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Halloween Is a $7 Billion Business Thanks to Cliff's Variety Store

Photo via <a href="">Cliff's Variety Store</a>/Facebook
Photo via Cliff's Variety Store/Facebook

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There was a time when Halloween was just a kids' holiday, but that changed in the 70s when the LGBT community in the Castro transformed it into "Gay Christmas." It all started at Cliff's Variety Store. Store owner Samantha Allen tells us that her great-grandfather began hosting an annual children's costume contest at 479 Castro Street in the late 40s. In the 70s, gay men flocked to the Castro from Polk Street (the former center of gay culture in SF) because the Castro was safer. By the late 70s, drag queens were openly entering the Cliff's costume competition.

The store shut the contest down in 1979 based on the shifting demographics of the neighborhood, but by then, the gay community had already claimed Halloween. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence continued Castro Halloween. (That seems appropriate because, as one Vox writer points out, "We're all a little gay on Halloween.") As for that "Gay Christmas" nickname? A quick poll of Samantha's employees has determined that the moniker is now decidedly "Will and Grace." Nonetheless, the tradition of adults dressing up for Halloween continues. So while you're all dressed up and out on the town tonight, remember to toast Cliff's and the cast of San Francisco characters who have made October 31 the best night of the year.
· We're all a little gay on Halloween [Vox]
· You Never Know Who You'll Meet at Gypsy Rosalie's [Racked SF]

Cliff's Variety Store

479 Castro Street, San Francisco, CA 94114