Orchard Supply Hardware stores across the Bay Area and beyond closed their doors early Tuesday and will shut down permanently by the end of the year, according to a company spokeswoman.
Jackie Hartzell, a spokeswoman for parent company Lowe's, said employees were informed of the permanent shutdown Tuesday, and store liquidations will begin Thursday. Bought by Lowe's in 2013, Orchard Supply remained a separate brand and operating entity from the Lowe's chain and has more than 40 stores in the greater Bay Area and about 4,000 employees across the company.
Orchard Supply was formed in 1931 as the Orchard Supply Farmers Co-op by 30 farmers, consisting mostly of orchardists and fruit tree ranchers who banded together to form a cooperative to buy essential farm supplies. Each farmer put up $30 and in the midst of the Great Depression a new company was formed. Stanley B. Smith served as the company's first general manager and president.
Operations started in a rented warehouse at 230 Bassett St. in San Jose, CA. In spite of the Great Depression, the cooperative was successful. In 1933 the co-op moved to a larger location at 44 Vine St. in San Jose. The new location featured a large retail display area, off-street parking, and an adjoining warehouse.
In 1946 the company moved to a site at 720 West San Carlos St. in San Jose, it's 3rd store which is still in operation currently. By then, there were almost 2000 members. In 1962, Albert B. Smith (Stanley's son) became president, expanding the business into a chain of stores which, at 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) each, were considered large at the time.
The iconic Orchard Supply Hardware sign still sits at the intersection of Royal and W. San Carlos, a reminder of the Days when West San Carlos was bathed in neon lights.
By 1950 the electronics industry began booming in the Santa Clara Valley, and with it came an abundance of new home owners in the San Francisco Bay Area. The orchards gradually became residential neighborhoods, and the "Orchard Supply Farmers Co-op" became a for-profit corporation, "Orchard Supply Hardware" retail stores.
In the early 1960s, the City of San José denied Al Smith permission to install a sign along Auzerais Street to promote his Orchard Supply Hardware store because a sign for the store already existed facing San Carlos Street. Undeterred, Smith bought a railroad boxcar from Southern Pacific, painted the car with the OSH logo, and placed it at the end of the spur track behind his store and alongside Auzerais Street. It remained in that spot for nearly 50 years, and was occasionally featured in OSH’s promotional material. Recognizing its historic relationship to the San José community, OSH donated the boxcar to the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation in 2013 for display in a museum setting.