurants and with Hed Very Thai in downtown SF. Enjoy unique cocktails inspired by Thai and Japanese liquors along with an exceptional wine list. … Ganji, located in Buchanan Plaza in Japantown, offers a fusion of traditional Japanese cuisine with a modern twist, focusing on katsu. Also on the menu are a selection of udon and yakitori, Japanese beers and sake. It’s the sister restaurant of Nara in the lower Haight.

Welcome back: Bumzy’s Cookies is coming back to the Fillmore. The dynamic mother-daughter duo is bringing back their famous chocolate chip cookies to the other side of the street at 1521 Fillmore.

Burger King is open again at 1701 Fillmore after a fire in the apartments above shut it down temporarily. No further word on earlier reports that the upscale Super Duper burgers will dethrone Burger King on the corner of Fillmore and Post.

Rendering of the proposed Super Duper on Fillmore by William Duff Architects.

They’re drinking less on Union Street: According to a recent Gallup poll, the number of adults under 35 who drink alcohol has fallen 10 percent from a decade ago, down to 62 percent, and even those who drink are drinking less. See it for yourself: Head to Fillmore and Union Street and check out New Bar. Or, a few blocks east, Better Sunday at 1695 Union. Satisfy your thirst with non-alcoholic mocktail mixes, beer and wine. Both venues offer in-store events including happy hours, social events and cheese and wine pairings.

Experiential is in: At Honey Art Studio, located at 1981 Sutter, Ericka Scott and her team offer classes in the visual and performing arts, all with a social justice focus. Not artistically inspired? Sit back with a cocktail and enjoy the Fillmore Eclipse at the Studio. It’s an immersive theatrical experience celebrating Fillmore’s heyday as the Harlem of the West. Performed by San Francisco’s Walking Cinema, an SF-based “storytelling studio,” the show brings alive again the area’s jazz clubs and cultural history several nights a month. Check their website for class and performance schedules.

Wheelhouse Clay Studio is a new pottery studio at 2201 Sutter Street. Learn how to make pottery with classes taught by a collective of women artists or buy a membership to practice your craft at your leisure.

Real estate update: Coming soon is an $18 million co-op at 2000 Washington Street on the northeast corner of Lafayette Park. … A couple of blocks away: the least expensive listing in Pacific Heights, a $550,000, 791-square-foot studio at Franklin and Jackson. … On the block again, this time for $6.5 million, is the “Full House” Victorian located at 1709 Broderick. Sorry, no public tours. Neighbors of the “Tanner House” quashed plans by the creator of the TV series to turn the home into a fan site.

A time for giving: Goodwill is accepting donations again at Post and Fillmore after a long hiatus. Donation hours are 10 to 2 on Saturdays and 11 to 3 on Sundays. … Join the next “Refuse to Refuse” Fillmore clean-up on June 21. Meet at 3 p.m. at Compton’s Coffee House at 1910 Fillmore.

Celebrating the neighborhood: Explore Fillmore history with the Jewish Community Center’s free lecture “Glimpses of Fillmore District’s Jewish Past” on June 10. … Celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday, June 15, on Fillmore from Geary to Fulton with live music, a kids zone, fashion show, car show, carnival rides and games.

Cynthia Traina is a longtime Fillmore resident and an agent with Vantage Realty San Francisco. Send items for Street Talk to CT@cynthiatraina.com.

Why We Live Here

A BEAUTIFUL DAY in Alta Plaza Park. Photograph by Dickie Spritzer.

Bringing antiques back to life

Cow Hollow Woodworks owner Enrico Dell’Osso

By NIKKI COLLISTER

At Cow Hollow Woodworks, no two projects are alike. The furniture restoration shop prides itself on blending artistry and craftsmanship to give new life to centuries-old antiques, as well as cherished wood objects of any vintage. 

“Every single job is custom,” says owner Enrico Dell’Osso, acknowledging the unique history and design of each piece that comes through his doors.

A recent visit to the shop, located on a quiet corner at 3100 Steiner, one block from Fillmore Street, found Dell’Osso sanding the base of a stately wooden table. Antique chairs in various states of restoration hung from the walls, some of them stripped down to their bones, waiting to be revived.

