Besties Shopping & Services: Barbershop takes top spot again

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday September 28, 2022
Share this Post:
Joe Gallagher, owner of Joe's Barbershop, cuts the hair of longtime customer Nik Medrano. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Joe Gallagher, owner of Joe's Barbershop, cuts the hair of longtime customer Nik Medrano. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Shopping never really stopped during COVID. After the initial lockdown in 2020, most stores that were not deemed essential pivoted to curbside pick-up and online ordering. The service industry, however, was hit hard that first year, but more than two years into the pandemic, people can get a haircut, work out, and enjoy other activities. Below are this year's readers' poll winners in this category.

Best Barber Shop/Salon

Joe's Barbershop

Joe's Barbershop is a repeat winner in 2022. This popular establishment has been serving the Castro since 2004, when Joe Gallagher decided to open up shop. Gallagher states that he's "very proud" of the shop, which has seen a relocation and fire, and credits his loyal customers. Stop by for a trim, or make an appointment. He said that the business was hopping due to the recent Leather Week and Folsom Street Fair.

Joe's Barbershop, 2150 Market Street, San Francisco. (415) 255-9096.


Castro Barber Lounge

Best Auto Dealer

Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco

The salesroom is open and ready for you to peruse the latest luxury offerings. Its website notes that it has upgraded its seven-acre campus in South San Francisco, and offers all-electric vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco, 2233 Gellert Boulevard, South San Francisco. (415) 673-2000.


BMW of San Francisco

Best Bank or Credit Union

San Francisco Federal Credit Union

Our readers are sticking with credit unions over banks in this category, and San Francisco Federal Credit Union is a new winner. SF Federal Credit Union offers a full range of financial services, from checking accounts and online banking to vehicle and home loans. When you become a member, you're a part owner of the credit union, which gives you rights to elect members of the board.

Main branch: 770 Golden Gate Avenue (at Gough) San Francisco. (415) 775-5377.


Redwood Credit Union

Valencia Cyclery regained the top spot as best bicycle shop. Photo: Scott Wazlowski  

Best Bicycle Shop
Valencia Cyclery

Long a favorite of readers, Valencia Cyclery regains the top spot in this category. Centrally located in San Francisco's Mission district, the store welcomes all cyclists. "We are proud to be known as the bike shop that gives honest, expert advice to everyone from beginners to advanced cyclists," its website states. The store's fall sale is going on now.
Valencia Cyclery, Sales Showroom, 1077 Valencia Street, San Francisco. (415) 550-6600.

Mike's Bikes

Alvin Orloff points to the name of his new store. Photo: Courtesy Alvin Orloff  

Best Bookstore
Fabulosa Books

Last year, Alvin Orloff, a gay man, bought the former Dog Eared Books in the Castro and rechristened it Fabulosa Books. Orloff had been a longtime manager at Dog Eared, which has another location on Valencia Street. "A Castro Street without a bookstore is like a day without sunshine," Orloff told the Bay Area Reporter last year. "I can't even imagine how horrible it would be for Castro Street not to have a bookstore. I love bookstores; I want there to be more of them. It is a calling, say."
Fabulosa Books, 489 Castro Street, San Francisco. (415) 658-7015.

Green Apple Books

The Apothecarium is the readers' choice for best cannabis dispensary. Photo: Scott Wazlowski  

Best Cannabis Dispensary
The Apothecarium

Long a favorite of readers, the Apothecarium regains its top spot in the poll this year. Its mission is to provide members with quality cannabis in a welcoming environment with empathy, education, and ongoing support, its website states. "Years ago I was standing in line at a dispensary, waiting behind a woman my grandmother's age," co-founder Ryan Hudson stated. "Like me, she was there for a serious medical issue. But the people working there were unable to provide her the information she needed. That was my 'light bulb moment' — when I decided to create a dispensary where she could find quality cannabis and also the information and support she needed to use it safely and effectively, in a welcoming, non-judgmental environment."

