Peninsula Hardware closes after 63 years

Closure of venerable Palo Alto neighborhood store a loss for Midtown neighborhood

A longtime fixture of Palo Alto's Midtown neighborhood, Peninsula Hardware, has closed its doors and will hold a store-closing sale starting Thursday, Sept. 29, the hardware store announced to residents and customers this week.

Gary Burke, whose family has owned the 63-year-old store, for 52 years, decided to retire and attend to family matters, according to retail consultant Richard Rabb, who is helping Burke close the store, located at 2676 Middlefield Road, and sell all of its merchandise.

Burke sent a special invitation to customers and Midtown residents to a store-closing sale. The event is by invitation only, and those attending should bring the letter and envelope they received in the mail.

After the initial sale, the store will advertise its closeout in local papers to the wider public. Clearing out the store, including selling off furniture and all fixtures, will take about six weeks, Rabb said.

Burke could not immediately be reached for comments by phone, but in a letter to Midtown residents, he summed up his decision to end the long years of service to the community, selling every kind of item from garden tools to odd-sized bolts.

"My family and I are so grateful to be able to be a part of this wonderful community. But the time has come to focus on our family," the letter states.

Peninsula Hardware opened in 1953. Bottle cappers, washtubs and meat grinders were big sellers, Burke said in a brief history collected by the Midtown Residents Association. Burke's father, Allen, bought the store from its original owner in 1964.

Burke started working there at age 13 and through high school, Rabb said.

Charles Scott, a longtime Midtown resident who worked at the store for 26 years, said he was sad about the closure.

"I spent a lot of time there," he said. "It's been a wonderful thing to be working there. The people I worked with there were wonderful people."

Scott said one of the reasons the store closed is because suppliers didn't want to sell to small retailers like Peninsula Hardware and he couldn't order the merchandise he needed.

"The big-box stores forced (Burke) out," Scott added.

The store's closing is a loss for the neighborhood, Midtown Residents Association Chairwoman Sheri Furman said.

"I'm not surprised, but I'm sad," she said, noting that Burke had been spending less time in the store recently to care for his mother.

"We're really losing a unique small business in Palo Alto -- especially this side of Palo Alto. It's the kind of store you don't see anymore and probably never will again," Furman said. "I feel like Midtown just lost a big piece of its history."

One of Burke's sons posted a message on the store's Facebook page about growing up in the store.

"I learned so much here. I remember watching in amazement as customers would come in and ask my dad questions about plumbing, gardening, paint, electrical, etc. and he always knew the answer," he wrote. "Watching him I learned what good customer service is supposed to be and how to run a business.

"I think the biggest take away I got from this store was the time I got to spend with my dad working together."


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40 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:13 am

Hulkamania is a registered user.

Peninsula Hardware is a real hardware store. The aisles were narrow but that meant they had more stuff.

I didn't realize they'd only been open for a year when my family moved to Palo Alto. Sorry to see you go.

48 people like this
Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:32 am

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

Another loss similar to Keeble & Shuchat. I love this place and patronized it as my first choice when I needed hardware. They don't make 'em like this any more.

39 people like this
Posted by longtime resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:52 am

I'm so sad about this I could cry. I probably will. To think that suppliers might have been at least partly responsible for forcing out a wonderful store like this is heartbreaking. Is making money the only important thing in the world these days? Will miss this store very much.

37 people like this
Posted by Mark Meyers
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:56 am

Great store, I have been shopping there since the 60's when my dad would go to buy a washer or a bolt or anything he needed. It was an icon of a place , there is more stuff packed in this little store than you can imagine. I will miss you Gary and Charles and all of the times we had together. You are great and we will miss you dearly!

19 people like this
Posted by Jim Phillips
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:58 am

It was always a great resource. This is sad news.

25 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2016 at 11:09 am

The two stores I really liked to shop at have died (K&S being the other). This is a real bummer. I always started at Gary's when I needed stuff, if he didn't have it, which was rare, he would aim you in the correct direction. My house is constructed with stuff from Gary. They will be holding a funeral for them this week as they sell it out to the dust. It is like a when a friend dies, there is void left never to be filled again.

20 people like this
Posted by Anciana
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2016 at 11:11 am

I am so sad to find out that Midtown's hardware store is closing. I've bought all kinds of things there, and I just told a friend about it. She went and loved the store and planned to do all her hardware shopping there. Oh dear.

17 people like this
Posted by Martha
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 28, 2016 at 11:16 am

I'd lived in Midtown for many years before moving to Mountain View. I used to love going to this store and talking with Gary. Even though I didn't go there often in recent years , I will miss the thought of its being there. Good luck, Gary!

