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."