Greek Restaurant, Orexi, Opens with Passion
Jon and Effie Loufas opened Orexi, a Greek restaurant, at 243 West Portal Avenue September 25. Since then, business has been good, the couple said, with customers returning each week and Jon sharing his passion for food.
“We have customers that haven’t missed a week,” Jon said. “That’s a good sign,” Effie added.
Jon has had the idea for the business since college, and he is so passionate about the idea he sold a house to finance the enterprise, he said.
Each day Jon buys fresh produce, and each night there are two to four new specials to keep customers excited about the menu. “I like doing that,” Jon said of creating the new menu items. “What can I come up with?” he asked. There are changes to the menu each week.
Many of the recipes have come from his mother and grandmother, which Jon has been gathering for the past two to three years. The flavor of the food comes from the southern part of Greece, an area known as Peloponnese. ”
Jon said he has been in business all his life. For 20 years he and Effie operated a health food store in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Prior to that, Jon spent 10 years in the restaurant industry, which is his passion.
Loufas said he has lived up the street from the restaurant for the past 21 years, and when they decided to open a restaurant, West Portal was their first choice.
“I love it here,” he said. “The people are beautiful. We have great neighbors. It’s got it all,” he said of West Portal. “It’s a hidden village inside the city.”
Jon said it took seven and a half months to do the work necessary to open Orexi, which means appetite in Greek. “And we get really good feedback,” he said.
Many of the recipes have come from his mother and grandmother, which Jon has been gathering for the past two to three years. The flavor of the food comes from the southern part of Greece, an area known as Peloponnese.
Popular dishes include: moussaka, a traditional dish of eggplant, ground lamb, ground beef and bechamel; paidakia, seasoned lamb chops, grilled and served with Greek potatoes; and an appetizer, arnisia plevrakia, grilled lamb riblets with a house dressing.
Orexi uses spices found traditionally in Greek food, such as Greek oregano, sea salt, ground pepper, garlic and lots of lemon. Also, Loufas uses extra virgin olive oil from the Kalamata region of Greece, rather than butter and other fats. The Kalamata region is known for olives by that name, Jon said.
Inside the restaurant are wooden tables, each with a flower and candle. The floor is stone, and an iron chandelier hangs from the center of the ceiling. On one wall hangs a honeycomb-shaped sculpture, and the bar is covered in brass.
The restaurant takes reservations for tables of six or more. Otherwise, no reservations are needed. Orexi is open from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant is closed Monday, though people can rent the space for private parties, Jon said. Also, Orexi hosts luncheons for companies and families.
The restaurant is open only for dinner to allow the couple to concentrate on the quality of food as the restaurant gets on its feet. After the New Year, Jon said they may try lunch. The couple does not have any plans for more locations at this time.
The restaurant seats perhaps 40 people. The bar seats four.
At 4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, the staff was busy getting ready to open. The rotisserie was loaded and one person was shining the bar.
“I have a great team working for us,” Jon said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Goats on West Portal?
Goat Hill Pizza had a grand opening on August 27 at the former bakery at 170 West Portal.
With two other locations in the City, Goat Hill Pizza owner Phillip DeAndrade brings the long-established neighborhood camaraderie that has made his Potrero Hill pizzeria the central meeting spot to eat, drink and enjoy an afternoon or evening.
Established in 1975, Goat Hill Pizza has been an anchor, gathering a loyal following that appreciates the 100% homemade dishes. With its signature sourdough pizza crust, fresh salads and soups and its “all you can eat” Monday nights, the oldest restaurant on Potrero Hill, Goat Hill Pizza has been a favorite for more than 30 years. He hopes to build that same longevity and following in West Portal. “West Portal is a happening place,” he said, “I look forward to meeting new friends, I know they are going to love the food.” The etched glass graffiti incident could not dampen his enthusiasm for the neighborhood. “There is plenty of business here for everyone, we just concentrate on making the best pizzas and pasta — the rest will take care of itself.”
The bright, clean interior, with crisp red and black trim against warm gray walls is as inviting as the menu, which promises more than pizza. “We will be introducing specials and unique dishes designed just for our West Portal location,” said general manager Elena Nuestadt. She emphasized that—with everything being homemade—Goat Hill staff are eager to create special calzones and salads, aimed at pleasing the West Portal neighborhood.“We are excited to be a part of West Portal and so far we have been getting lots of good feed-back from local clientele who are happy we are moving in.”
Right next to the public parking lot, Goat Hill Pizza is filling an empty spot. The current economic recession has caused closures in just about every neighborhood. While Goat Hill might create some competition for other eateries like the Village Grill just a few doors away, to have the empty space filled by a locally-owned franchise is a welcomed sight, especially to West Portal residents like author Joe Sutton who treasure West Portal as a community. “I’m thrilled that Goat Hill Pizza has opened another establishment in my West Portal neighborhood,” said Sutton. “Being a huge pizza lover, I don’t have to travel across town anymore to enjoy their fabulous sourdough pizza.”
Welcome to the neighborhood! In spite of the ugly etched glass graffiti welcome, a plate glass replacement expense, undetered customers swarm in to try the new neighborhood treat.
Nuestadt said “Our West Portal location will be ‘cafeteria style’ with 12 tables for people to order and sit at. No serving staff, that is only for our Potrero Hill location. Yet as we get more situated, we will introduce specials offered only at West Portal,” said Nuestadt. And they offer a gluten-free crust as well as vegan Dayia cheese option, so everyone can enjoy the food.
Goat Hill Pizza
170 West Portal Avenue
Jonathan Farrel is a free-lance San Francisco Journalist Feedback
West Portal holds many happy memories for Robert Ayanian, who recently returned to San Francisco after living many years in Southern California. This past February 15th he opened Robert’s Espresso on Irving Street.
Filling the storefront that had once been the long-established Alvin’s Scrumptious Coffee and Teas, between 18th and 19th Avenues, is a challenge, especially with Starbuck’s only a block away. Yet Ayanian is confident he can be a success. (Photo: Robert pours another cup)
My parents still live in the house I grew up in on Pacheco and Dewey,” said Ayanian. He attended West Portal Elementary, Notre Dame des Victoires, St. Ignatius Prep, and got his degree at USF. ”
Ayanian was busy making “Haykakan surc” when he chatted with the Westside Observer. He explained that the coffee is a specialty that has been served in the Mediterranean and Middle East for centuries. Its rich, thick, and frothy texture is poured into a demitasse cup and often accompanies a pastry like baklava or nazook, another Armenian delight.
“My parents still live in the house I grew up in on Pacheco and Dewey,” said Ayanian. He attended West Portal Elementary, Notre Dame des Victoires, St. Ignatius Prep, and got his degree at USF.
Ayanian recalled many happy memories, like going to the movies at the Empire Cinema, ice cream at Baskin Robbins, and ending with candy at Shaw’s—all on West Portal Ave. He is pleased that the neighborhood still retains its small town charm after all these years.
From that upbringing in West Portal he ventured to Hollywood to pursue a career in broadcasting and media. He hosted his own TV show called “The Best List.” (Photo: Robert Ayanian’s father Zevan Ayanian stands outside the new Robert’s Expresso at 1708 Irving Street)
“Actually, it was originally to be called ‘The B List,’ as in how movies are often described,” said Sonia Keshishian.
She is Ayanian’s cousin and staunch supporter. Some of her artworks and photographs currently adorn the walls of the cafe. “Robert is like a brother to me, so yes, I am partial,” she said.
Yet she was emphatic as she said, “I can testify that whatever Robert does, he does with commitment and dedication,” She explained that, even though the TV show Ayanian had hosted was on the local cable TV service and budgets were tight, “Robert stuck to it. He sought out local talent and businesses in the Los Angeles, West Hollywood and even Beverly Hills area.”
“I know,” she said, “because I was a guest on that show, twice!”
She mentioned that Ayanian had also hosted the pilot episodes of two local TV game shows. The work in Hollywood was exciting but very competitive. In between television endeavors, Ayanian supported his TV work as a a realtor. After five years of TV hosting, Ayanian decided to follow another career path. “My parents both encouraged me to go back to school and do well at something I love.” For Ayanian, it was cooking. After he completed the program at Los Angeles Culinary Institute in Encino, he established his own catering business in Palm Springs.
“I was so glad that Robert returned to his roots,” said Keshishian, “because he always amazed us with his holiday dinners — he cooks up an outstanding turkey with all the fixings,” she said. And with his flair for entertaining, Ayanian’s catering as “Chef Robert’s Culinary Experience” was doing well until the economic downturn in 2008. “Suddenly all went bust,” Ayanian said. “Business dried up and people were not throwing parties or catering events as much.”
Just as he thought another career venture had ended, he got word about the empty storefront on Irving. “It’s like going full circle,” he said, “I used to work at Caravansary on Sutter Street while in college.”