18 people like this
Posted by Derek
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2016 at 11:39 am

Thanks for everything Gary! I started going in the 80s with my father, and now am a midtown resident with kids of my own who have been biking there for years. Lots of good memories. I've seen Steve Young there several times. Gary always had great advice on small fixes, and was happy to point you in the right direction if he didn't have something. I'll miss the store a ton, and am planning to go spend a lot of $$$ during the closeout!

(Will not miss K&S on the other hand. They are terrible! Maybe the pro store a little...)

14 people like this
Posted by Carla Talbott
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2016 at 11:46 am

I was so sorry to learn that Peninsula Hardware had closed. I mostly shopped in, and lived in or near, the Midtown area from 1970 to 2008, first on Seale Ave. then on Sierra Court. The folks at Peninsula Hardware could answer any question and were always so friendly and helpful. It was hard for me to accept some of the earlier changes to Midtown, losing the Pharmacy and the Dept. Store and Coop. I'm still homesick although I love my new town of McMinnville, OR, in the beautiful Willamette Valley.

13 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2016 at 11:53 am

Sadly, a real treasure will be gone. I will miss Gary and his competent advice.
Take care Gary.

11 people like this
Posted by Sorry to see you go
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Sorry to see you go is a registered user.

My family has lived in our midtown home for 20 years within walking distance of Peninsula Hardware. From the beginning, Gary's store was a fixture (pun intended) in our lives of ongoing 'old house repair'. We are so sorry to see you go. Thank you for the service and wonderful color you provided to this neighborhood. Best wishes.

14 people like this
Posted by Caitlin
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 28, 2016 at 12:10 pm

I've only shopped at this hardware store a few times. I live in MV and so other locally owned hardware stores are closer. But when I needed certain items only Peninsula Hardware had them or could order them. I received outstanding customer service each visit and got the exact thing I wanted to buy at a good price. Great value was a hallmark of my dealing with them.

I'm partial to small businesses locally owned and run and so the announcement of this closing made my heart sink a bit. Small businesses really are the core of our economy despite the "corporate worship" that is rampant and destructive. I'm planning on moving out of the SF bay area soon. I am sad to think this business will not be here after I'm gone.

11 people like this
Posted by Virginia Van Kuran
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 28, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Thanks Gary for your service to the community. You and your family are an important part of Palo Alto history. I shop there for 41 years and always felt welcome.

7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Sorry to see it go. Always a go to place for our family and even though we couldn't find what we wanted as soon as you ask it was magically found along with advice.

The last time I was there I wanted to get a key cut and for the first time I noticed very few blanks on the stand and the type I needed was out. I wonder if this was being planned for a while and whether it was due to retirement or economics? It always seemed to have customers, but like me, people probably spending less than $20 per visit.

On the other side, I wonder what will happen to the premises. This location with its little shared parking lot could be snapped up quickly. However, the vacant space on Middlefield/Colorado has been empty a while.

10 people like this
Posted by Old teacher
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Heartbroken. So many of us are. Thanks for all the years of care for this community,
and best of luck for your future. You will be sorely missed.

12 people like this
Posted by Michael Jalone
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm

I remember this store opening and shopped there for many years until leaving Palo Alto. It is the last store of the midtown I remember which included the Rainbow Market, Leo Nomolini's Sport Shop, Fremont Pharmacy, the Toy Store on Colorado, Bungalow Market, Bergmans, Midtown Bakery, Toy World and more. Thank you for the years of service and advice!

6 people like this
Posted by Penny mcdermott
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2016 at 2:18 pm

I am so sad to hear of the closing of a wonderful neighborhood store. Gary and his helpers were always so helpful. Thank you Gary for your service to the midtown community and all the helpful and considerate advice you gave daily! You will be missed

5 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2016 at 2:47 pm

When I see so many Midtown residents shopping at Orchard Supply Hardware in MV, instead of at Gary's store, I have to wonder how serious they are about supporting local businesses. How about all those Midtowners who buy hardware things off the Internet? Free choice and free markets are joined at the hip, and they cause disruption.

I wish Gary well. It wasn't his fault, and he was a good guy.

8 people like this
Posted by macbaldy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2016 at 5:05 pm

@John, this article mentions how suppliers had been refusing to do business with small retailers like Peninsula Hardware, and the he couldn't order the merchandise that he needed. Increasingly, PH was unable to fully serve the needs of Midtown residents. If they went elsewhere, they generally had to do so in order to meet their needs.

As so many folks are saying, this is a continuing sadness. I didn't arrive in Palo Alto until 1971, but hardware stores like PH were typical around this area. Gradually, the various renditions of local redevelopment have decimated their existence. For whom the bell tolls...

5 people like this
Posted by Baffled
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 28, 2016 at 7:03 pm

For decades now, whenever I've been baffled about how to make small repairs, I've gone to PH. I've walked in, looked all sad and pathetic, and Gary has come to my rescue. I've appreciated this so much! PH has always been my first choice, for anything from a doormat to a doorbell. Many, many thanks.

