Nearly two years after signing the lease for the 300 Valencia St. (and 14th) space, Healthy Spirits opened its fourth liquor store earlier this month. Its other locations are in the Castro, Inner Richmond, and Bernal Heights.
"There were lots of issues that we had to get over with," said owner Rami Barqawi when we visited him at the store. Those challenges included finances, contractors, and city permits.
When we spoke to Barqawi in March, he said the former T&M Market space was both a blessing and a risk.
"My heart said, 'don’t do it, you have a lot on the table and kids at home,'" he explained, "but my mind said, 'you can’t not do it—you don’t say no to being on Valencia.'"
Barqawi now wants the new store to blend into the neighborhood. "I'm always open for feedback," he said, adding that he's happy to serve a community that appreciates the art behind liquor and wants to learn about its history and heritage.
"I seek to be a little bit different than your typical liquor store," he said.
At this location, Healthy Spirits focuses on beer, agave spirits, whiskeys and whisky, including Japanese distillations that are often hard to find in San Francisco.
Barqawi said he felt that there weren't many stores in the neighborhood that offer spirits where agave has been used in the production, and he hopes to change that. Those spirits include mezcal, which are made from different agave plants native to Mexico.
The store also has a selection of gin and wines at a variety of price points.
Several liquor ingredients are also represented in the mural Barqawi commissioned for the 14th Street wall of the store. Artist Irubiel Moreno and his team painted hops, two types of agave and wheat (for whiskey).
There are also several bees that represent life, Barqawi said. "Bees are often underappreciated," he added.
In the future, Healthy Spirits may also offer a selection of barware for local bartenders.
Barqawi also hopes to obtain another permit to host tastings and educational events.
Healthy Spirits is open Monday to Thursday, 11am to 10pm, Friday and Saturday, 11am to 11pm, and Sunday, 11am to 9pm. Hours are flexible.
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