“Caravansary (closed in 1999) was a coffee, tea and café spot on Sutter, (back in the 1970’s and ’80’s) and Robert was a ‘barista’ there, doing just what he is now, serving up great coffee and Espresso,” said Keshishian.
To wish him well in his endeavor, Candy Injaian, who was his boss at Caravansary, dropped by on opening day. “Robert has got the gift of serving the people with his culinary expertise,” said Keshishian and he has a real genuine good feeling for everyone that makes what he does special.”
Open 7-days a week, from 7: AM to 6: PM, Robert’s Espresso is located at 1708 Irving Street, between 18th and 19th Ave. For details visit web site at: robertsespresso.com or call 415-213-5779.
“Resizing” Your Home? - Meet Paula Bailey…
As many of us are now “empty-nesters” with the kids launched into their own lives, there comes a time when we look at the family home and wonder, would it be easier to take care of something that is a little smaller? Or, are you starting out with a growing family where you could use more space as the kids are growing? Whatever your reason for change, a call to Coldwell Banker realtor Paula Bailey may be in order as she is someone who specializes in “resizing.”
A native San Franciscan with over 20 years of banking and financial expertise, Bailey brings a comprehensive and professional background to the real estate transaction. A former lender, she knows what it takes to get through the current banking labyrinth of paperwork and processes. In her words, “I am a One-stop Realtor for Resizing, both up or down. With my financial experience and comprehensive approach to real estate I strive to help every client in a courteous and professional manner.” Working with a team of professionals, Bailey knows full well that buying or selling a home is a very personal matter and in many cases success is tied to the trust that both agent and client establish during the business relationship.
If “resizing” is on you horizon, take the time to give Paula a call at 415.812.2257, or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is at: www.mypropertysf.com.
Infrared Sauna Comes to West Portal at Dimitra’s
Most of us are familiar with the process of how a “sauna” works. In an enclosed wooden structure, water is heated into steam by either pouring it over a heating element. The steam and high temperature of a wet sauna is used to draw toxins and oils out of the body through our ability to sweat. A “dry sauna” works in the same manner only using very hot dry air instead of steam.
A new type of heating process using infrared light has been developed and has resulted in a completely new kind of sauna experience. This new technology is now on West Portal Avenue at Dimitra’s Medi Spa. The sauna, manufactured by the corporation Sunlighten, uses the near, mid and far spectrums of infrared light to provide a much more effective method of detoxification, skin rejuvenation, relaxation and muscle therapy than other traditional saunas. In fact, the patented solocarbon-heating element has been proven to be over 7 times more effective than a traditional sauna for heating the body core, which is necessary for detoxification.
The company is dedicated to health restoration and stress that in their stated company purpose, “to perpetuate the shift away from disease treatment and towards disease prevention.”
Give the friendly staff at Dimitra’s a call to book some time in the new sauna and experience what the infrared revolution is all about.
Dimitra’s Medi-Spa is located at 324 West Portal Avenue. For more information visit their website at: sfhealthypets.com, or call them at 415.742.5961.
City Sites Open To Collect Gift-Filled Shoe Boxes
Nov 14–21 Volunteers Working to Collect Over 4,800 Gifts While many San Francisco families are busy with holiday activities, a group of local volunteers is focused on filling empty shoe boxes with school supplies, toys, hygiene items and notes of encouragement for needy kids overseas. San Francisco families are participating in the world's largest Christmas project of its kind—Operation Christmas Child—an effort that has hand-delivered 86 million gifts to kids worldwide since 1993.
This year-round project of Samaritan's Purse is coming to its peak, as local businesses, churches and schools prepare to collect gift-filled shoe boxes during National Collection Week, Nov. 14-21. Volunteers can drop off their shoe box gifts at the bustling locations in the area to help kids in 100 countries know they are loved and not forgotten.
Operation Christmas Child, a project of international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan's Purse, uses whatever means necessary to reach suffering children around the world with these gifts of hope, including sea containers, trucks, trains, airplanes, boats, camels and dog sleds. Tracking technology also allows donors to "follow" their box to the destination country where it will be hand-delivered to a child in need. To register shoe box gifts and find out the destination country, use the Follow Your Box donation form found at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.
Local Collection Sites:
3638 Lawton Street
San Francisco, CA, 94122
Operating Hours: Mon: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tues: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Wed: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Thurs: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Fri: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sat: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sun: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. Mon: Not Collecting
Mariner's Community Church
225 S Cabrillo Highway 101C
Half Moon Bay, CA, 94019
Operating Hours: Mon: 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. Tues: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Wed: 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. Thurs: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Fri: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sat: 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. Sun: 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. Mon: 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Healthy Pets Veterinary Hospital – the total holistic approach to pet care
Since its opening in September of 2010, the Healthy Pets Veterinary Hospital has been quietly growing and expanding as local pet owners are embracing the clinic for the holistic-based methods of treatment offered by Dr. Adam Piaseczny and his staff.
Located at 373 West Portal Avenue, "Healthy Pets" offers a convenient, centrally located facility that is easy to access from the Westside of the city, the Castro and the Mission. Parking is available on West Portal Avenue (metered) and in the surrounding neighborhoods within an easy walk. Metered parking lots are also a convenient stroll away.
I sat down with Dr. Piaseczny to discuss the challenges of dealing with patients who don't communicate in our spoken language and how the practice of holistic veterinary medicine is different that most other facilities that assist us when our pets need medical attention.
Westside Observer (WSO): What are the biggest challenges you face and where do you start with a pet diagnosis?
Dr. Adam: When I am evaluating a new client, I like to start with a discussion of food and the diet of the patient. Our animals are pretty much just like us humans. Pets have hearts, kidneys, livers, brains, circulatory systems, nervous systems, etc. just like we do. It makes sense that they would require a variety of healthy foods, vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy and their bodies functioning at a healthy level.
It's sometimes a challenge to change a pet owners perception about "human food" in a pet diet. Cats are carnivores, and require a diet high in protein, while dogs are omnivores and can enjoys diets with protein as well as vegetables, etc. With the ease that canned and dry pet foods offer, it's easy to keep feeding your pets the same type of food each day with little or no changes. If we were forced to eat the same thing each day, we would get bored, so it's perfectly acceptable to vary the diet by adding small amounts of chicken, beef, fish, rice, carrots and other vegetables to your pets' diet. Even "human" foods like yogurt and cooked eggs can be good for your pet. We have even put some of our clients on a raw diet in cases of advanced inflammatory problems. Of course, your pet may not like certain foods either in taste, texture or smell.
WSO: Tell us how "Chinese Medicine Therapy is used in your practice.
Dr. Adam: There are five aspects of traditional Chinese Medicine and we use all five to treat our pet patients. The most well known is Acupuncture which is used both for pain management and to help correct imbalances in the central nervous system, just as it is used in human patients. The other aspects are TuiNa (massage), Food Therapy, Herbal supplements, and Chi Gong, a form of yoga. We also have a pet chiropractor that works with us to help our clients that need chiropractic adjustments. These therapies have been developed over thousands of years, and are very beneficial in treating many of the allergies and inflammatory problems that pets (like humans) can develop.
WSO: What sets "Healthy Pets" apart from other clinics?
Dr. Adam: I think we are different in two ways. With our full spectrum of treatments we take a unique approach to preventative care. We rely less of vaccinations (although we do use them as necessary) and more on nutrition and the tenets of the Chinese Medicine I discussed above. We strive to keep the body in balance and try to maintain a long-term "tuning" of the (pet) patients for a total wellness result, instead of just using a shot, or pill to fix a specific clinical problem.
Secondly, we conduct a thorough follow-up with our clients. Since our patients do not speak our (human) language it is very important for our doctors, our technicians and our staff members to follow up right after the treatment and for several days as veterinary medicine is not an exact science and we may have to adjust treatments or prescriptions based on changed behaviors, responses, etc.
WSO: How has the clinic (as a new business) fared in its first year?
Dr. Adam: It has been a very successful launch as this location, in San Francisco, is a very good fit. Many San Franciscans are pet owners and have responded well to our services and our open houses. We are getting very good reviews online at Yelp, we have had great personal references, and we are having clients who found us by "word of mouth," and our newspaper ads.
We have also conducted several open houses, and they have been well attended; in fact, our next Open House is scheduled for September 24th from 4 pm- 8 pm. We will be sponsoring a band, and having Hors D'oeurves and wine. Mark your calendars now.
Overall our breakdown is: 75% cats and 25% dogs with an occasional pocket pet thrown in. (pocket pets are: hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, etc. with a few reptiles).
WSO: What would you like to tell clients and prospective clients?
Dr. Adam: Come to our Open House on September 24th to see what we're all about. We have 2 doctors, 4 technicians and 3 receptionists that are dedicated to keeping your pet healthy and fit.
