SAN JOSE -- Orchard Supply Hardware, the iconic do-it-yourself, fix-it chain founded in San Jose during the Great Depression, is closing all its stores, including the store in Napa, by year’s end, a spokeswoman for parent company Lowe’s said Tuesday.
The news comes ahead of an earnings call Wednesday, when more details about the move are slated to be released.
Orchard's 4,000 employees learned of the permanent shutdown Tuesday, said Jackie Hartzell, a spokeswoman for Lowe's. Store liquidations are scheduled to begin Thursday.
The Bay Area is home to more than 40 of Orchard's 98 locations. Others are in California, Oregon and Florida.
Orchard has been a Bay Area fixture since it was founded in 1931 in San Jose as a farmers co-op. Faced with growing competition from big-box retailers, Orchard was bought by Sears in 1996, but then was spun off as an independent, publicly traded operation at the end of 2011.
In 2013, Orchard filed for bankruptcy protection in a bid to preserve its iconic name while turning over most of its stores to Lowe's.
"We want you to know that our customers will see no changes in their Orchard shopping experience as part of this transition -- there will still be an Orchard sign in front of all of our locations, and our teams will still dress in green," Orchard's president and CEO, Mark Baker, wrote on the company's website at the time. "In short, we'll be the same Orchard, but we'll be in a much stronger position to serve you in the future."
News that Orchard is closing all its stores was met with shock and disappointment in San Jose. At W. San Carlos and Montgomery streets, where the first store was built and later rebuilt, a steady stream of customers pulled up to locked doors and a sign on the windows saying "temporarily closed."
"It's horrible. I've lived my whole life in San Jose. It's an institution and it's too bad Lowe's doesn't appreciate that," said Reuben Castillo of San Jose. "It's one of the few stores left where you get customer service, where you can go and say, 'I need this,' and someone can tell you what aisle it's on and where to find it. You don't get that at Lowe's and Home Depot."
The store is usually open until 9 p.m. on weeknights, but dozens of cars and trucks pulled up and turned around after 7 p.m.
Eric Miguel, 32, said he's going to miss the convenience of coming in for nuts and bolts, the items he needs for "small handyman tasks."
You have free articles remaining.
"It will be a blow to have Orchard Supply go away," Miguel said.
Castillo, however, says he's downright upset and thinks the closures will hurt Lowe's.
"I think Lowe's is going to lose customers. You're closing down an institution in San Jose and firing people so they'll go to Lowe's," Castillo said. "Customer service doesn't exist anymore."
Others weren't as sentimental. One customer said the variety of items had diminished over the years, but he went there because it's close to his house.
Another, Anthony Montoya, who works in the heating and air conditioning business, says he's been going to the store since he was little, but "I guess it's off to Home Depot."
Linda L. Lester, a member of a third-generation fruit orchard family in San Jose recalled making trips with her father and grandfather to Orchard in the 1950s and 1960s.
"Orchard Supply was pretty much the only supply store of its kind when I grew up on our ranch on Almaden Road," Lester said. "Living in the Valley of Hearts Delight, surrounded by thousands of acres of fruit orchards throughout the Santa Clara Valley, a small family run business like this was a welcome sight for local farmers, ranchers and families."
Lester said she is sad to see the icon come to an end.
"However, I will always cherish the fond memories from a favorite store to many, and something that will now be only a memory, but always a fond part of our local history."
Check back for updates.
Staff writer Sal Pizarro contributed to this report.