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I ain't Oprah, but this ain't Chicago. I'm not going to steer you to buy a cashmere robe for $1,099 as I don't have Oprah's bank account. I do have some credentials, I believe, for a Castro shopping column. My experience began when I was 18 and moved to Key West straight out of the Midwest (literally). Under the guidance of Miss David's finishing school, I developed a queer eye. Needless to say, this girl learned how to shop. And as the streets of San Francisco go up and down, so does the merchandise Ã¢â‚¬â€œ from highbrow to risquÃƒÂ©.
Local designer Kenneth Wingard (2319 Market) sets the trends rather than follows. So there is no rainbow anything in the store. He still gets to keep his gay card by offering a men's bathing suit with an image of Cher covering the bum for $45. You must see it to believe it. According to Joey Hamann, the store manager, this is the only store on the West Coast selling these one-of-a-kind LowTee suits by Miami designer Philip Heckman . I flipped through the suits a good long time. Marilyn? Maybe. Harley Davidson? No. I was ready to buy one when I remembered I am a woman and would never wear a man's bathing suit.
In a voguing competition of sorts for who does have the coolest menswear items, just a few doors down the men's department store Rolo (2351 Market) features ties by John Malkovich for $85. Manager Carole Lacok, who has been at the store 20 years, may be tempted to interview you to make sure you will provide a good home for these babies!
If it is warm Pride weekend, In-Jeanious (432 Castro) is the place to find the gold or silver lamÃƒÂ© thong ($30 to $70).
A combination of gay museum and vintage jewelry store, Brand X Antiques (570 Castro) has been around for 40 years. Owners Fred Kirkbride and Tim Flint have owned the shop for the last 20 years. They carry a necklace said to date back to the time of Ptolemy in Egypt. Or try on a 300-year-old ring with rose-cut diamonds. This piece will bling up, and glamorize any hand! History buffs should check out their Ramon Vidali originals depicting street life in the Castro in the 1970s.
When a jeweler can't repair a piece, they send it to George. That's George Villalva at Crystal Way (2335 Market). Long known as the place to go for LGBT rings before all the hoopla, the store fits like a glove for the community. Often, I have commented to a friend on their jewelry only to hear it came from this shop Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and usually custom made to order. Lesbians and others in touch with their spiritual side will soak up the offerings of intuitive readings and crystals. Gina Rabbin , an intuitive reader at the store, showed me some unique dog tags made locally by Laughing Dragons Designs in numerous colors with either rope or chain to hang around your neck. Most local jewelry runs from $60 to $200.
Girl! You can't be walking around the Castro without some designer shades. Just in time, Dr. Kathleen Kennedy , O.D. called to tell me she is having a Dolce & Gabbana Trunk Sale and serving appetizers at her shop, For Your Eyes Only Optometry (552 Castro), on Saturday, June 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Kennedy has been in business at least 10 years in the Castro so it is like greeting an old friend when you stop by.
Owners Jerry Cooper and Christopher Von Laufen have created an elegant and always interesting wine store at Swirl on Castro (572 Castro). Don't miss their wine tastings and if you buy Two Brothers Big Tattoo wines, a donation will be given to Under One Roof (549 Castro) an AIDS charity store across the street that is also a must see on your shopping tour.
Last weekend, Paul Moffett, former president of the merchants group and owner of PO Plus, had an open house celebrating 25 years of business. The event also raised more than $1,100 for the AIDS Emergency Fund, which is also marking its 25th anniversary this year. Moffett said he wanted to honor the longtime AIDS organization that provides emergency cash to PWAs.
This weekend, the gang at Best in Show (545 Castro) will have go-go boys in the window and local photographer Michael Tedesco taking pet portraits Saturday, June 23. The $25 fee includes a 5x7 portrait and all proceeds benefit Positive Resource Center.