Healthy Pets Veterinary Hospital is located at 373 West Portal Avenue. The clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8 Am to 6 PM and on Saturdays from 9 Am to 2 PM. Their services include: Exams and Vaccinations; Surgery and Dentistry; Traditional Chinese Medicine; Herbs and Nutritional Supplements and Food Therapy. For more information visit their website at: sfhealthypets.com, or call them at 415.742.5961.
Hard Copy Still King at Bookshop West Portal
Bookshop West Portal is a locally owned, independent bookstore in the heart of the West Portal, just a block down from the MUNI tunnel.
"People like coming in, we get lots of foot traffic," said store manager Kevin Atkin.
It is because of the steady flow of foot traffic that local author Joseph Sutton was eager to sell his most recent book at the shop: The Year the Giants Won The Series. "Sales are going very well," he said.
Drawn from his personal journal, Sutton's observations of the Giants' 2010 World Series victory remind us again that a bunch of ragtag ballplayers became champions of the world—against all odds.
"I'm a Giants fan," said Atkin, "from the days they were at Candlestick Park."
Atkin has been Bookshop West Portal's manager since it opened in 2007, "It's hard not to like Joe's little book, especially if you're a baseball or Giants fan. It's a home run."
"We're not breaking any records here," said Atkin, noting the shift in bookselling and publishing since the advent of electronic book formats like Kindle and Nook, as well as other wireless electronic reading devices.
"We're fighting the good fight," said Atkin, making reference to the digital revolution's impact.
"It's really all about the neighborhood," he went on. "We are here because the people of West Portal wanted us here. It's a very special neighborhood." The constant stream of customers walking into the shop that afternoon was testimony to that. More than a dozen people walked in to browse in less than 10 minutes. Some asked for particular books or had a question about a favorite author.
"When will your next book be coming out, Joe?" asked one customer. "Next year," replied Sutton, the author of seven books. His eighth book, Highway Sailor: A Rollicking American Journey, will be out in 2012.
Sutton's titles are also available in electronic format. "My book, The Year the Giants Won The Series, makes for a great Father's Day gift because it's not only about the Giants' World Series year, but it's interspersed with my reflections on coaching my son's Little League team twenty years ago. It shows how my son and I bonded through the game of baseball."
Atkin said, "At some point soon we'll be offering digital book products, but old-fashioned hard copy is still king around here."
Atkin pointed out that the aesthetics of a book in print are still very appealing. "The look, the feel, the texture and smell of the pages; a real book to hold in your hands is still portable," said Atkin.
"Yet," said Sutton, "for students or people who must do a lot of studying and research, having all the books on one device is a way to save on paper and printing costs. It's more convenient without all the extra bulk and weight to carry around."
"We like helping people get what they want," said Atkin. He and shop owner Neal Sofman strive to ensure quality customer service.
Sutton, like many residents of the West Portal and Parkside Area, are pleased that Book Shop West Portal is their neighborhood bookstore. "It establishes an important presence along the merchant corridor of West Portal," he said. "It adds to the ease and convenience of shopping and spending time in West Portal."
"The Year the Giants Won The Series" is now on sale at Bookshop West Portal. Info: www.bookshopwestportal.com or call 415-564-8080.
TRUE SOUND…a resourceful store for your hearing
TRUE SOUND is a dynamic new store in the Lakeshore Plaza Shopping Center that can deliver a big change in your life. Most of us have exceptional hearing when we are in our youth, but the daily noise can slowly cause damage that erodes our ability to hear as clearly. Many of us have been to concerts where we were too close to the speakers, or worked in areas where repetitive noise (like jackhammers, car engines, etc.) is the daily norm.
The question is: How many of us have ever thought about having a hearing evaluation (unless we have a family member who is telling us that we need to)? The answer is probably very few, as the typical response is, "My hearing is fine!"
Owner Robert Gilligan and the team at TRUE SOUND have created an easy, non-threatening way to see how your hearing stacks up. When you walk into the studio, it's not like a typical medical facility that deals with hearing related issues, instead, the green and silver interior and electronic equipment are very hands on and self-service oriented to encourage the taking of a self administered hearing check. No appointments are needed for testing; it's an interactive approach where one can just walk in, put headphones on and, using the touch screen do a simple test to evaluate where your hearing level is.
This casual approach to testing makes TRUE SOUND different than 99% of other hearing testing and device related stores. The layout and makeup of the operation is "lifestyle oriented" so that if it is determined that a hearing accessory is needed, you can work with the audiologist (in the store) to determine the best type to fit your lifestyle and needs. Unlike a "one size fits all" approach, different types of hearing aids are matched to each individual client. They range from devices for "simple needs" to ones for those that have moderate or high need levels. There are stylish devices that are almost imperceptible.
The lifestyle aspect of hearing plays a large part in the way that the staff at TRUE SOUND approaches its work. Owner Gilligan explains, "People with hearing loss will change their lifestyle due to the impact that it makes in their lives. Many are reluctant to go to restaurants, or movies, where those with hearing loss have a very difficult time either hearing the movie, or dealing with the echoing of multiple conversations. As a result, many people decide that it's too difficult, so they stay home. The new technologies can help to restore the ability to enjoy conversation, movies, concerts and restaurants as many new advances have been made in how hearing assist devices can now differentiate multiple conversations and where the 'primary' conversation is coming from. This is an important improvement over the general single direction microphones that were used in the past."
I was led through a demonstration by Dr. Heather Little, a Doctor of Audiology, who evaluates and assists clients with more specialized testing to ensure the best result for each person looking to improve their hearing. I learned that hearing loss could result from a single episode, or from a lifetime of loud noises that damage our hearing in a cumulative way. The studio has a sound testing room on site with acoustically foam-lined walls where private hearing tests can be conducted. A window in the wall ensures that the clients don't feel "closed in" and helps to contribute to a more comfortable, interactive experience. Dr. Little grew up locally in Miraloma Park before attending Lowell High School, and eventually receiving her Audiology degrees at California State University, Sacramento and Salus University in Pennsylvania. She has worked in the field in both the US and in New Zealand and cites a major difference between the countries. "Here in the US, the testing and verification of the fitting of hearing aids is a bit different. In New Zealand the industry is much more stringent in the verification process and as a result the clients have a much better chance of receiving the best amplification for their individual needs," said the audiologist.
Both Gilligan and Little stress the importance of testing prior to working with a client to fit a device. "Without testing there can be no realistic outcome that can be predicted. We work with each client individually to set realistic expectations of what improvement can be expected," said Gilligan, who explained some of the challenges for people.
"It has been studied all around the world, and pretty much universally it takes a person 7 to 9 years from the time that they first think they may have a hearing problem before they do something about it. The problem is, that as hearing is damaged the ears get 'lazy,' the portion of the brain that processes sound also gets 'lazy' and the ability to understand or filter sound deteriorates. As a result, the person can be embarrassed to seek help, and their day-to-day lifestyle becomes more limited over years. We can change that and make a big change in the lives of those who have hearing loss."
The staff members at True Sound are excited to assist people with their hearing and it goes much further than just being a vocation; it is a business, but it's one where they get to help people and really make a difference. They almost become part of the "family" since they get to see them from time to time for tune ups, battery replacements, or when they just stop in to say hello.
True Sound is located at 1539 Sloat Blvd. (Lakeshore Plaza). Open Monday through Friday, 9 AM- 6PM, Saturday from 10 AM – 4 PM. For more information give them a call at 1-888-228-1378, or visit their website at www.truesoundhac.com
Smooth Skin the Easy Way: EUROPEAN WAX CENTER
When you first walk through the front door at the European Wax Center in the Westlake Center, you immediately feel like you are at the entrance to an upscale European spa. Limestone tile, frosted glass, antique-looking exposed brick display cases welcome you to the center.
Only minutes from the freeway and the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, the center feels far from the stress of the everyday world and beckons you to try the skin smoothing advantages of waxing. Of course, many places have “waxing” services, but European Wax Center is different, both in the way they design their process, and in the level of customer service.
Owner Lynda Oliver, Manager Aaron Kahana and the staff are bringing the practice of waxing to a new level. Unlike most places that offer this type of service, the center uses a patented wax treatment in a 4-step process to provide a much higher degree of hygiene, skin protection and hair removal than their competitors. The four steps, Cleaning, Protecting, Waxing and Rejuvenating, are designed to keep skin irritation to a minimum and provide a premium result.
Kahana explained, “Many of our clients are first timers and they can be a little unsure of the process. Our process is very hygienic and as we are providing a treatment, we are checking in with the client during each process to make sure they are comfortable and at ease. The combination of the process and the service really makes this ‘The Ultimate Wax Experience’.”
Customers have started to find out about the Center as the business has been steadily growing since their mid-November opening. “When we started we were seeing almost 100 percent women, and many were first timers, but now men make up about 15 percent of our clientele. In fact, we have had to add some additional staff to handle the increased business,” said the manager.
