Please join us as we welcome Mayor Mark Farrell to CWM on Wednesday March 7th at 11:30 am when he will be nominating the California Wine Merchant as one of San Francisco's Legacy businesses.
The purpose of the Legacy Business Registry is to recognize that longstanding, community-serving businesses are valuable cultural assets to The City. In addition, The City intends that the Registry be an opportunity for providing educational and promotional assistance to Legacy Businesses to encourage their continued viability and success.
We are honored to be considered as a San Francisco Legacy Business. The following is a bio on CWM's founder, Greg O'Flynn and a brief history of the California Wine Merchant.
California Wine Merchant
Greg O'Flynn is a San Francisco native that grew up in the Marina District. He attended St. Vincent de Paul grammar school and Saint Ignatius College Preparatory. He played baseball and basketball down the street at what was then known as Funston playground. During high school he had several part-time jobs at businesses on Chestnut Street.
After high school Greg attended Saint Mary's College in Moraga majoring in business administration and economics. It was there that he was also exposed to a wide variety of wines from many different countries through an extracurricular wine tasting club moderated by a couple of the Christian Brothers who taught at the school (both had previously worked at the Christian Brothers winery in Saint Helena). Over the course of a couple of years of these tastings Greg developed a passion for wine and became convinced that California was producing delicious wines equal to those produced anywhere in the world and that the state had an amazing future ahead of it.
Greg opened the California Wine Merchant in 1974 during the summer between his junior and senior years of college. Located on Pierce Street in the Marina, it was a unique shop at that time as it was just selling wine (no beer or hard alcohol) and was specializing primarily in California wines. At that time wine was not as mainstream as it is today. Quite the contrary, those, like Greg, who who were really into wine were outliers.
Over the years Greg developed deep and long lasting relationships with wine producers and customers alike in his quest to bring some of the best wines in the state to his store. Greg says that part of the fun is pioneering these great wines from small family owned wineries.
Another relationship that has contributed greatly to the success and longevity of the California Wine Merchant is the one he has with his wife, Deborah, who he married in 1990 and who has been an integral part of the business ever since.
In 2004 Greg moved the business literally around the corner to Chestnut Street where he expanded the operation to include a wine bar where people could come in and enjoy a wide variety of the delicious wines he was bringing in. It was something that the neighborhood was thirsty for and was an immediate success and remains so to this day.
In addition to pouring 50 wines by the glass Greg also has a very active series of "Meet the Winemaker Tastings" where guest winemakers will come down to the wine bar and pour several of the wines they produce for his customers. Greg also launched a Quarterly Wine Club in which members receive 6 different wines every quarter along with detailed notes on the wines and the wineries that make them as well as invitations to all of the winemaker tastings.
The California Wine Merchant has also served as somewhat of a training ground for many of its employees who have gone on to establish their own successful careers in the wine business.
The California Wine Merchant is now 44 years old and is somewhat unique in that it is still owned and operated on a day to day basis by the original founder. When asked about retirement Greg says that he is to healthy and too young to retire. "I like what I do and besides, I think it would be cool to hit at least 50 years in business!"