While private collections provide the majority of the shop’s business, their handiwork can be found in public spaces, too. The team at Cow Hollow Woodworks recently finished restoring the entry doors of the historic Gas Light Building in the Marina, bringing its stately oak doors back to their 19th century glory. It was tricky to apply just the right finish to match the interior color, Dell’Osso says, but in the end, it’s this kind of attention to detail that has earned his customers’ respect.

Tools of the trade. Photographs by Kathryn Hyde.

“I was always interested in restoring things,” Dell’Osso says, “and my parents were willing to tolerate the mess and frustration that came with it.”

Once an aspiring art historian, Dell’Osso earned degrees in English and commercial art, and worked briefly as a graphic designer before moving into construction in the Bay Area. During that time he was hired by Ron Hazelton, founder of Cow Hollow Woodworks.

Hazelton opened his shop in 1978. He designed the shop’s handcrafted sign — still displayed on the western face of the building — and would go on to become a beloved home improvement TV host. The shop gained visibility when it was featured in a television commercial for Visa credit cards.

“I had some basic understanding of the trade,” says Dell’Osso, who was initially hired as an estimator, “but the specifics of restoration I had to learn on the job.” And while he didn’t have formal training, his background in art history and hands-on experience in construction provided a strong foundation for the position. 

So when Hazleton decided to sell the shop in 1993, he found a willing buyer in Dell’Osso.

Chairs of all styles on the wall and in the works.

Today, a small team of specialists ensures the shop can take on a variety of projects. Some of them focus on preparation: stripping, sanding and filling holes before restoration can begin. Then woodworkers conduct repairs as needed, including regluing chairs and restoring intricate marquetry. Other employees focus primarily on refinishing, using historical techniques to stain and seal each piece. Cow Hollow Woodworks is often sought after for their expertise in French polishing, a practice known among woodworkers for bringing out the natural beauty of the wood.

The team takes care to match the original material and coloring of the piece, whether it’s western black walnut for a Victorian side table or elegant mahogany for an intricately inlaid drawer. Dell’Osso also employs expert painters and gilders on a project-by-project basis, and even a specialist who solely repairs the handwoven rattan caning on chairs.

And while the end result can be a piece of art in its own right, Dell’Osso emphasizes that antique furniture should be enjoyed for its utility, too. When approaching a skeleton of a piece, he says, he’s already thinking about how to enhance its functionality: “We want to optimize it; we want it to be the best version that it can be.”

Dell’Osso has been the hands-on owner of the shop since 1993.

Through the ups and downs of the industry, Cow Hollow Woodworks has kept a steady and loyal customer base. In some cases, customers from the 1990s have passed on their enthusiasm for antiques to their children, who come into the shop with their own projects.

On one recent house call, Dell’Osso was surprised to find a younger customer with a stunning collection of antiques in a home with the magnificence of the Pacific Heights of yore.

It’s a reassuring reminder that as long as there are those who appreciate the beauty of handcrafted wood furniture — and there are still plenty in this aesthetically-minded town — Cow Hollow Woodworks will remain a vital part of San Francisco’s cultural fabric.

This article is part of a series produced by reThinkRepair, a grassroots group that has interviewed and photographed more than 40 local repair businesses since 2018. Composed of a small team of eco-conscious San Franciscans, reThinkRepair celebrates the art of preservation by sharing stories of local repair shops with the broader community.

Now it’s Camellia Salon

Yuki Matsui now operates the salon at 1724 Fillmore, named for a favorite flower.

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

It might be called “The Little Salon That Could,” tucked away in the ground-floor retail space of an historic Victorian at 1724 Fillmore.

For decades it was called Citrine Salon, until the pandemic forced its closing. Beloved Citrine proprietor Rene Cohen, who had struggled to keep the business alive by adding racks of quirky fashion, shelves of high-end jewelry and outdoor haircuts — a complicated trick on cool San Francisco days — died during the shutdown and the shop was boarded up with sheets of plywood.

Enter Yukina Matsui, a soft-spoken hairstylist who moved here from her native Japan some 15 years earlier. “Yuki” saw the promise of the place. With the signing of a new lease a few months ago, Rene’s lively clutter metamorphosed into a spare, bright-lit salon now home to several stylists and Ukrainian nail artist Sofiia Pidlozna. The boards came down, a handsome wrought-iron fence went up, and a hand-painted — by Yuki — sign was hung announcing its resurrection as Camellia Salon.

“Rene had the camellia plant in the back yard,” Yuki says. “And my mom, who died over 10 years ago, loved camellias,” which flourish in Japan. It was a natural name for the new salon.

