Orchard Supply Hardware

(Orchard Supply Hardware)

Orchard Supply Hardware Closing All Stores

August 22, 2018

SAN JOSE (KCBS Radio) -- The end has come for a Bay Area institution that traces its roots to the days when the Santa Clara Valley was an agricultural powerhouse. Lowe's Companies Inc. announced Wednesday that it would be closing all 99 Orchard Supply Hardware stores by the end of the year to "aggressively rationalize store inventory."

There are 40 locations in the Bay Area.

Orchard Supply began in 1931 as a co-operative allowing farmers and orchardists to improve their purchasing power. Each member put up $30 for an original share and Los Gatos apricot and prune grower Stanley B. Smith was the first president.

By the 1960's, the co-operative had become a privately-held company controlled by the Smith family, which bought controlling interest from the other original shareholders. Stanley B. Smith's sons Albert and, later, Loren would run the company.

At one time, Albert Smith, a railroad buff, kept an office in a caboose parked behind the company's flagship San Carlos St. store in San Jose. For years, the chain handed out holiday-season gifts in the form of calendars decorated by reprints of railroad-themed paintings by Campbell artist Mike Kotowski.

The 60's saw the small company expand, opening stores across the Santa Clara Valley and Santa Cruz County.

By 1977, OSH had purchased a former Sunsweet Growers property near San Jose State University's Spartan Stadium. The site, nickname "The Prune Palace", became a distribution center and housed corporate offices.

Two years later, in 1979, Orchard Supply Hardware was acquired by the chemical conglomerate W.R. Grace and Company. A series of accusations and restructurings followed, including a period as a publicly-traded company. In 2013, management announced that Orchard Supply was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and selling its assets to Lowe's.