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In September of 1971 Alice DeBaca passed away. She had been working along with Ernie, her husband of 49 years, to get the store moved, but she never got to see it open in the new location.

In October of 1971 Cliff's opened at 479 Castro Street. The building was erected in 1910 as The Castro Theater, it was remodeled into a retail store in the mid 1920's after the larger Castro Theater was built. This store was much larger than the previous one, and it seemed that it would be impossible to fill the place up. The merchandise was spread out to make the store look full, however, it was not long before the shelves started going higher up the walls. Ernie Asten, who had grown up at his grandfather's side, had learned many skills. It was his idea to add the rolling ladders. As new counters were needed he found it easier to build them himself than to find just what was needed to fill a particular spot. Product lines were added and expanded to meet the needs of people restoring their Victorians, and lines were also added to accommodate people putting their drag costumes together. So, you could get a plaster ceiling medallion, a feather boa, a toilet fill valve, a rhinestone tiara, and toys for the nieces and nephews all in one place!

There were rapid changes in the neighborhood during the 70's. As the gay population exploded the street was constantly bustling with people. In 1971 Cliff's had 3 employees who were not family. As the business grew the number of workers increased to 36. Cliff's was the first straight-owned business on the block to hire openly gay employees. As the neighborhood changed so did the skills required of sales clerks. In addition to a knowledge of hardware, electrical, and plumbing, people were needed who could advise with decorating, costuming, cooking, sewing and entertaining.

Ernie DeBaca had a long tradition of elaborate window displays, especially at Halloween and Christmas. As new people were hired they were encouraged to share their talents and creativity. Over the years Jay Jebens, Paul Ellis, Larry Bair, A.J. Powell, Erik Morales, and many others have contributed to the innovative window displays that the customers have come to love.

The 70's not only witnessed the expansion of the business it also saw the birth of Ernie and Martha's two daughters. After growing up in the city, the youngest daughter Marian decides to forgo city life as an adult and moves north for a life in the country. The older daughter, Terry spends her high school years working at the store in the family tradition before going away to college.

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Store Hours
Monday - Friday
09:00am. - 8:00pm.
09:30am. - 8:00pm.
11:00am. - 6:00pm.
SF Environment
The Sisters
Harvey Milk
Castro Merchants
479 Castro Street. San Francisco, CA 94114 Tel. (415) 431-5365 Mon - Sat10:00 am. -08:00 pm. | Sun 10:00 am. - 06:00 pm.
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