Dave Karp, Our Founder, My Father and Hero
My dad, Dave Karp, lived a wonderful 99 years. He died October 25, after struggling to recover from a midsummer surgical procedure. Having purchased the original Cole Street Hardware in 1961, his life and his love became all things Cole Hardware. Up until the very end, he was passionate about the many great people we have on our staff, their accomplishments, and of course our terrific customers. He was especially fond of his “old” customers from back in the day when Cole Hardware was just one small store on Cole Street. A consummate people person, Dave touched the lives of many, many folks beyond his own family. He was a natural conversationalist, loved meeting new people, and always carried his “ice breaker” in his pocket—a special card trick that he played over and over again to the joy of everyone from the very young to the old(er) alike. I’m sure that many reading this now have seen the card trick, as he particularly delighted in sharing it around the stores.
Dave (read about Dave on SFgate) was born 99 years ago right here in San Francisco. Except for a stint on a chicken ranch in Petaluma when he was a kid (that’s a story unto itself), he spent his entire life here in the Bay Area, having become one of the first homeowners in Westlake where he lived until he was 98. He always said he’d leave that house in a pine box. And there were plenty of moments in his later years when I thought he would! Finally, though, we were able to get him to relocate to a safer (and sunnier) environment, and he was very happy there.
Aside from hardware, Dave’s passion was his family and helping new immigrants navigate their new country. Being born into a poor, immigrant family that had to creatively make ends meet each day gave my father a particular empathy for those coming to the United States for a better life. He made friends with many folks from Latin America, making it his mission to help them succeed here. Sometimes this entailed employment advocacy, obtaining green cards, helping with rent, shopping for diapers—basically doing whatever he could to ease the way. I think there are a couple of homes in Central America where his name and legacy are revered!