Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

Assemblyman Chiu honors SF Castro mainstay Cliff’s Variety

Assemblyman David Chiu is surrounded by the family that owns Cliff's Variety, which the lawmaker named his 2016 Small Business of the Year.

Assemblyman David Chiu is surrounded by the family that owns Cliff’s Variety, which the lawmaker named his 2016 Small Business of the Year.

At a luncheon today in Sacramento Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) honored Cliff’s Variety as his 17th Assembly District’s 2016 Small Business of the Year.

The general supply store has been a mainstay of San Francisco’s gay Castro district for decades. Hilario DeBaca first opened the store in 1936 and named it after his son Clifford.

Over the ensuing years the store changed locations and expanded under the ownership of DeBaca’s son Ernie, and later, his granddaughter Lorraine. Today it is located at 479 Castro Street and is owned and operated by Ernie DeBaca’s grandson Ernie Asten and his family.

In a release announcing the honor for Cliff’s, Chiu’s office noted that the store was one of the first straight-owned businesses in the Castro to hire LGBT staff during the demographic changes of the 1970s. Not only has the family-run business “championed equality and inclusion ever since,” noted the release, it also highlighted how Cliff’s is known for its “eye-catching window displays.”

“Cliff’s Variety has an incredible legacy of LGBT inclusion, which is easy to forget now that the rainbow flag flies proudly over the Castro,” stated Chiu. “It also happens to be a terrific store that has survived and even thrived in an era of increasing retail sameness. I welcome the opportunity to honor Cliff’s Variety as they celebrate their incredible 80th anniversary.”

Accepting the award was Ernie and Martha Asten, as well as Terry Asten Bennett, Cliff’s general manager and a great-great-granddaughter of Hilario DeBaca, her husband Richard and their daughter Camille.

“We are proud to have served for eight decades that have seen tremendous changes to the city,” stated Asten Bennett. “We are grateful to both our staff and the Castro community for making us who we are.”

The annual awards ceremony is organized by the California Small Business Association.

— Matthew S. Bajko, May 25, 2016 @ 1:49 pm PST
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