5 people like this
Posted by So grateful
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 28, 2016 at 11:17 pm

This is a big loss and makes us sad!

In years past, I knew PH would have a coffee percolator for use over
a wood fire for my sister's birthday present (which I was having great
difficulty finding elsewhere).

When squirrels were partying in my attic, only PH advised me on the
kind way to stop it, and provided the strongest metal netting,
which has shut down the opening for many years for a tiny cost.

Happy Trails, and thank you.

Chris Shaner

6 people like this
Posted by So sad
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2016 at 1:13 am

Having formerly lived in the Fairmeadow area I used to frequent this store and valued that you could buy one screw if needed instead of being forced to buy a large quantity and having lots left over. I told many of my friends in Australia how great it is to have a real old-fashioned hardware store that my father would have loved. I dropped in on my last visit to Palo Alto last year and I'll certainly miss the store on my visits.

4 people like this
Posted by anne cribbs
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2016 at 5:52 am

So sad....have shopped at Peninsula Hardware for many years.. received great hardware advise, customer service, referrals and friendliness. I will miss you all. Best to you and your family and thank you for your many years of service to all of us!

3 people like this
Posted by Darryl Thom
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 29, 2016 at 11:30 am

Very sorry to see you closing the store. I've been referring customers of ours to you for many years when they were in seach of something we could not supply. Best wishes.
Bruce Bauer Lumber and Supply - Mt View

2 people like this
Posted by Jihn
a resident of Triple El
on Sep 29, 2016 at 1:50 pm

I went to PH hundreds of times in my 30+ years in Palo Alto and Gary was so helpful so many times. I am very sad to See the era of Gary end and wish him well

7 people like this
Posted by Pam
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2016 at 10:23 pm

What a lovely, eloquent goodbye to the Palo Alto Community!

It is more than evident that this wonderful family has given years of service to the Palo Alto community, and the loss of Peninsula Hardware [everyone has gone for so many years] will be felt for many years to come.

Thank you for providing us with such a wonderful store and best wishes for your family, your employees and yourself, Gary.

5 people like this
Posted by Terry Martin
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2016 at 11:52 pm

It is a sad reminder that times change. I have been impressed with Gary's store since 1977 when I moved to the area. Somehow the little store always had exactly what I needed. But much more than a useful store, Gary was a wonderful guy. In recent years I tried to get him to "keep the change", but he never did, counting out every penny to make us even.

Thank you Gary, for all your help all these years. We move on to an online world now.

Like this comment
Posted by saddened
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 30, 2016 at 1:01 pm

This is sad. We still have Hassett Hardware thank goodness, they are so handy. Do you know how long it takes to get to Home Depot nowadays....if I go in the afternoon I'm stuck in 101 commuter traffic, if I go in the morning it takes me forever to get home because of commuter traffic. Saddened for the midtown community. This will leave a hole in that neighborhood.

2 people like this
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 1, 2016 at 4:49 pm

It sounds like the only hope that local retail has is to form coops and do direct purchasing from China themselves. Some sources there have high minimum order requirements, but many don't. If suppliers here are not supplying small stores, it's time to bypass them and go to their sources. A given store could be a source for some particular category of merchandise for other stores by stocking a few extras. They could arrange some division of labor, so to speak. They could also have a blog or email list to keep public among them any problems with companies or to share information about importing stuff. Apparently they can get decent quality too.

The US government has Web sites, information, educational materials, and even courses in import/export. Note the site is for export. Merchants in SF's Chinatown do things like that all the time as do banks there. Foreign transactions through our local major banks are not for small companies at all.

One Web site sourcing a large number of manufacturers for almost anything in China is . If anyone knows of others, do post them. In the long run, 3D or VR tech will come to Amazon, etc and small scale retail will be wiped out unless it has some service/product otherwise unavailable. Local 3D printing may work for reproducing pieces/parts for older objects.

4 people like this
Posted by student
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 1, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Thanks Gary! Grew up in Palo Alto and this is one of the last stores I could happily recommend to other Stanford students as a true local business with great service. You'll be missed!

4 people like this
Posted by Lowell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 28, 2016 at 10:44 pm

I've been going to Peninsula Hardware for over 30 years and have always depended on them to have what I need and give me great advice. As a novice at home repair I've appreciated all the help and education they've given me along the way. A number of times when I've gone in for something ordinary, Gary would say I could get it for less at one of the big box hardware stores and every time I'd reply, " I know that, but I want to buy it from you!" What a great shop and what a great guy!!

Good luck Gary, and may you enjoy your retirement. We will miss you immensely. A class act and a model businessman.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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