The center has six rooms for waxing procedures, so it is best to pre-book and make an appointment for a treatment. Walk-ins are welcomed, but if you arrive at a busy time, with many of the rooms pre-booked you may have to wait for an opening. Another reason to pre-book is the Customer Rewards program that is offered at the center.
Each client receives “points” for items such as pre-booking appointments, booking on-line, enrolling in a pre-payment program, referring a guest, purchasing a gift card for services, or purchasing a retail product (e.g. lotions, moisturizers). When a person has collected 1000 points, it equates to a $10 discount on goods and services.
Some of the clients utilize the Pre-Paid program, where advanced payment is made for future blocks of treatments. Currently, first time clients receive 3 free treatments with the purchase of a Pre-Paid “Wax Pass” of 9 sessions.
Kahana explains why a “Wax Pass” makes sense. “Many of our clients are on a schedule where they schedule a treatment every 4-5 weeks, to keep their skin its smoothest. After 3-4 visits, the hair doesn’t grow back as fast, which makes the process easier.”
In addition, the European Wax Center is offering a free offer to new, first- time clients: for Women, a free bikini line, eyebrow, or under arm treatment; for Men, a free eyebrow, ear or nose treatment.
The company started in Florida as a single department within a family-run salon. The founders spent over 10 years developing and refining the concept. With 192 locations in 17 states, Oliver, Kahana and the team benefit from the marketing support and branding that comes with being part of a nationwide group, but in the end it’s all about the customer service and value. “We have to provide quality each and every time. Our motto for our clients is ‘Happy In and Happy Out.’ All of our estheticians are fully licensed and trained in our unique process so we can provide the ultimate waxing experience for our clients.”
European Wax Center is located at 518 Westlake Center. They are open Monday -Wednesday, 8:30 AM- 8:00PM; Thursday and Friday, 8:30AM – 8:30PM; Saturday, 8:30AM-7:00PM and on Sunday from 10:30AM – 6PM. To book a reservation: 650.991.9900, or www.waxcenter.com
You May Want to Mediate Your Dispute:
Why Businesses Like Mediation
Disputes are an inevitable part of doing business and most are resolved by the parties without any outside help. But there are those conflicts that reach a point and are of sufficient significance where one or more of the parties turn to the legal system for help. Litigation has long been the recourse for parties with difficult disputes. However, mediation is an increasingly popular alternative to deal with business disputes, especially attractive in the current challenging economy. Businesses are trying to control costs more than ever, and litigation is very expensive. Mediation offers disputing parties a way to resolve conflict at only a fraction of the cost of money and time typical of litigation.
Why Do Businesses Like Mediation? Here are a few reasons:
Mediation Saves You Money. Mediation costs a fraction of what it takes to litigate a matter. When a lawsuit is filed, usually the parties can expect to be dealing with the case for months or even years, incurring substantial expenses in lawyers’ fees and related costs including among things court fees, expert fees, and the costs of discovering the facts. In contrast, the mediation process allows the parties to resolve their conflict in a matter of hours or days.
Mediation Saves You Time. Time spent dealing with conflict means lost time conducting business. So business owners know that it is a mistake to let conflict fester and prefer to address the conflict as efficiently as possible. Mediation can be scheduled quickly at the convenience of the parties, and parties can reach resolution in a short period of time (over a matter of days or even hours) compared to lawyers working a case up to be heard by a judge, jury or arbitrator.
You Control the Resolution of the Dispute. You, not the mediator or another third party like a judge or arbitrator, control the outcome of the dispute using the mediation process. The mediator works with the disputing parties to help them communicate effectively and work towards settling their dispute. The risk of a negative decision by a judge, arbitrator or other third party that is present when a case is heard in court or arbitration is not present in mediation.
Mediation is Private and Confidential. Unlike cases filed in court, which become part of the public record, mediation is private and confidential. Parties in mediation and the mediator agree contractually and are required by law to keep the mediation proceedings confidential. This confidentiality allows the parties to feel comfortable to openly and freely talk to try to reach resolution without the fear that what is said is going to be used against them if the conflict does not settle and goes to court. What is said only within mediation cannot be used to later to show fault or liability.
You Have More Flexibility in Mediation. Mediation allows more creativity than the courts. The parties can explore options and work out a settlement that can include a resolution that would not be available if the dispute were decided by a judge, jury or arbitrator, who are restricted by parameters set by law. The flexibility of mediation allows parties to form more satisfying resolutions than otherwise would have been available.
Mediation Can Preserve the Relationships of the Parties. During mediation, each party’s point of view is heard and the final resolution is mutually agreeable to every party. By reaching a mutually satisfactory settlement, where no party has truly “lost”, ill will and bad feelings between the parties can often be avoided or at least minimized. It’s not uncommon for parties who resolve their conflict in mediation to resume their relationship with each other but with new understanding and respect.
The vast majority of cases that are filed in court settle and never go to trial. Settlement often happens “on the courthouse steps” on the eve of trial. These last minute settlements offer the parties great relief and savings on the expenses of going through the trial. Yet, at this point, the parties usually have already spent substantial hours and dollars and in many cases may also have endured significant stress and experienced health and other personal repercussions from the conflict. More often than not at this point, the relationship between the parties has suffered irreparable harm. So while mediation done late in the history of the conflict is better than not at all, the benefits of early mediation are significantly better.
Carol Kingsley is an attorney mediator specializing in the resolution
of contract and business disputes, including real estate,
construction, estate and trust conflicts. Please call Carol
at Kingsley Mediation Services 415-681-4329 or visit www.kingsleymediations.com for more information
Dimitra’s Medi-Spa – helping people look their best for almost 30 years
It’s not uncommon in this day and age to see multiple storefronts in a block with the word “Spa” in their name. From hair salons, nail salons and to massage treatment centers it seems that everyone wants to be in the “Spa” business.
For the West of Twin Peaks area, Dimitra’s Skin Care and Medi-Spa, located at 324 West Portal Ave., pioneered the skin care business and has been helping clients look their best for three decades.
Dimitra Kokkalis Wagner, joined in business by her brother-in-law, Dr Andrew Wagner, MD, has been providing state of the art skin care at her West Portal salon since 1982. Born and raised on the Greek island of Corfu, Dimitra received her training in Athens, where esthetics (skin care science) is more closely aligned with the medical profession than it traditionally has been in the United States.
Dimitra’s ‘SkinCare & Electrolysis’ became a day spa, one of the first in San Francisco, and continued to evolve, now leading the way as Dimitra’s SkinCare & MediSpa. This local business has been described as “The Best of Both Worlds” in the skin care and medi-spa industry by continuing to provide leading edge services, enabling them to stay ahead of the curve…and their competitors.
With her education and experience, Dimitra is considered to be one of the leading experts in skincare, and frequently receives calls from other estheticians for advice and consultation. She personally trains each of the salon estheticians to ensure that every client is afforded the same high level of quality service. Wagner is passionate about providing ‘results orientated’ skin care, and her staff has the expertise to solve almost every type of skin care problem.
The expert staff members treat varying types of skin conditions for clients of all age groups. Treatments are provided for conditions ranging from acne to aging; services include microdermabrasion, peels, healing massage, Velashape (for cellulite reduction/body contouring), electrolysis, waxing and brow/lash tinting.
Dr. Andrew Wagner’s talents earned him Spa Weeks West Coast Luxi award for the best medical treatments. He specializes in Laser Hair Removal, plus the latest techniques for anti-aging and Skin Rejuvenation.
Wagner has been described as an ‘artist’ using both Botox and Juvederm. But a daily regimen is necessary to maintain healthy skin, and creating this regimen is easy when you consult the advice of a licensed professional.
Dimitra’s has amassed an array of skincare products from around the world, plus as a MediSpa, has the advantage of being able to offer physician- strength retail products. Renowned for the compassion they show their clients, the salon has earned the devoted loyalty of their clients, often serving 2-3 generations of a family.
Just as important as the daily business of medical skin care, Dimitra’s desire is for her salon to support our local community through contributions of time, services, and money. The Wagners play an active role in the West Portal Merchants Association and are proud of having served thousands of people since opening 30+ years ago.
The staff members are friendly and courteous, a hallmark of customer service in an era where it can be difficult to find. We at the Westside Observer applaud the dedication of Dimitra and the Wagner family for their commitment to our community, and for providing a quality service.
When you are in the market for quality skin care services, or want to choose from a full line of professional skin care products, consider Dimitra’s SkinCare & MediSpa as your friendly neighborhood family salon.
Dimitra’s Skin Care and Medi-Spa is located at 324 West Portal Avenue. Business hours are: Monday –Thursday 10-7, Friday 9-6, and Saturdays from 9-4. To schedule an appointment or to request additional information please call them at (415) 731-8080 or via email at: info@Dimitras.com.
