Copy shop shows its stripes

Publication Date: Wednesday Nov 26, 1997

EL CAMINO REAL: Copy shop shows its stripes

Zebra Copy refurbishes Polly and Jake's at corner of Page Mill

by Betsy Schiffman

Polly Swartz once said, "When you see Polly and Jake's, you know you are in Palo Alto." Carved in the pavement in front of the former antique store on the corner of Page Mill Road and El Camino Real, you can still find the words "Polly and Jake 1929," which Polly inscribed herself. Today, passersby are often treated to a life-size waving zebra on that same corner. But it may come as a relief to Palo Altans to know that Polly and Jake's--once a beloved Palo Alto landmark--has been refurbished.

In February 1997 it was taken over by Zebra Copy, a print and copy business that recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The first store opened in San Jose in 1986.

To mark the 10th anniversary, owners Jamie Kerr, Andy Kerr and Gary Golker completely refurbished Polly and Jake's old antique shop and opened the doors of their sixth copy shop. Refurbishment began in July 1996 and cost about $350,000. But the architect took great pains to maintain the original charm of the building created by Polly and Jake Swartz.

Zebra Copy also refurbished the building behind the shop. For a while, Polly and Jake rented the space behind the shop to two young men whose business had outgrown their garage--a certain Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. That building is now up for rent.

Jake died in 1978. Polly fell ill some time later and thus was forced to close the store--temporarily, she thought. For six years there was a "closed" sign on the door, but the merchandise remained in the shop.

The unoccupied store gained notoriety. Wild rumors circulated that the shop was a CIA front, a mafia front or haunted by ghosts.

The owners of Zebra Copy were thorough in their quest for information about the building's history. They keep an album of photos and articles about Polly and Jake's for guests to browse through. Though everything in the refurbished store is new, there are two prints of old photographs that hang near the register. One photo is of the building behind the shop--once adorned with a "Hewlett-Packard" sign. The other shows the front of Polly and Jake's.

According to Jamie Kerr, partner and vice president of Zebra Copy's operations and marketing, the company is conscious of making people "aware of the building's extraordinary history."

"We're still in contact with David Swartz (Polly and Jake's son, who still owns the building), and some of their cousins come in every so often," he said.

The owners of Zebra Copy developed their business from just one shop with four employees 10 years ago to six shops with more than 100 employees today. Annual sales for 1998 are expected to exceed $10 million.

Though the company has grown rapidly since its conception, it is still a local business, aiming to serve local needs and frequently making donations to charitable foundations throughout the Bay Area.

"Businesses should give to the community," said Kerr. "It's sad to see the Ma and Pop stores die off. People need to have an alternative choice. We're not just another Kinkos." 

Back up to the Table of Contents Page