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[whitespace] Orchard Supply Hardware
Photograph by George Sakkestad

Orchard Supply Hardware
720 W. San Carlos St., San Jose

ORCHARD SUPPLY HARDWARE began as a farmer's purchasing cooperative on March 1, 1931, at 230 Bassett St. in San Jose. In 1933, the company relocated to 44 Vine St. in San Jose and in 1947 moved to its 26,000-square-foot store on West San Carlos, the former site of the Sodality Ballpark. According to the OSH website, the park once hosted Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Lefty O'Doul, and other professional touring pros and local ball players at an exhibition game on Oct. 27, 1927. Ruth called San Jose, then a city of 60,000 inhabitants, "that little burg in the prune trees."

Leonard McKay, owner of Memorabilia of San Jose, and Ron Stahl, vice president of real estate and construction for OSH, say it was the Smith family that helped expand OSH from a local business to a statewide chain. Stanley B. Smith is listed as the manager of OSH at 44 Vine St. in the San Jose city directories, a veritable address book of residences, businesses, business owners and managers that McKay uses frequently as his historical reference. Albert Smith, who ran OSH for years, eventually became mayor of Los Gatos. His successor, brother Loren Smith, was largely credited with developing OSH, which was later sold to W.R. Grace Corportation.

Neither McKay nor Stahl know who designed or manufactured the OSH sign on West San Carlos. Cal Neon has maintained the sign over the years. Stahl did tell me that the sign has been restored within the last five or six years. The sign, he points out, is the only one of its kind among the statewide chain stores.

As with many fin signs, the sign has an arrow--tomato red in this case--pointing toward the building and its parking lot. The words "Orchard Supply" are spelled out in white block letters; the neon outlines the inside of each letter. The word "Hardware"--positioned beneath "Orchard Supply"--is in larger letters with the same font. Each letter is outlined in neon. At night the sign takes on its Hyde personality, bursting with pastels resembling those found in the marshmallows of Lucky Charm cereal. "Orchard Supply" pops out in green, with "Hardware" in blue and the arrow outlined in pink neon. White neon illuminates the reassuring words "If It's Hardware, We Have It."

Old Signs: Silicon Valley's Disappearing Legacy

Sign Language: What historic signs say about our lives, and why action is needed to save the valley's scarce reminders of its commercial past.

Plaque Removal: Metro reporter Genevieve Roja takes a neon-lit journey in search of the valley's oldest and most intriguing signs.

Hand-Painted Wonders: Long before graffiti, brick buildings were a palette for sign painters. Today, they are endangered species.

Strokes of Genius: An interview with octogenarian sign-painter Rey Giese.

Telltale Signs: A close-up look at the Courtesy Chevrolet landmark sign.

Pooch Politics: Famed cartoonist takes doggie-head sign to heart.

Living Large: Giant roadside statues are often 'borrowed.'

Signs From the Underbelly: Columnist Eric Carlson offers a photographic tour of some of the most interesting signs in San Jose.

[ San Jose | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

From the April 26-May 2, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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