Alma Via of San Francisco proves that “Home” is where the heart is and where
Caring comes first
If asked, most people will have different ideas and memories when asked what constitutes the concept of “home” to them. From a Midwestern farmhouse to a bustling San Francisco neighborhood, all of us have experiences that help to define “home and family.” As we gain in maturity we will have another shared experience, aging and the way that we choose to live. Some of us will live with adult children while others will keep the “family home, or apartment” until the physical or financial upkeep becomes too much.
I had the pleasure of walking through AlmaVia of San Francisco and speaking with their Director of Community Services, Therese Myzwinski, about “home” and the AlmaVia community.
To start, what is AlmaVia? Alma Via of San Francisco is an “eldercare” community of adults who have chosen to live in “apartment-like” units where they can be as active as they wish. Located at One Thomas More Way the building and grounds are convenient to San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.
Unlike many senior communities, AlmaVia of San Francisco is part of the Elder Care Alliance, which is a non-profit organization that works with the residents to provide enrichment of their physical, emotional and spiritual well being as they age. One of seven facilities in the Elder Care Alliance, AlmaVia of San Francisco can accommodate up to 130 residents in units that range from a studio to a 2-bedroom apartment.
Although the community is “faith-centered” it is non-denominational and has residents whose religious backgrounds are diverse. The ‘spirituality” component truly sets this facility apart from other senior-care facilities. The ElderCare Alliance was formed, as a non-profit organization by several faith-based groups: the Mercy Retirement Community, the Sisters of Mercy, the Salem Lutheran Home, and the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Lutheran Congregation.
The memory care component is another of the ways that AlmaVia of SF is different from other care facilities. The staff can assist with up to 43 “memory care,” residents, those who have mild to severe symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In most care facilities, memory care patients have to be relocated to a specialized treatment facility. At Alma Via there are two levels of memory care that the staff can provide, which helps the residents stay in their familiar surroundings for as long as possible, which really helps their quality of life. Residents can better “Age in Place” and be as active as they are able, or want to be.
The residents truly are a community and many are actively involved in volunteer programs, “Adopt A Family” programs, and “Sages through the Ages” a program where some of the residents volunteer their time to visit residents in the memory-care unit within Alma Via. Currently, Myzwinski has 25 people doing this volunteering, which helps to remove barriers and provides much needed contact for the acute memory care residents.
As you would expect, AlmaVia has a full list of amenities and events for the residents. The pricing for the “month to month” residences includes 3 meals per day, a healthy menu designed and prepared by Executive Chef Martin Sanchez. Their special “Supper Club” events feature fine dining, wine and musical entertainment in an atmosphere where the attendees and their guests can dress up and enjoy a special evening, not out on the town, but in the comfortable surrounding of the AlmaVia community.
Other amenities include exercise rooms, bingo, bridge, art programs, calligraphy and Chinese drawing programs and movie nights. In addition, residents can serve on Resident Council, and on Peace and Social Justice discussion groups.
Mobility is a big plus at Alma Via as Transportation is available to the residents 5 days per week for shopping days, baseball games, medical appointments and other outside events. With the close proximity to San Francisco, 15 minutes to downtown and 15 minutes to the airport, the facility offers a great location and a neighborhood lifestyle.
Myzwinski, who has been at the facility for four years, put it best, “We try to never say ‘no’ to our residents, who are like a big family to us. All of us are very close to each of our resident members and their families. It’s a special environment where one can age in place with dignity.”
As I was leaving, I noticed a sentence painted on a wall which reads, ”Home is where your story begins.” From the friendly faces at the front desk, to the caring staff and support teams, to the community residents that I saw, the community of “AlmaVia of San Francisco” certainly provides both “home” and “community” to its’ residents. We should all be so fortunate.
AlmaVia/San Francisco is located at One Thomas More Way (off of Hwy 280
South immediately below Brotherhood Way). There are people
on staff every day and they welcome visitors. To schedule
a tour of the community or to request additional information
please call Ms. Therese Myzwinski, Director of Community Relations
at (415) 337-1339. Website: www.almaviaofsanfrancisco.org/
The West Portal Community Business District
Now’s the Time to Get Involved
All of us associated with the West Portal community, merchants, customers, landlords, residents and visitors usually agree on one thing: West Portal Avenue is a special (albeit) hidden jewel within San Francisco.
Matt Rogers (Papenhousen Hardware) and several colleagues are working feverishly to create a West Portal Community Business District, or Community Benefits District (CBD) in city government speak.
A CBD is designed to improve and benefit properties within the commercial district by creating an enhanced visitor experience through improved streetscape (design and landscaping) and maintenance (think graffiti removal, street cleaning, and powerwashing sidewalks, etc.). CBD’s also can take advantage of specialized economic development activities and administrative/advocacy activities. The CBD is set up for a period of 15 years, and is governed by a board made up of property owners and merchants. Funding is derived from assessments on each property that usually are negotiated with and passed through to the merchant tenants.
Why do this? As the city coffers dwindle, it becomes less and less able to handle basic street maintenance like sweeping, gum removal and graffiti remediation. Niceties such as flowers, benches, murals, and even trees are almost impossible to install or maintain. The onus falls to the property owners and tenants anyway, but as individual owners and tenants, they usually pay more to have these types of services performed.
If multiple owners and tenants embraced the idea for collective maintenance and streetscape, individual costs would fall and the “experience” would make the area better for everyone who owns property (increasing value), or leases space as a retailer (more attractive means a better shopping experience), or visits the street (an enhanced experience that wants to make a visitor stay longer / come back, or tell friends about the great place that is West Portal).
Many of the retail tenants and landlords are already in favor of the concept of the Community Business District, but more support is needed. Other areas in San Francisco such as Noe Valley, the Fillmore, and Ocean Avenue have already established CBD’s as a way to enhance the neighborhood experience for visitors and residents alike.
While no one relishes the idea of more fees and assessments, the overall benefit could bring results that dwarf the assessments to establish the CBD.
What can you do? If you are a landlord or property owner, take a look at the property, talk with your tenant and schedule a conversation with Matt or one of the other business people who are supporting the concept of a CBD. A cleaner, well-maintained shopping district with improved signage and visitors could be a benefit to everyone associated with West Portal Avenue. As I said at the beginning, West Portal is a special place which deserves to be maintained and nurtured. Anyone who has been to Noe Valley or the Fillmore Jazz District can see the results of what a CBD can bring to an area.
Take the time to get the facts and help turn West Portal Avenue back into one of the premier shopping (and living) districts in the Country.
Contact Matt Rogers (Papenhousen Hardware)
Dr. Victoria Tobar: The Art of Personalized, Caring Dentistry
Walking through the front door into the office to meet Dr. Victoria Tobar, D.M.D. I was struck by the sense of serenity and of light. No “muzak” filled the air, and the office was light and airy. Several certificates showing her accomplishments in practicing dentistry line the wall, as well as a framed “Mission Statement,” something I would expect to see in a “corporate lobby” but not something I usually expect to see in the office of a doctor or dentist. “Our office is committed to providing you the highest quality comprehensive dental care in a caring, comfortable and mutually respectful environment. We focus on excellent restorative and cosmetic dentistry with an emphasis on patient education and prevention.”
Victoria Tobar is dedicated to providing a “new style of practicing dentistry,” one that she described as putting the patient first, and taking the time to listen to each patient as an individual and to discuss treatments and answer questions.
She said that when she graduated from dental school she worked in various practices throughout San Francisco, from the Mission to the Marina and in Chinatown. “One of the things I learned was that as an Associate within a practice you have very little control over the time you can spend with patients. Previously she had limited time with her patients, “then it’s time to move to the next one after the assistant has completed the cleaning and prep work,” said Tobar.
“I wanted to do things different, so I opened my practice in January 2009 and I can set the time I want to spend with each patient. With most of my new patients, I spend at least an hour with each one going over their medical and dental histories,” she explained. “It really gives me the opportunity to get to know each patient on a personal level.”
Unlike larger clinics where teams of dental hygienists conduct much of the cleaning, Tobar runs a small office of three people, including a receptionist, located in the Sunset Dental Building. “My assistant does some cleaning and set up, but I personally handle the majority of treatment on each of my patients,” said the Bay Area native.
“Gum disease can cause serious damage to the body, as symptoms are few, like bleeding gums. The problem is that the body is continually fighting the disease and it helps to “use up” your immune system, and can cause serious complications in people with other conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.”
A full-service practice, Dr. Tobar provides a full range of dental treatments and services including porcelain crowns, bridges and veneers, metal-free tooth fillings and replacements, tooth implant services, dentures, root canal treatments, teeth whitening procedures, as well as the preventative cleaning and checkups that most people should do every 4-6 months. The office also uses digital X-ray technology, which results in a 70-90% reduction in the amount of radiation to which the patient is exposed.
