In 1959, the original Cole Hardware© was purchased by Dave Karp when he bought the hardware store (now our Cole Street warehouse space) that had been located in Cole Valley since the 1920s. Dave was a one man band: Every morning before work he would pick up merchandise at the supply houses and in the evenings, he would do all of his paper work. Dave ordered the merchandise, marked the merchandise, stocked the merchandise, helped the customer, rang up the sale, paid the bills, went to the bank, cleaned the bathroom… he did everything by himself.
Soon, his business began to grow. His wife, Margie, started coming down to help out. She would cashier, make keys and point out merchandise to customers while they waited for Dave. In order to earn extra dollars Marge (my mother) would watch the store while my father expanded into “outside work”. During quiet periods and in the evenings, Dave would fix broken windows, repair toilets and faucets, install water heaters, fix doorbells and switches… he would do anything that was relatively quick, profitable, and that would help him sell some of his merchandise.
Happily, Dave could no longer keep up with the outside work. Business, both inside and outside of the store, had grown large enough to where he simply couldn’t handle it by himself. He had to hire someone to help him in the store, and he began contracting handymen for the outside work. Business was growing stronger and stronger because Dave offered friendly and knowledgeable service, a complete inventory (he tried to have “one of everything made”), and he had a strong desire to succeed. He would do anything that he could to help a customer…
The success of Dave’s business can be summed up in the following motto that he had posted on a large sign over the register:
“There Are No Strangers Here, Just Friends We Haven’t Met!”
Using this as the guiding principle of his business, Dave went on to build Cole Street Hardware into one of the busiest hardware stores in San Francisco.
The Floor Sweeper
In 1963, at the age of 13, I began working with my father in the family business, as the official Floor Sweeper. Never in a million years would I have dreamed that, ten years later, I would choose hardware as my career. Yet, after college graduation I became my father’s partner. At that same time, the opportunity arose to expand into our current Cole Street location. My first project, as partner, was to spearhead the development and move into 956 Cole Street. When we opened the doors, the Cole Hardware® Team grew from two and one half people, to seven full time people. At the end of that first year in the 956 location, business had more than doubled, and our staff continued to grow.
One year prior to the opening of the new location, I convinced my father that we should become an Ace Hardware Store. Ace was reluctant to let us join, as we were so small. However, when they came out and watched my father sell, they signed us up immediately and we became the smallest Ace Hardware store in the nation!
Ace has been one of the many keys to our success. Ace is a buying cooperative, so along with more than 5,000 other hardware stores nationwide, we purchase merchandise directly from manufacturers. This enables us to have competitive pricing and gives us access to almost anything manufactured. This new buying power, coupled with our larger location, had a very positive public impact. Today, Ace supplies us with over 75% of our total inventory!
Cole Hardware© Reproduces …
Armed with our Triad Computer, Ace Hardware, a dedicated staff and my father’s guiding principles, we continued to grow by dedicating our organization to sales and the needs of our customers. Our reputation grew, as did our customer base and our volume. Our staff was at twenty-five people. Our systems were intact. We could no longer grow physically at our flagship Cole Street location. It was at this time our first neighborhood branch was conceived.
Our Stores and Departments:
While all of our stores and departments operate under the Cole Hardware umbrella of excellent customer service, Dave Karp’s “No Strangers” guiding philosophy and creating positive dinnertime conversation for our customers, each of our neighborhood stores has its own unique personality that allow them to fit well into the diverse neighborhoods of the City.
Cole Hardware’s Cole Street location:
Our flagship store, situated in the heart of Cole Valley since 1920, is your best source for all hardware needs and more. (click here for more info)
Cole Hardware’s Mission Street location:
Cole Hardware©’s Mission Street location opened on October 25th, 1984 at 3312 Mission Street. (click here for more info)
Cole Hardware’s Cole Fox location:
Cole Fox Hardware© opened officially on February 15, 1996 when we acquired Fox Hardware in downtown San Francisco. (click here for more info)
Cole Hardware’s Polk Street location:
Cole Hardware’s Polk Street location came about when we were approached by local neighborhood and business groups in the Russian Hill neighborhood to open a store in an abandoned storefront. (click here for more info)
Our Commercial Supply division started in 1987 operating out of whatis now our Cole Street store’s warehouses backstock closet and has grown into and integral part of of our business, although somewhat behind the scenes. (click here for more info)
Cole Hardware’s Home Repair Referral Service was created to introduce our customers to the finest contractors and tradespersons we know. We have formed alliances with independent business people in order to provide you with the very best in home repair, maintenance and remodeling. All of the trades people in our service have been pre-screened and carefully selected and we can provide referrals for a plethora of home services.
While Cole Hardware has always been a leader in environmental efforts through public outreach and education and partnerships with various City agencies, in 2006 we formally began our green certification process with San Francisco’s Department of the Environment’s Green Business Program. We complied with the City’s stringent regulations in the areas of recycling, composting and waster reduction, energy and water conservation and pollution prevention. In December of 2006, our Cole Street location was awarded certification, with our Mission Street, Cole Fox and Polk Street stores following in 2007; thus making us the first green certified hardware stores in the nation.
Our terrific staff and our loyal customers have made Cole Hardware© a success. Thank you!