Polo’s promises go unfulfilled

Polo Ralph Lauren's store at 2040 Fillmore.

By Barbara Kate Repa

Almost exactly two years ago, when Polo Ralph Lauren became the first business to encounter San Francisco’s new ordinance limiting chain stores in the neighborhood, the company’s leaders promised that their Fillmore store, if approved, would become engaged in the neighborhood and support local causes.

They even put it in writing.

“We feel the proposed shop, which will carry both men’s and women’s fashion, will be a perfect fit with this neighborhood,” wrote Wayne T. Meichner, president of Polo Ralph Lauren retail stores. “Our team has compiled a list of actions to demonstrate to you how we can best use our skills and resources to partner with the local community.”

Two years later, Polo’s promises to become involved in the local community have not been fulfilled.
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Checking out of the checkout line

Photograph of Allen Brandstein by Kathi O'Leary

After more than two decades of offering up good cheer and wry observations while ringing up groceries and restocking the shelves, Allen Brandstein has retired from Mollie Stone’s. His last day was March 31.

Stoking his decision to leave were two life passages: a bout with colon cancer last year and his first Social Security check, which he received a few weeks ago after turning 62.

“Those things give you an immediate dose of perspective that life is finite,” he says.
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Like a kid in a candy store

Fillamento's Iris Fuller, with a pearl-encrusted bunny, in yet another kind of candy store.

There she is, the Queen of Fillamento, with a glue gun in one hand and a bag of jelly beans in the other, a nice Jewish girl making a sign celebrating Easter candy. Iris Fuller is back — not quite in the neighborhood, where she ran the much-beloved Fillamento emporium for two decades, but not far away. She’s lending her retailing magic to a friend who owns Sweet Dish, a candy store at 2144 Chestnut Street in the Marina. And what a sweet dish it is: Candy of all kinds and exquisite chocolates for the connoisseurs, plus Mitchell’s ice cream in the back. This may be worth a trip down the hill.

Baker & Banker get their bakery

The Planning Commission voted unanimously yesterday afternoon to allow the new restaurant Baker & Banker, at Bush and Octavia, to operate a self-service bakery.

“We’ve been working on trying to create a neighborhood space,” said chef Jeffrey Banker. “The bakery will be a big part of our success.”

Banker’s wife and business partner, pastry chef Lori Baker, will be the mastermind of the bakery operation, offering for take-out the breads and desserts served in the restaurant during dinner. The restaurant is open every night except Monday for dinner at 1701 Octavia Street. The bakery will operate around the corner through a kitchen entrance on Bush Street from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Baker and Banker had hoped to open at 7 a.m., but ran into opposition from the Pacific Heights Residents Association.

“It’s the classic commute mess,” said Paul Wermer, a director of the residents association. “Anything that would encourage people to stop or slow down [on Bush Street during the morning commute] is a bad idea.”

Wermer said the association supported the bakery as long as it did not open before 9 a.m. The Planning Commission unanimously agreed.

EARLIER: Back where they belong

Black Fleece makes an elegant debut

Shoppers — and a few pups — arrived on opening day.

Just in time to present its spring line of linens and seersuckers, the elegant new Black Fleece boutique — a high-end spinoff from Brooks Brothers — opened today.

“We’re taking the classic Brooks Brothers look from the 60s and making it contemporary,” says store manager Robert Oren. “Our customers know and understand fashion and want something unique, but timeless.”

The merchandise is mostly tailored and fitted clothing for men designed by fashion darling Thom Browne, who’ll be in town mid-month for the grand opening. Suits start at $1,600, sportcoats at $800. There’s also a small selection for women.

The shop, at 2223 Fillmore, has a clubby air, especially the dressing lounge outfitted with gray wool chestertons and pin-striped walls. And there’s a tailor on the premises.

EARLIER: Brooks Brothers spinoff approved

Lilith comes to Fillmore

Lilith opened at 2029 Fillmore with music and dance.

“Fillmore is beautiful — the best shopping street in town,” enthuses Sharon Haag, who was a devotee of the French clothing designer Lilith even before becoming the manager of its new neighborhood boutique. “I’m so happy to be here surrounded by things I love,” she says.

Lilith opened over the Valentine’s Day weekend at 2029 Fillmore, aiming to suit women of many ages, sizes and body types. Its less expensive Lunn line offers basics. The upscale Lilith label provides dresses and separates with couture details — including a little black dress that’s already been wildly popular.
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At Vivande’s auction, timeless treasures

At auction: Vivande's equipment and furnishings.

At 9 this morning, Vivande opened its doors to the public for the first time in three weeks. At 11, an auctioneer began selling the furnishings and equipment.

Most of the two dozen people milling around seemed to be dealers in used restaurant supplies, although there were a few neighbors, too. Back in the kitchen was owner Carlo Middione, who had a story to tell about nearly everything he’d amassed during 29 years in business.

Carlo Middione at the auction.

Over his shoulder was a cello, lot number 107. It was a prop at a party he catered honoring the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He’d baked 800 sugar cookies shaped like cellos — which he decided must have strings piped on. “Not one string, but four,” he recalled, shaking his head. “After about 100, I wondered, ‘Whose idea was this anyway?’ ”

There was a huge whisk leaning against the brick wall. “That’s a damn good whisk,” Carlo said. It came from Paoli’s at Montgomery and Bush and was used for stirring a huge pot of polenta. A neighbor mused: “Now we won’t have anyone who likes to ‘stir shit the Sicilian way,’ as Carlo always said.”

Three hours later nearly everything had sold. Some of the choicest items — including the big whisk and the lighted cafe sign in the front window — went to Joan O’Connor, proprietor of Timeless Treasures on Sutter Street.