HARDWARE STORES

Center Hardware & Supply moves to the Dogpatch

BY HBSDealer Staff

A family-owned San Francisco hardware store is moving to a new location after 30 years.

Center Hardware & Supply Co., and its 135-year Bay Area history, will move to a new 20,000 sq. ft. retail location in the Dogpatch neighborhood. The new building carries 30% more products in-stock and ready to purchase. It also has a larger parking lot (40 cars) and easy access to the I-280 and 101 freeways.

“We like to say we are woven into the fabric of this city,” Jamie Gentner said. “Whether you are a homeowner who needs a single light bulb or a city contractor who needs bulbs for the entire Bay Bridge, we can supply what you need and our sales staff will treat you like a king. Our new location will make it even easier to shop with us, and we have expanded our inventory to offer our wide-range of customers even more products that are available immediately.”

Keith Gentner, Jamie’s father, have run and operated Center Hardware since 1980, when Keith merged Ocean View Hardware into Center Hardware. Center Hardware sells more than 60,000 unique items and offers specialized concierge-level service.

The store celebrated the move with a grand opening and ribbon cutting on Friday, with all-day activities including food trucks, discounts, vendor demonstrations and product giveaways.

The new store will be the only Milwaukee tool destination store in San Francisco, offering a full line of Milwaukee tools, customized displays and special products. It will also be the only certified full-line dealer (CFLD) in San Francisco for Stabila.

The store expanded its selection of paints, including popular brands such as Valspar and has added paint mixing services.

A little history 

Center Hardware opened in 1880 as PA Smith Hardware & Glass on the corner of 4th and Brannan streets. When the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed the shop, the owner Peter Smith moved PA Smith Hardware to a ramshackle building on Bluxome Street. PA Smith Hardware & Glass stayed in business on Bluxome Street until the 4th and Brannan store was rebuilt. In the 1930s the shop was sold to Heinz Zolbach and the store name was changed to Center Hardware. Zolbach operated Center Hardware until the Blanz family bought the store in the 1970s.

When Ernie Gentner returned from WWII in the 1940s he took over the operation of Ocean View Hardware from his uncle in San Francisco’s Ocean View neighborhood. Ernie and his son, Keith Gentner, turned Ocean View Hardware into a robust neighborhood business complete with tool rentals and other services.

In 1980, Keith Gentner bought into Center Hardware. Ocean View Hardware was no more, but business at Center Hardware was booming. Within a few years, Gentner expanded Center Hardware’s business and inventory to the point that the little store on 4th Street was bursting at the seams. In 1987, Center Hardware moved to Mariposa Street and the merchandise grew to 20,000 sq. ft.

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Throwback Thursday: Frontier Days in California

BY HBSDealer Staff

Dating all the way back to 1861, Fort Jones Frontier Hardware on Main Street in Fort Jones, California, is one of the oldest continually operating hardware stores West of the Mississippi.

The Do it Best store is owned by Earl Taulbee, who recently came across this old ledger from the store’s forerunner, the F.E. Reichman Copmany, operator of a general merchandise store that would evolve into Frontier Hardware. Here's the back history.

Another interesting throw-back fact: an early cash register from Frontier Hardware is on display next door to the store, at the Fort Jones Museum.

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Throwback Thursday: Warners experiments with commission

BY HBSDealer Staff

The Dec. 11, 1978, issue of National Home Center News, the forerunner of HBSDealer, looked carefully at the operations of Warners, a Minneapolis-based family of 23 hardware stores and home centers.

Reporters captured some candid remarks from Merchandise Manager Chuck Davis, regarding big-ticket sales: “People are the single biggest problem involved with big ticket sales,” he said, on page 55. “It’s not enough to say, ‘Isn’t she a beauty.’ If you asked one of our guys to do a take-off of a kitchen, his response was to take off.”

Be that as it may, the company turned to a policy of a flat 5% commission on sales, “with all the training and cooperation they needed.” 

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