Castro's ROLO Enters Fourth Decade With New Sportswear Store

After over 30 years in business, clothing store ROLO is expanding its footprint in the Castro.

ROLO currently operates two stores, one in the Castro and the other in SoMa, and will soon open "R by Rolo" in the space previously occupied by Michael Bruno Luggage, which closed late last year after 34 years in business.

The new store, which has a fresh 10-year lease on the space, fills one of three retail vacancies in adjacent spaces along Market Street. Next-door businesses POP by Sui Generis and Books Inc. both closed last year.

The new location of R by Rolo. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

ROLO co-owner Mark Schultz tells Hoodline the new store will offer active sportswear. "The clothing is different than we currently offer at our stores," said Schultz. "We will be gearing it more towards active workout attire."

Schultz explained that the business has outgrown its current Castro location at 2351 Market, saying the new space at 2267 Market "will have what we can't fit in here."

Schultz (right) and an employee at ROLO on Market in 1992. | Photo: Mark Schultz

ROLO has been at its current Market Street location since 1990. The store was originally located at 541 Castro St., where Schultz first met business partner and best friend Roland Peters while working at Steps, another retail store. After the business owner decided to sell, Peters and Schultz bought it together, converting the store to ROLO in 1986.

The original storefront is currently vacant, having most recently been occupied by Openhouse, and briefly filled by Vanguard Properties in 2015.

During its more than 30 years of business, ROLO has had a variety of storefronts all over the Castro and across the city. "We were downtown for a while in the late '90s to early 2000s at what is now the A/X Armani Exchange on Stockton Street," Schultz reminisced.

In the Castro, they've tried a variety of different concepts, including Precious, a jewelry store; Domestics, a menswear store which only sold things made in the U.S.A.; and Undercover, a store focusing on club wear.

ROLO's former Stockton Street location. | PHOTO: MARK SCHULTZ

Schultz is well aware of the difficulty in opening a retail store in the Castro today. "You don't see many retailers opening," he noted. "What you do see opening are coffee shops, bars and restaurants."  

In a time when many people are buying clothes online and many brick-and-mortar retail outlets are closing, we asked Schultz what has made ROLO successful.

"We're constantly evolving and changing out product," he said. Schultz says that the combination of his and Peters' tastes have made for a great match. "I'm the sensible, practical one, and he's the creative one," he said. "We're both in our 60s, and we've always had a hip cool image that we've been able to keep going."

"We always change our product base," said Schultz, noting another success factor. "It's always evolving and changing to the demand of the neighborhoods that we're in."

ROLO's SoMa location on Howard Street. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

"When you're corporate, you've gotta have boardroom meetings," Schultz continued. "Here, it's just Roland and me. If something isn't working we can change it immediately ... We're very adaptable and quick with making business decisions that we know we need to survive."

As for their new R by Rolo project, "We're so excited to do it," said Schultz. "I think we have good taste and we'll make sure to watch our price points and not be too expensive." He also cited the focus on fitness in the neighborhood. "Most of these guys work out, and they need gym clothes."

Inside ROLO on Market. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

Spending more than 30 years in retail would tire many people out, but Schultz says, "We love what we do. I mean, I wouldn't know what else to do. We both enjoy it." 

ROLO's longstanding commitment to the community has recently been recognized. Schultz tells us that the business was nominated for Legacy Business Historical Preservation by former Supervisor Scott Wiener, and that they have gone through the application process, had their hearing and are now waiting to hear if they've been selected.

If everything goes according to plan, R by Rolo plans to open its doors in April. 

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