“One of the trends is that people are taking better care of their teeth and I am seeing patients well into their 90’s who still have the majority of their teeth,” said the dentist. When I asked about flossing, she smiled and said, “Yes, it’s one of the most important things that you can do. It really helps to prevent cavities between the teeth, as well as periodontal (gum) disease.” Gum disease can cause serious damage to the body, as symptoms are few, like bleeding gums. The problem is that the body is continually fighting the disease and it helps to “use up” your immune system, and can cause serious complications in people with other conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
A Bay area native, and the first in her family to attend college, Tobar grew up in Daly City and completed her university work at Santa Clara before going to dental school at Tufts University in Boston. She joked that “the day after graduating I was on a flight back to the Bay area,” citing the cold winters and the hot and humid summers. “Boston is a great place, but the winter and summer made me realize how special the Bay area is.”
Tobar and her husband Alex live adjacent to Mt. Davidson and enjoy time with their two year old daughter, Alexa.
For a limited time, she is offering a special to new patients who do not have dental insurance: for a fee of $99 she will conduct an exam, take x-rays and complete a cleaning.
In an era of “bigger is better” and assembly-line types of clinics, Dr. Tobar and her staff are providing the one-on-one type of personalized service that people describe in the “good old days.” And I almost forgot: free (non-metered) street parking seems to be plentiful in and around the office.
Dr. Victoria Tobar, DMD is located at 800 Santiago Street, Suite A (at the corner of Santiago and 19th Avenue) in the Sunset Dental Building. For further information please call the office at 415-566-2222, or visit the website: www.drvictoriatobar.com. Se habla espanol.
West Portal Merchants
FireFighters Toy Program Catches Fire
The magical music was catching their attention, and on top of that came the voice; sounding like an old carnival barker, urging them to come in closer and see what mysteries were in store for them. Like in the Pied Piper, all the kids, and their parents, were being led off of the streets and into BookShop Plaza. The only thing missing was the bright red fire truck and its bells and sirens, but that would come later.
This was the grand finale of West Portal’s own SF FireFighters Toy Program Drive & Raffle.
Both the young and “older” kids became a “captive” audience as “Kraynork the Magician,” Mark Kronar, plied them with his bag of tricks. “Abra Cadabra,” and another coin came out of the little girl’s ear. Gosh, how many scarves can come out of one of his pockets? Say, have you seen a pesky wabbit wun by here?
So, what could upstage an act like Mark’s? Well how about Erin, from the Dubliner, decked out as Santa, snowy white beard and all. (For her own Xmas gift, I offered her Free Laser Hair Removal from Dimitra’s…) Santa’s lap was open to all who wanted to read their Christmas wish lists. Santa even posed for a licking by two bull dogs (but made them buy extra raffle tickets). So how did Erin get recruited to be Santa for the day? It turned out that our “FireFighter” Santa fell off his sleigh with a cold nose, so the merchants were faced with a Santa suit but no one to fill it. Then Erin McLaughlin, manager & bartender at the Dubliner, stuffed a pillow into the suit, took on the challenge and won the day!
Martial arts were featured — with a flurry of kicks and flying fists, students from Jill Doherty’s Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy put on a mighty awesome demonstration of why nobody ever picks on these kids: strength, discipline, and respect.
In the finale, the firefighters made their grand entrance, zooming up the Avenue on the bright red fire truck from Portola Station #39. Big grins broke out on the kid’s faces as they were lifted up onto the fire truck and allowed to ring the bell. Guess what happened next? You know the trouble about being all dressed up and supposedly nowhere to go: A FIRE! So, with sirens blaring, the firemen jumped onto their truck and raced off to put the fire out. Oh well, picking the winning raffle tickets would just have to be put off till later.
Behind all this frivolity was something very serious, the joy of helping 25,000 disadvantaged children that might never have felt the love and joy of receiving a Christmas present this year if it were not for the San Francisco Firefighters and their Toy Program, the City’s largest and the nation’s oldest program of its kind. Besides helping individual families in need, the Toy Program also serves many community organizations, including shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, neighborhood groups, children’s cancer wards, and pediatric AIDS units.
In spite of the hard economic times this year, with generosity such as ours in West Portal and in other districts throughout the City they were able to rack up some amazing numbers: by playing Santa with a sleigh filled with 40,000 toys, it meant that over 25,000 of our SF children were smiling and happy when they received some toys on Christmas morning.
It hasn’t always been this way; For years, Dimitra’s has had a FireFighters Toy Barrel outside the front door of the salon, guarded by 2 colorful six-foot tall Nutcracker Soldiers. But they were forlorn, because no one came to Dimitra’s (the Greek) bearing gifts. It was decided to switch our strategies. Four years ago, we set a “Donation Jar” on our front desk, with a sign announcing that Dimitra’s would match whatever money our clients gave.
In 2008, Dimitra’s was able to buy over $700 worth of toys. Seeing this as a good idea, I decided to let all of West Portal join in this year, by holding a huge Toy Program Raffle: 81 prizes worth over $4K from 31 merchants. Now, all we had to do was sell tickets. It’s a well known secret, if you really want something from someone, bribe them! So the gauntlet was thrown down: Dimitra’s would give two pieces of homemade Baklava for each $10 worth of tickets, and $20 would get a 10 minute chair massage. Taking up the challenge, Ron, the owner of the Dubliner, offered up drink tokens, 1 for $10, 3 for $20. Dimitra’s edged out a victory, but together we sold 75% of all the raffle tickets.
As promised, all of the Raffle ticket money was spent in West Portal, as our own economic stimulus package. Through everyone’s efforts the West Portal /SF FireFighters Toy Program Raffle was able to purchase over 350 toys, books and games, with the help of generous discounts from BookShop West Portal, Just Awesome Board Games, Growing Up Toys, Ambassador Toys and Walgreens.
It’s not easy to put on an event of this magnitude. Many thanks and kudos: to my staff, for the boundless energy and excessive time devoted to this project; to the Dubliner for making it competitive; and to Maryo of Postal Chase, for his generosity in copying all the posters plastered on our West Portal lamp posts and merchant windows. A special thanks for the free performance by our Premiere Magician, Mark Kronar, who can be contacted at (415-868-4904). In addition, I would like to give a big Thank You! to our Supervisor, Sean Elsbernd, for his donation of our grand prizes: (2) Tickets, plus parking, to the ‘49er 2010 Season Game of Their Choice (won by Sharon Udovich), as well as (2) Tickets to the Nov 2010 Charles Schwab Golf Championship at Harding Park (Vicky Potthoff).
Finally, we could not have succeeded without all the donations by our own West Portal Merchants, and especially, the SF FireFighters for their never-ending time and devotion to a great program .
As every good optimist would say, “The fire truck was ½ full of toys.” So, next year, when its time to buy 2010 Raffle Tickets, remember “Buy Big, Win Big.” For the West Portal merchants, take note that there is nothing quite as rewarding as having your customers come back in, bragging and telling everyone about all the prizes they won from the Raffle Ticket that they bought at the local store. Thank you to everyone who contributed in both large and small measures.
** The West Portal / SF FireFighters Toy Program photos and a complete listing of the merchant raffle prize donations and ticket sellers, are available on the merchants’ website: www.westportalmerchants.com
Elliot Wagner, his wife Dimitra, plus brother Dr Andrew Wagner, have operated Dimitra’s SkinCare & Medi-Spa on West Portal Avenue for over 30 years. Elliot is also serving as the new President of the West Portal Ave Merchant Association, as well as being a VP on the SF Council of District Merchants. His other annual WP raffle, held in May during Small Business Week, sponsors Dimitra’s “WP Boobies & the Beast” Team in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day 60-Mile Breast Cancer Walk.
Shop SF and Support the Local Economy
Happy Holiday’s ! As the holiday
shopping season is now upon us and retail “Black Friday” is
behind us, everyone is gearing up for the last minute push
to complete their holiday shopping lists. At a time when the
economy is still sputtering and coughing, now more important
than ever, support our local merchants — SHOP SF.
The “West of Twin Peaks“ area of San Francisco is fortunate to have a diverse mix of nationally and locally owned retail shops, restaurants and service providers within walking distance of our neighborhoods. West Portal Avenue, Taraval Street, Ocean Avenue, and 19th Avenue provide many opportunities to support our stores and restaurants. Stonestown Mall and even Union Square are a shot hop away by Muni or car. Many of these stores are small businesses, owned by people we know, or can connect with. They value their businesses and help to form the fabric of living in San Francisco.
When shopping or dining at these smaller establishments, we are most often dealing directly with the owners (or family members) working in the shops. They are knowledgeable of their products and provide helpful and personal service that the large box retail locations cannot match. A common complaint is that the small stores are more expensive than the “big box” because they cannot buy in the same volume. In some cases this is true, but when one looks at the true cost of retail, the pricing equation is not as clear.
When we shop at the larger “chain” stores, the stores are often part of a larger corporation that doesn’t generally use local service providers such as architects, planners, suppliers, display professionals, etc. They are “cloned” from cookie cutter designs and the profits generated are almost always exported to out of state headquarters. Of course, if the stores are headquartered in California (such as The Gap, Ross, Old Navy, Apple, Williams-Sonoma, Pacific Sunwear, etc.) the profits do help the California economy with a portion reinvested back into the local communities.
