At the busy intersection of Fillmore and Sacramento in San Francisco’s tony Pacific Heights neighborhood, there’s a 900-square-foot corner shop that’s been around since the 1930s. D&M Wines and Liquors was named after the two brothers—Dan and Morty—who owned the store until 1963. At that point, Joe Politz, who also owned the iconic Joe’s Ice Cream on Geary Avenue in the Richmond District, bought the shop with his wife and decided the D&M stood for Dad & Mom instead.
D&M is now owned by the Politzes’ son, Mike, and his wife, Karen. SevenFifty Daily spoke with Karen Politz about the family’s venerable retail shop, its specialty offerings, and how the shop and its clientele have changed over time.
Politz and her husband met while working at a Safeway supermarket 30 years ago. She says that Mike started helping his parents out at D&M when he was just six years old, stocking shelves and ringing up customers while standing on a wine crate. As an adult, she says, he spent a few years working for the distributor Southern Wine & Spirits (now known as Southern Glazer’s); he then worked for his father for five years at D&M before the couple became the new owners, officially taking D&M over from Mike’s parents in September 2001. In addition to the Politzes, D&M has six employees.
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Politz explains that the store has long had a focus on unique, hard-to-find Champagnes and sparkling wines. In the early days after the first generation of Politzes took it over, she says, no other wine shop in the Bay Area offered a comparable selection. D&M’s selection also emphasizes French brandies, single-malt Scotch whiskies, American whiskeys, and fine wines. Politz says that most of the fine-wine shops in San Francisco nowadays tend to have their own specialty focuses, and many of them willingly refer customers looking for particular bottles to each other’s businesses. In addition to its local clientele, D&M gets customers from other areas of the city coming in to peruse their sparkling wines and spirits offerings.
Nicole Holmes, the Northern California and Northwest regional sales manager for Broadbent Selections, points out that D&M features an interesting selection of “small-grower Champagnes, library vintages of wines, private-label bottlings of spirits like bourbon … [and] they can special-order wines for customers too.” What’s more, she says, they’re “still family owned … and they know their locals and regulars.”
In addition to buying casks of Scotch and barrels of bourbon for their own select bottlings, Politz says that she and Mike recently did their own bottling of Jean Laurent Champagne. The producer shipped them a range of Champagnes with dosages that ranged from 2 to 8 grams per liter (g/l) of residual sugar, and they settled on D&M’s own private-label 3-g/l-dosage bottle, which, Politz reports, has been selling well.
D&M currently stocks approximately 5,000 SKUs of wine and spirits. It also has a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in the area. Prices range from the $10 cheap-and-charming section to the most premium stock, which includes a $1,550 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from 2014, a $3,700 Taylor Port from 1863, and a $5,800 Glenmorangie Pride Single Malt. The store’s largest bottle of Champagne is a Nebuchadnezzar (15 liters) of Taittinger, priced at $1,900.
While D&M declined to reveal its net sales figures, revenue for the store is growing at about 5 percent a year, according to Politz. She says that spirits make up about 50 percent of the shop’s sales, with still wines and sparkling wines representing about 25 percent each.
In addition to its curated selection of bottles, D&M is known for its sparkling wines and spirits clubs, which have been going strong for two decades and now have a total of 900 members, most of them people from the neighborhood. “Champagne was a niche we wanted to focus on to get great pricing and to buy in bulk,” says Politz, adding that of the store’s seven Champagne and spirits clubs, the number of members in the Champagne club is the greatest—approximately 360. It has grown 4 to 5 percent a year for the past 25 years, she notes.
The neighborhood has changed in recent years, says Politz, and is no longer heavily populated by young residents who shop until 2 am. “Now,” she says, “there are many more families and older people here.” D&M has made an effort to evolve with its neighbors and their changing tastes. In addition to its specialty Champagnes and spirits, the shop has also started offering a number of more unusual wines, including some from the Jura region of France and a new wine from Mexico.
Whether another generation will take over the family business in the future remains to be seen. The Politzes have a young adult son, but he has yet to express an interest in D&M. For now, though, it continues to be one of San Francisco’s esteemed mom-and-pop retail shops, thriving even in an era when many of the city’s small businesses are shutting down due to rapidly rising rents and fluctuations in consumer spending habits.
Vas Kiniris, the executive director of the Fillmore Merchants Association, describes D&M as a go-to neighborhood institution, adding that the store is warm and inviting and offers a finely curated selection of wines and spirits that aren’t readily available elsewhere. “D&M is a legacy San Francisco business,” he says. “It’s the epitome of a classic small business in our neighborhood merchant corridor.”
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Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing, educating, and consulting about wine and food for more than two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco–based Liza the Wine Chick consulting firm and regularly contributes to publications such as Wine Searcher, Wine Business Monthly, Decanter, and Wine Business International. She has also worked almost every angle of the wine and food business, from server and consultant to positions in distribution, education, and sales. She has visited all the world’s major wine-growing and spirits-producing regions—50-plus countries and counting—and holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits (DWS). For more information see lizathewinechick.com.