Castro Village Wine Co.
is one of the most historically significant shops in the Castro District. Today, the store is the last gay-owned retail business from the “lavender wave” of the 1970s that is still operating. Founded in the late 1970s by Boyd Swartz and his partner Joe Chavez, Castro Village Wine Co. was purchased in 2011 by a new generation of wine lovers.
History of our Location
The Castro Village Wine Company is located in a wonderful Victorian building on the corner of 19th Street and Castro Street. The building and the store share a common history – Boyd and Joe. When Boyd and Joe moved to the Castro in the late 1960s, the neighborhood was in decline and many of the old Victorians were neglected. Joe loved the old Victorian buildings, and like many others at this time, he made a living by restoring them.
One of the neglected buildings that Boyd and Joe fell in love with was the grand Victorian at the corner of 19th and Castro. The Laurie family built it in 1904. A survivor of the Great Earthquake and Fire, the building was owned by the Laurie family until Boyd and Joe acquired it. After completing their purchase, Boyd and Joe set about restoring it, so that it could become one of the most charming buildings in the Castro.
The History of the Castro Village Wine Co.
Boyd and Joe opened the Castro Village Wine Company in 1978. From the beginning it was focused on great California Wines. With this local focus Boyd joined local food pioneers Chez Panisse (opened 1971) and Rainbow Grocery (opened 1975) in 1980. The Castro Village Wine Company was one of the first stores in San Francisco to exclusively focus on California wines. Boyd’s vision was to showcase the new and exciting wines from small artisan wine makers.
The store truly grew up with the California Wine Industry. It was among the first retail store to carry what are now some of best known wines in Napa and Sonoma. As a result, Castro Village Wine Co. has deep relationships across the wine country. Today the store has the same focus – to feature great California wines from smaller, artisan wineries and wine makers.
Boyd and Joe also were part of the historic wave of gay businesses that grew up in the Castro in the 1970s. The “gay ghetto” was a deliberate strategy to create a place where lesbian, gay and trans people could shop, eat and play—without discrimination—in businesses owned and run by members of their own community. The new business owners also kept so-called “pink dollars” in the LGBT community, increasing political clout, and allowing non-profits and other organizations to flourish.This aspect of the gay liberation movement was spearheaded by Harvey Milk. One of Milk’s first political actions was to form a small business associations for the merchants of the Castro neighborhood that was welcoming to LGBT owned businesses. The competing neighborhood business group – The Eureka Valley Merchant Association – was not welcoming to LGBT small businesses at that time. Milk named the new merchant group – The Castro Village Merchant Association. The store name, Castro Village Wine Co., reflects the commitment by Boyd and Joe to be a proud part of the new generation of Castro merchants who would be truly welcoming to all.
The Next Chapter of the Castro Village Wine Co
In 2011, Boyd decided to retire. He hoped to find new LGBT owners for the business, to continue the tradition he helped establish. Luckily he did not have to look far. Three of the store’s most loyal customers and the store’s manager / wine buyer decided to continue the tradition. Like Boyd and Joe, the new team lives in the Castro, and they have strong roots in the LGBT community. This new chapter of the Castro Village Wine Company will continue the traditions of a passion for great California wines, a commitment to local community spirit, and maintaining the store’s warm welcoming environment to all.