Most of our local merchants are “sole proprietorships”, and rely on local buyers to stay successful. These “independent” stores and restaurants typically spend most of their profits locally for goods and services such as accountants, temporary help, display fixtures, lighting, advertising agencies, newspapers, and other service providers. In fact a 2007 study in San Francisco by Civic Economics detailed that the dollars spent at local independent businesses yielded three times the local economic benefit and created approximately 80% more employment than the dollars spent at chain store competitors.
Our merchants and restaurant owners have invested much in our neighborhoods, and as a result, we have unique dining and shopping districts that are festive, fun, and convenient. If we value the ability to walk to a local store or restaurant and treasure the “retail” portion of our “village within the City” we should make it a point to drop in to see what Papenhousen Hardware, Ambassador Toys, Baby Street, Just Because, Sunset Pet Supply, or the White Rose Boutique have for the holidays. Or pamper yourself or a loved one with a mini getaway to Dimitra’s Day Spa, Fruition, or West Portal Spa. Maybe travel is in your future. Ethan Allan, or Quinn Travel can set up a long distance getaway. The exotic dishes at Roti, Bursa Kebob, Clay Oven, Paradise Pizza, Spiazzo and our other restaurants help to make everyday feel like a little escape to a foreign locale.
The Mayor’s office and the Small Business Commission have launched a “SHOP SF” campaign for the holidays to not only encourage local shopping, but to encourage our friends and neighbors down the peninsula and across the bridges to “come on in” and shop in “The City”.
As a further benefit, our local West Portal Merchants are sponsoring a raffle with store related bargains and discounts to help the SF Firefighters in their annual “Toys for Tots” holiday toy drive. Please make the effort to check out their specials and purchase a few tickets. In supporting “Toys for Tots” we all make the holiday’s a little more special.
Que Syrah – Bringing the wines of the world to the neighborhood
Imagine a place where soft lighting beckons you to step out of the mist and into a small store where the aroma of fine wines and cheeses wafts through the air. Inside, the seating is comfortable and inviting. As you look at the tasting selection menu there are wines from all over the world produced by some of the finest “small batch” wineries. Is it a dream? No, it is Que Syrah, a terrific “neighborhood destination” just down the block, located at 230 West Portal Avenue.
Owners Stephanie and Keith McCardell have created a friendly, sophisticated wine tasting venue where fine wines (from small wineries) can be sampled with wonderful cheeses, meats, olives …and assorted chocolate truffles. “We have tried to make Que Syrah unique in that we feature wines from “small batch” wineries; those winemakers that produce limited quantities each year. In small batches there is an emphasis on quality, not just who can make the most cases,” said Stephanie Mc Cardell.
With wine tasting and sales being such a big business in the Bay Area, there are a multitude of tasting rooms and wine bars but Que Syrah provides a most varied (and constantly changing) wine experience.
Many places feature wines “by the glass,” but Que Syrah features 15 in a tasting list that is reasonably priced from $6.50 to $13. In addition, McCardell changes the selections every two weeks so that between the “by the glass” menu and the “weekly featured flights” over 50 different wines can be sampled each month.
The geographic spread of the wineries featured reads like a Rand McNally atlas. Wines from Austria, Australia, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Chile, New Zealand and Portugal are listed along with those from less “familiar” wine producing countries such as Hungary, Greece, Croatia, and Slovania…Slovania??
Of course, the tasting and retail menus feature an extensive assortment of California wineries, from Mendocino to Santa Barbara, and an equally varied assortment of varietals, including little known grapes such as “Charbono,” which is grown on less than 100 acres worldwide. Sprinkle in a smattering of selected vintages from Oregon and Washington and it’s easy to imagine a wine lover spending many a foggy (or clear) night at the tasting bar.
Not resting on their laurels to provide a quality wine drinking experience, the owners also feature 8 kinds of cheeses (from all over the world), house-marinated olives, almonds and a selection of cured meats to enjoy with your favorite glass of wine….or beer, as they also feature 5 different beers. Pilsner, Lager, Ale, Hefeweizen and Stout are all on the list. There are non-alcoholic water and spritzers available for those who prefer an alcohol-free experience.
After tasting and noshing there’s more. For those with a sweet tooth, there is a featured “Dessert Wine Pairing” featuring 3 award winning Australian dessert wines paired with three different hand-made chocolate truffles. If you are just looking for a “sweet wine,” relax, there are 11 other dessert wines you can sample.
Que Syrah also serves as a retail sales establishment, with over 125 different wines for sale by the bottle. Prices are reasonable and this portion of the business is growing. Mc Cardell explained, “The retail portion of our business is probably about 10% but we think it will continue to grow as we continue our focus on exposing our customers and friends to these “small batch” vineyards and the lesser known grape varietals. You can’t easily find many of the wines that we feature.”
An example is “Mounts Family Winery,” a winery that will be featured in a winemaker’s event in mid-November. “Mounts ” is a small, quality operation located in the Dry Creek area of Sonoma County. Known for their reds, the event on November 14th, from 5-8 PM, will feature their new releases. Que Syrah was the first San Francisco wine bar to carry the label.
Mc Cardell summed up her feelings about being in the wine business by relating to the neighborhood, “We really enjoy what we do. We’ve been open for 3 and ½ years and continually meet really great people from the neighborhood. We love the area and are local owners (Miraloma Park). Our goal is to keep rotating and changing the wines we feature, so that every time you visit, there will be something new.”
Que Syrah is also available to book for hosting birthday parties, wedding showers, corporate events and the like, holding up to 35 guests comfortably, with a maximum of 49.
In this era of “me too, copycat retail” few, if any, wine tasting bars can match the variety and quality of the varietals featured at Que Syrah. If you love wine, or know someone that does, it’s a great place to pass some time, learn about wines from faraway places, or to buy a great holiday gift. Check our their “neighborhood happy hour” on Tuesday evenings from 4 – 8 PM with discounts on tastings.
Que Syrah is located at 230 West Portal Avenue. The hours of operation are: Tuesday through Thursday 4PM – 10 PM; Friday, Saturday and Sunday 3:30 PM – 11 PM ; closed on Monday. Contact them at 415-731-7000 for details.
Dr. L. Bruce Mebine O.D. and Associates
Safeguarding your vision for almost 60 Years!
Most people would agree that the ability to see, hear and speak are the three most important senses and tools that we possess. Yet, how often do most of us consider the impact that a loss or reduction in these abilities would have on our day-to-day lives? It seems that until there is a problem, we take these abilities for granted, usually without a second thought.
As a family vision practice, Dr. L Bruce Mebine and Associates have provided quality eyecare to several generations of San Franciscans. In fact, they have been diagnosing and treating patients in West Portal for almost 60 years, starting with Dr. Bruce Mebine’s father, Dr. Loran Mebine, who founded the practice.
I recently visited with Dr. Mebine and Dr. Elio Polsinelli to find out the “secret” of their ongoing successful vision clinic. “We provide personal care in a friendly environment. That’s what we do,” explained Mebine, who went on to explain that the goal has always been to provide the very highest quality of vision care for each patient. “Where as some places are only concerned with the lowest price, we treat each client as an individual with specific individual needs, and not as just a number,” continued the UC Berkeley trained Optometrist who has also been a clinical professor at the University’s School of Optometry since 1983.
Well respected within the “vision care community,” Mebine has served as the President of the SF Optometric Society, the Bay Area Optometric Council, and the California Optometric Association. Twice, he has been recognized and received the award as the “Optometrist of the Year”; in 1991 by the UC Berkeley School of Optometry, and in 1998 by the California Optometric Association.
His colleague, Dr. Polsinelli, earned his Doctor of Optometry degree from the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Optometry, subsequently training at the Oklahoma City Area Indian Health Service. While at the Oklahoma City clinic, he provided vision care management and services to patients with diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), glaucoma, dry eye, and cataracts. He completed his training at the Pediatric division of the SUNY College of Optometry where he gained knowledge in the diagnosis and treatment of children’s vision and eye health.
When asked about vision care for children, both specialists stressed the importance of having children examined early. “Ideally, we would like to have a child first examined at the age of 6 months. It may seem young, but we can diagnose and plan treatments for conditions such as “lazy eye,” or other congenital types of eye problems such as cataracts or glaucoma,” said Polsinelli. They both agreed that yearly check ups after the initial visit go a long way to ensure good eye health.
For most of us, vision problems can be caused by too much computer work (Computer Vision Syndrome) that can cause dry eyes, headaches, and other symptoms. Mebine explained that when we are looking at a monitor, we do not blink as often, which causes the eye to dry out. A method to avoid this is to follow the “20/20/20 rule” by taking a 20 second break, every 20 minutes to look away from the monitor at a distance of 20 feet away.
