At this point, it happens almost daily: I’m doing the Life Thing, trying to keep everything working, and inevitably there’s some small item required. Like a replacement key. Or a picture hangar. Or a rubber grommet thingy that goes between this thingy and that thingy. And inevitably I have a habitual thought: “Oh, I’ll just go get that at Cole Hardware.”
Except, that’s not possible anymore.* Sigh.*
In the wake of the June 18 Cole Hardware Fire, a great many Bernalese have wondered if our neighborhood hardware store will one day return to our fabulous stretch of Mission Street. Last week, our friends at Hoodline interviewed Cole Hardware owner Rick Karp to learn more about the history of the business and the future of Cole Hardware in La Lengua:
On June 18th, the night of the fire, Karp gathered with his Mission store employees in the Safeway parking lot to discuss finding them new jobs. “We wanted to make sure that everyone continued to work, and we emailed them that night to tell them where they would be working the next day.” Sure enough, the next day, all employees had jobs. With help from his son, Dave, and daughter, Adrianna, who both help run the business, Karp was able to quickly divvy the staff up to the other four other locations. “Everyone is now working and they seem to be very appreciative with their new digs,” he said. “They’re all disappointed that they are not working together anymore. That’s a tough thing for the staff to be broken up. They were a cohesive group, but everyone from the other stores has welcomed them with open arms.”
“We are lucky that nobody got hurt [in the Mission fire],” said Karp. “We try to look at the good side.” Karp is actively looking for another site to relocate the Mission Street store. He told us that he really wants to stay connected to the neighborhood and get back in as soon as possible, because the loss of the hardware store impacts people’s lives daily.
“We want to continue to keep serving our customers there and stay connected. In fact, the burnt-out building is coming down this week. This is San Francisco, so we will be lucky if it’s built in a year. It could be a couple years [to get the building back up to speed].”
Karp is seeking a new location in Mission/Bernal/Noe Valley area, but hasn’t yet found a suitable space. He is also looking citywide to open another store, and is currently considering a spot in North Beach and another in SoMa. “We are open to any opportunity, as well. When the Mission building is ultimately rebuilt, whether that is two years or three years from now, whatever it is, we would like to move back into our Mission Street location. We don’t want to abandon that neighborhood, by any means. In fact, we are working with some Bernal folks to do a pop-up store here and there.”
Cole Hardware has been around since 1961. It all began when founder David Karp purchased the business on Cole. In 1984, he and his son, Rick, expanded the business to the Mission.
There’s a lot more to the story of Cole Hardware and Rick Karp, so read the whole thing.
PHOTO: Former site of Cole Hardware, July 16, 2016, photographed by Neighbor Valerie