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Under One Roof

Shopping For The Gift That Gives Twice

A couple weeks ago, as I walked down Castro Street, my eye was drawn to two skateboards in a shop window, one blue and one green, both with a simple white Hawaiian floral pattern. I stopped and scanned the front window display of a modern home wares and gifts store. I was hooked. I’ve been getting my hair cut at a salon near this store, Under One Roof on Castro Street near 18th Street, for the past year, but somehow I had passed by without ever noticing it before. I’m not sure how that is possible, but it’s true. A place like this should not be ignored.

Back in 1990, a group of friends opened a retail shop in a corner of the Names Project’s storefront on Market Street just for the holiday season, selling ornaments and other gifts, with the proceeds going to local AIDS service organizations (ASOs). Their holiday sales proved so popular, that after a couple of years and a lot of hard work, Under One Roof opened a year-round store in the Castro, dedicated to providing unrestricted funding to ASOs.

The store gives 100 percent of its profits to a variety of 33 local ASOs, large and small, including AIDS Emergency Fund, Mission Neighborhood Health Center, and PAWS: Pets Are Wonderful Support. The store is run and staffed by over 300 full and part-time volunteers, who contribute as much time as they can in front and behind the scenes. Corporate sponsors such as Wells Fargo, Gap Inc. and Pottery Barn provide the funding to purchase goods and help keep the store running. In addition, vendors such as Macy’s and Gump’s donate new goods to be sold.

Vibrant home décor and gifts color the walls and shelves throughout the space, from a set of lemon yellow high-heeled Carmen's Shoes Salt & Pepper Shakers ($18.00) to a sleek metal and wood picture frame ($28.00), to a collectible Radko 2006 Humane Society Ornament of a dog and cat ($48.00). And with the constant stream of donated goods, it is never the same store twice.

The first thing that caught my eye when I entered the store was the arrangement of birdhouses tucked away in the three cubbyholes near the front door. Each birdhouse is wrapped with a license plate from one of the 50 states to serve as the walls of the domicile, a slate shingle for the roof and a wine cork for the chimney ($36.00). I want one! Turns out, I’m not alone. They’re one of their most popular items.

Lining a bookshelf on the opposite wall are a collection of books with pithy and inspirational quotes, such as the Good Life books named Moxie, Heart, and Hero for $6.95. Another fun title available is How to Say Fabulous in Eight Different Languages -- A Travel Phrase Book for Gay Men for $14.95. Above the books are some of their more popular items, including the fuzzy Buddha and Jesus piggy banks (the latter being fondly known in the store as “Jesus Saves”) for $22.00. Past these is a small selection of games, like the popular Suduko for pro or beginner level for $12.99.

Shelves and display cases are stocked with an assortment of children’s toys and books, jewelry, gardening tools, and two whole shelves of candles, like the Kobo pure soy candles in scents such as Red Brass, Asian Grove and Sakina Blossom for $32.00.

Holiday decorations continue to be as popular as they were when the store first opened. Therefore, Under One Roof continues please its customers with holiday trimmings in fun and bold styles. Even though it’s still four months until Christmas, I couldn’t resist the urge to continue to shop for gifts, so I picked out a devil ducky ornament for my friend for $11.00. I also grabbed Kika’s My First Word Book for $11.95 for an acquaintance’s little boy who should be starting to speak soon. I also found some cute monkey stickers for my primate-loving friends and co-workers for 25 cents a piece.

Under One Roof holds sales throughout the year, sometimes in offsite locations. Earlier in August, Under One Roof temporarily opened a shop a few doors down the street, selling items leftover from the Fancy Food Show. In a case such as this, vendors at industry shows donate any unsold product to the store, benefiting not only Under One Roof by increasing their inventory, but also freeing up the vendors from having to pay to ship back any leftover goods. Just sign up in the store or online to find out about their upcoming sales. Their next in-store sale is Labor Day weekend, September 1st - 4th.

If you don’t want to or don’t have time to visit the shop, you can purchase their most popular items online (, but for the truly unique items, you have to visit the store. In addition, their retail space also functions as a community free space, available for the public to hold events. Contact the store for details.