Save the Orchard Supply Hardware Neon Sign

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The Valley of Heart's Delight

Silicon Valley was once known as the Valley of Heart's Delight due to its abundance of orchards; and it was the birthplace of San Jose Fruit Packing, which later became Del Monte.  The significance of the valleys agricultural past is undeniably ingrained in the city and many of its landmarks and this agricultural history was the genesis of what became Orchard Supply.

A Brief History of Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH)

Orchard Supply was formed in 1931 as the Orchard Supply Farmers Co-op by 30 farmers, consisting mostly of orchardists and fruit tree ranchers who banded together to form a cooperative to buy essential farm supplies to run and maintain these orchards. Each farmer put up $30 and in the midst of the Great Depression a new company was formed.  Stanley B. Smith served as the company's first general manager and president.

In 1946 the company moved to a site at 720 West San Carlos St. in San Jose; by then, there were almost 2000 members. In 1962, Albert B. Smith (Stanley's son) became president, expanding the business into a chain of stores which, at 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) each, were considered large at the time.  This W San Carlos site became store number 3 for Orchard and stayed in operation until 2013 when the store built a new storefront next door on the lot.

By 1950 the electronics industry began booming in the Santa Clara Valley, and with it came an abundance of new home owners in the San Francisco Bay Area. The orchards gradually became residential neighborhoods, and the "Orchard Supply Farmers Co-op" became the for-profit corporation, "Orchard Supply Hardware" retail stores.

The OSH Neon Sign

The neon sign, which still stands on W San Carlos @ Royal Ave, represents not only a significant era in the history of California, but more so in the history of San Jose.  It was erected more than 60 years ago and with the announcement that OSH will be closing all of its remaining stores, we stand to loose this piece of history.

While the OSH brand represents the agricultural past of San Jose, the sign represents more than the company that installed it. It also represents one of San Jose early successful companies as well as the vintage neon era where the streets of the US were bathed in the glow of neon lights. Very few of these historic signs remain and the OSH sign is an amazing opportunity for us as a City to preserve our history!

The City of San Jose should work with Lowes (the current owner of OSH) and History San Jose to find a way to secure the neon sign and relocate it to an appropriate place.  There it can continue to teach future generations about San Jose's historic past as an agricultural powerhouse and celebrate one of San Jose's most successful early companies.