Today, with recreational use of marijuana legal in California, the Apothecarium continues its service to customers.
The Apothecarium, 2029 Market Street, San Francisco. (415) 500-2620.

Flore Dispensary

Eye Gotcha offers eye exams and stylish eyewear. Photo: Scott Wazlowski  

Best Place to Buy Eyeglasses
Eye Gotcha

Located in the heart of the LGBTQ Castro neighborhood, Eye Gotcha Optometric offers a full service experience, from eye exams to a great selection of unique eyewear, its website states. It is currently serving customers by appointment only.
Eye Gotcha Optometric, 586 Castro Street, San Francisco. (415) 431-2988.

Warby Parker

Best Place to Buy Furniture
Room and Board

Room and Board sells high quality modern furniture. It offers free design service and has competitive pricing. Get started online or visit one of its stores.
Room and Board, 685 Seventh Street, San Francisco. (855) 246-0975.

Zozi's Loft

Best Place to Buy Shoes
Dr Martens

Dr Martens offers shoes for men, women, and kids. It has stores in San Francisco and Walnut Creek, plus online.
Dr Martens, 846 Market Street, San Francisco. (415) 872-9949.

On The Run

Best Grocery Store (Chain)
Trader Joe's

Long a favorite with readers, Trader Joe's can't be beat for its selection of wines, cheeses, and other unique and seasonal items.
Trader Joe's, 555 Ninth Street, San Francisco, (415) 863-1292. Also various Bay Area locations.


Rainbow Grocery is a worker-owned cooperative that is a favorite of readers. Photo: Scott Wazlowski  

Best Independent Grocery Store
Rainbow Grocery

Rainbow Grocery, a worker-owned co-op, is a regular reader favorite, and two years ago during our last Besties, was sort of shortchanged as we had dropped this category. No more! People love the selection at Rainbow as well as its commitment to social justice, including Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights.
Rainbow Grocery, 1475 Folsom Street, San Francisco. (415) 863-0620.

Bi-Rite Grocery

Fitness-SF is the top choice for gyms. Photo: Cynthia Laird  

Best Gym

Fitness-SF in the Castro is a regular winner in this category. The over 16,000 square foot facility offers two floors of tools and equipment to keep a person's workout fresh and challenging, according to its website. From free weights to cardio, the gym has it all. The gym also offers nationally certified personal trainers at an additional cost.
Fitness-SF Castro, 2301 Market Street, San Francisco, (415) 348-6377.

Soul Cycle

Best Health Care Provider
Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser is a new winner this year. The health care provider has long supported the LGBTQ community. Its physicians and staff remain on the frontlines during COVID. Kaiser customizes coverage and care for its patients.
Kaiser Permanente. Locations throughout the Bay Area.


Best Thrift Store
Community Thrift

Community Thrift Store is a repeat winner. The store started in 1982 and is a nonprofit organization that works with over 200 Bay Area charities. It accepts donations on behalf of its charity partners, sells the items in its store, and then disburses the proceeds. Community Thrift is an independent and non-discriminatory establishment, and when you donate you can pick your favorite charity to support, according to its website.
Community Thrift Store, 623 Valencia Street, San Francisco. (415) 861-4910.

Out of the Closet

Cliff's Variety in the Castro is a neighborhood institution. Photo: Scott Wazlowski  

Best Variety Store
Cliff's Variety

What can we say — Cliff's in the Castro is a neighborhood institution. It stayed open during the pandemic, becoming a lifeline for many. Its ownership is involved in the neighborhood and the store has many unique items.

"We are so grateful and honored for the community's support," manager Terry Asten Bennett wrote in a Facebook message. "We look forward to continuing keeping it interesting and having what you need."

Check it out for the holidays — or any day.
Cliff's Variety, 479 Castro Street, San Francisco. (415) 212-8400.

Ace Hardware

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.