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Success in the Castro

by Michael Gonzales, Leader of Corporate Diversity & Inclusion at Hallmark

“The story of our Castro District store reflects the brave work of a community and its business partners who followed their hearts and did the right thing. We should shout its success loudly through the halls of Hallmark... and seek out similar opportunities at every turn.”

How We Embraced the LGBT Community and they Embraced Us Back

During a market tour of San Francisco, Senior Vice President of Customer Development Sabrina Wiewel and her team discovered what could have been a serious problem. Walgreens was re-evaluating its Castro District store as part of a June 2015 remodel - and they didn’t feel our product was relevant to the community it served. The Castro is one of the country’s first gay neighborhoods, and 95 percent of its residents identify as LGBT. Unfortunately, our product mix didn’t reflect their needs.

According to Sabrina, “We had the right products... just not in that store. So we said, ‘Let us treat it like flagship, rethink our entire approach and bring you a solution that’s localized for your customers.’”


As soon as they heard the news, a cross-divisional team led by Visual Merchandising and Space & Assortment Planning began working on a solution that would be relevant to the Castro customer and give them something they’d never seen before. But they knew they lacked the diversity among team members to do it authentically.

“They really needed to consult with folks who were just like the consumer,” says Steve Hills, chair of Hallmark Employees Reaching Equality (HERE). So, Hallmark assembled a team that included members of HERE, Walgreen’s LGBT Business Resource Group, the Castro store manager, and Hallmark’s Asian American Employee Resource Group (AARCH), as well as internal and external focus groups. Together, they advised the product teams as new and revised products were conceptualized for the Castro store.

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