If you are young at heart, stop at Whatever (548 Castro). In business for just a year, owner Rich Boutell has the best comics and graphic novels. I had never seen any McPhee toys before and I have to say I was quite amused by the Avenging Unicorn and the Avenging Narwhal. Have you ever imagined calling forth an imaginary unicorn to smite your enemies? Then this is your dream action toy for $15. Or impress your friends with the bacon mints.
We featured Does Your Mother Know (4141 18th St) card shop in a previous shopping column for its Trash Talkin' Turleen trailer trash doll. I challenged manager Derik Coan to top it. Amazingly, he did with a new doll that is the mate to Turleen Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Jerwayne Jr. The Barbie-size doll comes with a mullet and missing teeth! He says things like, "Fixin' to be yer double-wide daddy" and "There ain't gonna be no yard sale!" It's scary, and funny.
Let's all say "awwww" at the same time. That was my response to the Human Rights Campaign store's (600 Castro) collectible marriage snow globes. Choose between one in red for the boys, and one in blue for the girls with San Francisco's City Hall for $7.50.
At Something Rainbow (4079 18th St), you guessed it, virtually every item in stock has a rainbow on it. I may be exaggerating just a little, but why not go over the top? This store did. Flags, windsocks, bumper stickers, hats, light catchers, and rings. My pick is the rainbow beer cozy ($8.50) and I don't even drink beer.
If you still haven't found a little something to take back home, stop in our local five and dime/hardware store Cliff's Variety (479 Castro). Where else can one buy a plunger, top soil, children's toy, and a tiara all in the same place! The store's collection of disco balls has to be the best citywide. From single balls that use batteries to revolve ($23.50) to whole kits with plug-in lights included ($84.99). Your local hardware store will never look the same after a visit here.
A Wicked Scent (2324 Market) opened a few weeks ago and what a find! Most of the candles and soaps they stock are made right here by the owners. Looking for that perfect set of rainbow candles to decorate your dining table or mantle? Manager Mat Stone showed me the body drip candles. That's right. Candles that can be burned and the wax used for moisturizing the skin (right!) Scents range from bubble gum to apple blossom from $8.95 to $14.95.
Now that we are careening down the aisle of tacky taste, get a dose at Brad Viller's Kard Zone (2286 Market). I was so impressed with the extreme tackiness and cleverness of the Beaver Cuts and Dicky Doos product that I bought out the whole in-store inventory when I first saw them. At $8.95 each, they are a great birthday gift for the person who has everything. It is an old school product with a new twist. A sketch of a male or female naked anatomy is covered in plastic with metal chips at the bottom. Use the magnetic magic wand to pull the metal up to draw pubic hair in fashionable designs.
Listed here for their lowbrow names and fun atmosphere, I encourage you to attend a happy hour at Moby Dick's (4049 18th). Teeming with men! The friendly Sausage Factory Restaurant (517 Castro) has been in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. Skip the carbs if you want and fill up on its antipasto salad, which is a meal in itself for $10.95.
Superstar Video (474 Castro) is once again hosting the Frameline box office for the International LGBT Film Festival. In its Egyptian-decorated adult section you can purchase gems like Elijah's Wood or London Britches Falling Down . Or wait until the next neighborhood sidewalk sale to buy it at a discount.
Phantom*SF (4229 18th) is the home of anything and everything or to sell items on eBay.
If you want to really get to know the neighborhood and its history, call Kathy Amendola to reserve a place for her Cruisin' the Castro walking tour. It will be the best $35 you ever spent. Offered Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Call (415) 255-1821 or visit http://www.crusinthecastro.com. Trevor Hailey created the tours in 1989 as an outgrowth of college studies about local history. Hailey retired in 2005 and sold the business to Amendola. Sadly, as reported in the Bay Area Reporter, Hailey died last week. She is another neighborhood hero to add to Castro history and will be missed.
Katharine Holland is a lesbian realtor with Coldwell Banker Real Estate, specializing in residential and investment properties in San Francisco. You can reach her at mailto:email@example.com, (415) 437-4588 or http://www.katharineholland.com.