Union Street Scoop
The Business Of Seduction

November 2011

I was recently asked by urban theorist Joel Mandel to express my opinion on what makes our neighborhood tick. What makes it work so well? Though I hadn’t a clue what urban theorists were or did (I’ve since learned they analyze complexities of urban identities for future planning), I had no trouble conveying my perception of Union Street and Cow Hollow. Nutshell version: Our historic district and neighborhood is physically beautiful with distinctive architecture and greenery, along with a terrific mix of restaurants, stores, salons, and service-oriented businesses. It is clean, easily accessible by mass transit, and has a low incidence of crime. Additionally, we have both a strong merchants’ association and neighborhood association, with a varied combination of longtime residents, new families, and young professionals.

It seemed to be enough information for Mr. Mandel, who gladly went off to theorize, hypothesize, or do whatever it is he does. I probably sounded like an ad for the neighborhood, but having been a part of its commercial core for the past 25 years, I’ve been asked this question several times in many ways, so for Mr. Urban Theorist, the bureaucratic edition apparently sufficed.

For me, the answer about how I truly felt about our neighborhood was a slightly different version, less scientific, more heartfelt. The essence of it for me is the people – our friendliness and our general ability to stay current, flexible and seductive. Yes, seductive. We are neither cutting-edge inner city nor bland suburb. We aren’t slick modern or cool retro. Rather, we are distinctly charming, romantic even, and what we project as a neighborhood is warmth. It is this sensation of warmth that I find seductive.

Our retail is unquestionably alluring. Whether it is the enticing windows at Enchanted Crystal, Fredericksen’s Hardware or Ambiance, to name just a few, or the scents and decor in Fatto a Mano or Eurasion Interiors, we as merchants fabricate an environment aiming to attract customers. So in many ways, we are in the business of seduction.

An obvious but outstanding example of a new store and owner whose business it is to understand this is Serene Martinez, who recently opened her Pink Bunny store at 1772 Union. First, her concept and execution of high-end lingerie along with quality adult toys and products is completely tasteful, fun and unique. More than that, Serene herself is well spoken, informative, friendly, and instantly makes everyone feel comfortable. Even more, she understands the importance of the community, immediately becoming an involved member of the Union Street Association. What a breath of fresh air all the way around.

And our restaurants? Nothing mythical about it. They are absolutely seductive on so many levels relating to all senses. Hmmm, just try to tell me the first bite into one of the classic cream puffs at Pacific Puffs isn’t sexy, or that the scents coming out of the kitchen and first sip of great Chianti at Capannina isn’t tantalizing. Tempt me with the cheesy French onion soup and comfy atmosphere at Perry’s, or remind me of the sociability that Union Street is known for at Rose’s. As for Umami Burger, the newest restaurant to open on the block … just look at the crowds. Enough said, and for good reason. It is truly the epitome of tastes that are mouthwateringly seductive. It has “created a buzz in Cow Hollow” as reported by the Chronicle, and is exactly the definition of what entices people to our neighborhood.

No, I don’t need an urban theorist to help me clarify the reasons this neighborhood works. And no, I don’t think it’s an accident that we have survived several earthquakes, recessions and naysayers.

What I do believe is that we have a strong identity despite the constantly changing face of Cow Hollow. What I do trust is that we will continue to attract and embrace freshness and new approaches to how we support our merchants and neighbors. And finally, what I do know is that the reliability, loyalty and voices of a few have helped make a difference for all. So thank you to longtime devotees Lesley Leonhardt, Dennis Beckman, Eleanor Carpenter, Helene Rene, and Larry Murray for all you have done and all you continue to do.

Leslie Drapkin is a co-owner of Jest Jewels on Union Street. E-mail: [email protected]