Once we reach a certain age (somewhere around 45) many people also lose the ability to close focus, resulting in reading glasses, bifocals, progressive lenses, or contact lenses. New types of progressive lenses can even integrate your visual behavior into your lenses.
While speaking with the doctor’s, I inquired about the eye disease “Macular Degeneration.” It seems that we never used to hear about it but now it is discussed on TV and written about much more frequently. I asked why, and Dr. Mebine explained that within the eye care field, Macular Degeneration, is not new, as they have been diagnosing it and treating it for many years. As more of the general populace age, and live longer, the incidence of this disease are more common. Although genetics plays a part in determining who will possibly develop the condition, eating a diet rich is dark, leafy green vegetables (Spinach, Kale, Broccoli) has been shown to possibly help in stalling the development of the vision robbing condition.
Mebine and Associates is a full-service vision care center, utilizing the newest equipment for examination and diagnosis and providing vision solutions such as glasses, contact lenses, as well as providing pre and post operative vision care management for laser and cataract surgery. Dr. Mebine and Polsinelli detailed a new therapy, Corneal Refractive Therapy, which uses a special “contact lens” worn only at night to “flatten” the cornea as an alternative to “laser” types of surgeries for near-sighted patients. It’s also completely reversible.
The well being of patients extends throughout the office. Assisting Drs. Mebine and Polsinelli are Marilyn Overbay, (a sister to Dr. Mebine) who has had a career as an optometric assistant/ office manager for over 40 years (19 with Dr. Mebine); Marc Milechman, an optician with over 30 years experience in the optical industry; and Joann Tawasha, an Optometric Assistant who has worked with the team for over 12 years.
With hundreds, (if not a thousand), designer frames, different types of contact lenses, a friendly, welcoming staff and the expertise of Drs. Mebine and Polsinelli, it’s easy to understand how the office has provided vision care solutions to the neighborhood for almost 60 years. That kind of track record shows the satisfaction and loyalty of their many patients.
If you want a vision care team that is easy to talk to, understanding of your needs, and one which takes the time to ensure that you understand everything about your vision, consider making a visit to Dr.L.Bruce Mebine, O.D. and Associates.
Dr. L.Bruce Mebine O.D. and Associates is located at 340 West Portal Avenue (between 14th and 15th Avenue on the North side of the street). The office is open Monday – Friday from 9 AM to 6 PM. Saturday appointments are also available upon request. You can also reach them at 415-664-3089.
Sterling Salon and Spa – a sanctuary for you and your hair…
It has often been quoted that “You can never go home again”. Luckily for her clients, Bay-area native and master stylist Maureen Sterling made the decision to do just that.
As you walk through the front door into Sterling Salon and Spa you feel a sense of relaxation and calmness. Maybe it is the sea breeze that wafts in as you park your car, or the waterfall in the shop with the relaxing music in the background. Either way, Sterling has successfully created a “sanctuary by-the-sea” where she practices her masterful talents as a hair colorist and stylist supreme.
Raised in the Bay area, Sterling has been mastering the art of color and style for more than 25 years. Working in NY, and California, as well as internationally, she has worked in private salons, and as a stylist for hair, make-up and skin care in the advertising, magazine, high-fashion runway, television and motion picture industries, even garnering an Emmy award nomination as part of a television stylist team. She also has the experience of working as a stylist at the Grand Ole Opry (Nashville), and has provided customized styling services to professional athletes and business executives.
Sterling was introduced to the industry at an early age. Her mother was the coordinator for the Skyline College cosmetology department and Maureen was exposed to the world of competition hair design shows. By the age of 10, she was involved first-hand as a “hair model” working with her mother and the other stylist students. It was during this time that she got to meet the legendary stylist/teacher Yosh Toya, whose “Yosh for Hair” salons were the place for SF/Bay Area hair design for over 30 years. They remain friends to this day.
Her fascination with design and style is a major factor in the evaluation she undertakes with each client. “When I meet a client for the first time, I like to spend a good deal of time with the person, as I want to get a feel for what the person wants their hair to be, and how they want to be viewed by others”, said the stylist, who added, “It is important to look at the texture of the hair, the shape of the head, facial bone structure, and the patterns in which the hair grows on different sections of the scalp.”
She terms her styling as a “geometric framework cut” that takes all of the factors into account to create a style that is tailored to each individual client.
Recently moving back to the Bay Area from the East Coast, Sterling is excited about the opportunity to not only “run a business in the town I grew up in”, but to also be able to give back to the Bay Area community. She conducts workshops such as “Days of Beauty” for corporations, community organizations and in senior-based communities. She also mentors students at Skyline College where she teaches in the Cosmetology department.
Located within the Paul Strom Salon “just down the hill” at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, she offers daily appointments as well as specialized appointments at normally “off” times for people that cannot be fitted into the normal schedule.
For a limited time, she is offering free color (an $80 value) with each haircut.
If you want to escape the ordinary, and work with a styling master, take the short, 20 minute, ride down the coast and experience the serenity of Sterling Salon and Spa.
Sterling Salon and Spa (at Paul Strom) is located in The Shops at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, (450 Dondee Way). Maureen Sterling is available for appointments Monday through Friday and can be reached at 650-219-5776 or via email at: email@example.com.
Ken Topping Home Improvements
Remodeling the Westside
of SF for 55 years!
In this day and age, businesses come and go, and this is especially true in the Bay Area, where the cost of real estate has skyrocketed over the past 30 years or so. So when you find a business that is celebrating its’ 55th year in business you know it is one where the owners and staff concentrate on meeting the needs and expectations of their customers.
Ken Topping Home Improvements is a perfect example of a well-run business that puts their customer’s needs first. Run by Ken Topping and Kathy St. Clair, KTHI focuses on interior home remodeling, from kitchens and bathrooms, to family rooms, home offices and entertainment areas.
Topping started in business in 1953, building homes in San Francisco, but quickly was bored with the concept of just building houses from the ground up. “Ken was doing well building homes from start to finish, but really wanted to do something where every job was new and different, so he decided to concentrate on the remodeling business,” explains St. Clair, who works closely with Topping and manages the day to day operation of KTHI’s projects.
“Remodeling is different in that each homeowner has a different sense of taste and design values, so every project is unique and you don’t find yourself doing the same thing every day; houses that are built next door to each other with the same layout can end up being radically different due to the taste and scope of what the owner wants,” she added.
The team at KTHI have been “fixtures” in the neighborhood for many years, as Topping started out of his garage on 48th Avenue, then eventually opened a storefront showroom on 24th Street. In 1965 he moved to a larger location at 25th and Lawton (due to a fire in the 24th St. building) which he operated for 25 years. The business has been located at the current Vicente Street showroom for 19 years, since 1990.
Any business that has operated in a neighborhood for 55 years must rely on top-notch performance at a reasonable price, and KTHI is no exception. Their credo is that “Designs are only as good as the people who install them. Our success is based on Quality Workmanship, Design Expertise, and Personalized Service to each of our clients.”
St. Clair has known Topping for over 30 years, with the last 18 working with him at KTHI. She is a Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer, accredited by the National Kitchen and Bath Design Association. When I asked her about the “Master” designation, she explained that the designation is one she is proud of, “The certification comes from a testing board, after an 8 hour test, that measures knowledge and proficiency in all phases of design and installation, including foundations, mechanical and electrical systems, framing, as well as interior design experience and color rendering.” She went on to say that a designer has to have 7+ years of business prior to being tested, and a “Master” designer is someone who has over 10+ years of experience after initial certification. Currently, less than 1000 designers in the US have been certified as “Master Designers.”
Walking through the showroom with St. Clair, I asked about new trends in Home Improvement. “Green” remodeling is at the forefront, with new materials (such as “zodiac” quartz based counter top material), bamboo flooring, and even kitchen backsplashes that are “poured glass” made from recycled glass bottles. Granite flooring is still a natural alternative, although cork and a new type of linoleum manufactured from linseed oil and hemp is an example of a new alternative. There is even a countertop that is made from recycled paper products, called Richlite.
“Being “green” is now a huge part of our industry, from new flooring, countertops and cabinets, to energy-star rated appliances that use much less electricity and water. It’s really exciting to be involved in this industry at the present time,” said the master designer.
Projects completed by KTHI have been featured in several magazines and trade journals, such as Better Homes and Gardens, Women’s Day, Kitchen and Bath Magazine and Kitchens by Professional Designers.
Walking through the showroom, there is a myriad of choices and finishes, but one underlying fundamental is the same; Quality Materials, Personalized Service and a Commitment to Excellence for each and every client. It’s easy to understand why Ken Topping Home Improvements has been successfully bringing “affordable excellence” to SF homes for over 55 years.
Ken Topping Home Improvements is located at 3101 Vicente Street (at 42nd Ave.). The showroom is open Monday – Saturday from 9 AM to 4:30 PM. More info: 415-731-3930, or firstname.lastname@example.org.