Downtown office-supply store Congdon and Crome will close, nearly 110 years after its opening in Palo Alto in 1904.
The store's manager, Lisa Cone, sees the closure as part of a trend in downtown Palo Alto in which long-standing, conventional businesses that have become institutions are edged out by high rents and heavy competition for space.
"Obviously you see a lot of businesses in Palo Alto changing and moving because of rent," she said. "Rent has a huge impact on why this happened."
The store has been in Palo Alto for 109 years and has been at its current location on Waverley Street for 9 years, Cone said. Before that, it had move all around the University Avenue area -- from the University Avenue Mills the Florist building to location that now houses Jos. A. Banks Clothiers Inc.
Jim Patrick, the store's owner, said its product mix can't generate enough sales to keep the store going in the expensive Palo Alto location.
"Closing the store is a tragedy in my opinion," he said. "The selection has really changed, we started selling a lot of file folders, then floppy discs, then thumb drives and now we're in the cloud, so you can see how the demand the product mix has changed, and it's not enough."
He said the store would probably close sometime in July.
Stanford Electric Co., another Palo Alto fixture located on High and Everett streets, in June will close shop in Palo Alto to move to Mountain View.
The store's owner didn't own the entire property and was unable to match a $3 million offer for the space by the owner of the California Skin Institute, a collection of dermatology clinics in Northern California.
Cone said Congdon and Crome's building has been on the market for a long time and that Congdon and Crome had been renting the space.
"This was a shock to us, but it wasn't unexpected," she said.
The nature of the office-supply business has changed, brought on by the rise of start-up businesses, she said. Startups have different needs than conventional companies have had, including for general office supplies.
"They only need a chair, a laptop and a cellphone," she said. "It's an ever-changing world."
The trend isn't limited to Palo Alto. Congdon and Crome is part of a small Bay Area chain of similar stores that has been slowly shrinking, she said. The stores are owned by San Francisco-based Patrick and Company, which has four stores in San Francisco and recently closed stores in San Rafael and Oakland.
"Things have changing so much that you don't really need the things that office-supply stores bring," she said. "Our highest selling items are fine pens and writing instruments, gift items, cards, journals -- less traditional office supply and more fun and unique items."
She said that many of the store's customers are very loyal, including residents and nearby businesses like Allied Brokers Insurance and Essex Property and Trust.
"We're going to be missed," said Cone, who has worked as a manager at the store for 13 years. "If you're a Palo Alto resident, and you grew up here, you'll remember it from your childhood."