Its home has history. When veteran real estate agent Dona Crowder bought the three-level Victorian in the mid-1980s, the ground-level retail space housed a vacuum cleaner repair shop. A second-hand clothing shop followed before Citrine Salon opened in the early 1990s. The upper floors, also dark during the pandemic, continue to serve as office space for therapists.

Camellia is on the ground floor of Victorian Square in a building relocated there.

Crowder has been part of the metamorphosis — of building and neighborhood — for decades. Born into a storied Alabama family, she came west with her mother at age 16 and never looked back. Her mother, Dottie Crowder, the only daughter of a World War I widow, “knew one person in Burlingame,” according to her daughter. But she made up for any lack of California connections with wide-ranging intelligence, energy and determination. In the 1960s she founded an independent real estate business headquartered in the Fillmore neighborhood. Dona, after graduating from UC Santa Barbara, joined her mother in the business in 1976. 

Before its purchase by Dona Crowder the building and the block between Post and Sutter had metamorphoses of their own. “Carlo Middione had the idea of creating a Victorian Square here,” Crowder says. Before Middione became the celebrated chef and owner of Vivande Porta Via restaurant on Fillmore, he worked for the Redevelopment Agency. With the help of San Francisco Heritage, which was created in 1971, he engineered the relocation of 12 Victorian houses. Among them were the salon’s building and those nearby, one of which housed Marcus Books for decades — and before that was the home of the legendary Jimbo’s Bop City when it was in its original location on Post Street in Japantown.

For years the block was tended by nearby resident Zema Daniels, known in the neighborhood as “One Hand” for his talent for shooting pool with one hand, or sometimes as Mr. Hands. “For years, ‘One Hand’ kept the street clean,” says Crowder. “He would be out with his bucket and brooms, cleaning the sidewalks.”

“She was such a sweetheart,” Crowder says of her longtime friend and tenant Rene Cohen, owner of Citrine. Camellia owner Yuki and Rene never met. But so strong was the spirit of her predecessor that Yuki has taken pains to keep it alive. She moved Rene’s azaleas and other plants into freshly prepared new garden plots and relocated the lemon tree into a sunny corner where it now thrives. The backyard garden abuts a totally renovated parking lot, also managed by Crowder.

In early May, the block suffered a blow when a two-alarm fire broke out across the street in the Jones Senior Home building. That forced the evacuation of about 100 residents and shut down the Burger King on the corner. There were several injuries, but no fatalities.

Burger King quickly reopened, but no one is predicting when all of the apartments will again be habitable. Given the resilience of the renovated buildings in Victorian Square, however, and the quiet determination of Yuki and her friends at Camellia Salon and her nearby neighbors, the future of the block looks to be in good hands.

Fillmore’s on sale for Memorial Day

Get a monogram on new bags at Clare V.

STREET TALK | CYNTHIA TRAINA

Come to Fillmore Street this Memorial Day weekend for the food, stay for the sales. Among the promotions: Get “tagged” at Clare V, which is offering on-site monogram services for their bags, or buy a leather tag and get a complimentary monogram. And Rag and Bone will be serving canned cocktail spritzers while supplies last.

Some of the other promotions being offered over the Memorial Day weekend include:

Sales

  • Alexis Bittar: 20 to 30 percent off most pieces.
  • Jonathan Adler: 25 percent off everything, up to 70 percent off select items.
  • Mio: Get 38 percent off many items for their 38th anniversary sale. 
  • Margaret O’Leary is offering 20 percent off all Margaret O’Leary items. 
  • Marcella: 40 percent off select items.

Spend and Save

  • Third Love: 20 percent off when you spend $150 or more.
  • Velvet: 20 to 30 percent off, based on purchase amount.

Sale on Sale

  • Athleta: Additional 25 percent off sale items, select items up to 40 percent off.
  • Alice and Olivia: 25 percent off sale items.
  • Veronica Beard: 20 percent off sale items.
  • Eileen Fisher: 30 percent off sale items.
  • Heidi Says: 30 percent off sale items.
  • Frame: 30 percent off sale items.

And Lululemon offers 15 percent off all purchases to active military and veterans and their spouses this weekend and throughout the year.

Cynthia Traina is a longtime Fillmore resident and an agent with Vantage Realty San Francisco. Send items for Street Talk to CT@cynthiatraina.com.