Plans are underway to sell a historic building that houses Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World, a downtown destination for the past 87 years.
The store has become a landmark on Waverley Street, a block off of University Avenue, but owner Ed Hoffacker III said it's becoming too expensive to stay in the Birge Clark-building that has been in his family for nearly nine decades.
Hoffacker considered expanding the building, which opened in 1930, to comply with numerous rules and regulations required by the city, but the store would have had to close for one to two years for renovations.
The sale will be handled by Premier Realty, and Hoffacker knows of some people interested in purchasing the site, but the building isn't on the market just yet.
"The best thing would be to sell it someone who has a vision," he said.
Hoffacker hopes that whoever takes over the building will improve the property and maintain it as a retail site, something he says is lacking downtown.
Next week, he'll be meeting his employees and a retail consultant to figure out what their next steps will be.
He said he would ideally like to move the store somewhere in Palo Alto, the city where he grew up, though he's open to relocating to neighboring cities. Hoffacker plans to retire once his employees settle into the new location.
Hoffacker admits the store isn't what it used to be and is struggling to stay competitive as more people buy merchandise online. His store also offers its merchandise online and delivers it through Google Express, he said.
But Hoffacker still sees the advantages of shopping in-person.
"I've always been a person who wants to go in and handle this stuff and talk to people about it. That's what we were," he said.
Buying locally also keeps the taxes in the community, he said.
While his employees were disappointed by the news, they were understanding, he said. He believes the move will be good training for them.
Hoffacker himself isn't happy about moving out but said he's happy to move on with his life, with plans to retire.
"I feel like at some point in time I need to look to my future," he said.
Hoffacker's family isn't interested in taking over the company, so it will be passed down to his employees, he said.
"For me, personally, it's obviously a sad time," said general manager Eric Hager, who has worked with the company for more than two decades. The nine full- and part-time employees are concerned about the business's future.
The building holds many special memories for Hager, who recalled meeting his wife of 21 years at the store. His sister also met her husband there.
Many famous athletes have held promotional events at the shop including Tony Hawk, Ryan Lochte and Natalie Coughlin. Michael Phelps also made his last public appearance at the store before his first Olympics.
A few years ago a longtime employee saw a ghost of Hoffacker's father in the store's stock room, according to Hager. Throughout the years, workers have also heard products suddenly fall off the shelves and musical toys unexpectedly play.
The old building has been renovated numerous times, the most recent being 20 years ago when a glass elevator was installed, Hager said.
There are a number of hurdles ahead for the business, which has been intrinsically tied up with the building and has strong connections with the community, according to Hager.
"It's all very up-in-the-air. We have to deal with the retail consultant and get a firm idea of the possibilities," Hager said.