The owner of is closing the store at 401 Miller Ave. at the end of November, shutting down a business that has been at that location for nearly 40 years and trimming the size of a once-thriving local hardware store scene down to just one.
Kelly Kramer, who has owned the store for 21 years, said he was unable to reach a deal with his landlord on a new lease that would allow him to stay in business given the difficult economy. After nearly a year of negotiations proved unsuccessful, Kramer said he made the decision and told his four employees individually over the past few weeks.
“[The landlord] wanted to more than double my rent, but business is just not good enough to tolerate that,” Kramer said. “The economic climate is just flat and you do everything you can just to keep it going. It was just too much of an increase.”
Jay Egger, spokesman for property owner Sycamore MV LLC, didn’t dispute the claim but said General's rent hadn’t risen much since the late 1980s and the owners simply wanted to bring the lease in line with current market rates.
“It’s really sad that the climate is such that they can’t afford to raise the rate out of late 1980s rental prices because we would rather keep a tenant forever,” Egger said.
Photo center , which is located at the far end of the same building as General Hardware on the back lot at Miller and La Goma, is planning to expand and move into General Hardware’s space. Owner Stuart Schwartz said the significant jump in square footage in the new space allows him to offer in-demand daytime photo workshops, which he couldn’t accommodate in the old space because it was too small and workshops required moving furniture.
The Image Flow is set to go before the Mill Valley Planning Commission on Nov. 14 to seek a conditional use permit required for any new business in a space larger than 1,500 square feet. Schwartz said he hopes to move into the new space in January.
General Hardware had been at 401 Miller for 38 years, when Gil Baack owned it. During Baack’s ownership, Mill Valley was a hotbed for hardware stores, with Tamalpais Hardware at 30 Miller Ave. until it closed in 1986 and Varney’s Hardware at 57 Throckmorton Ave. until it closed in 1995. General’s closure makes , which opened 56 years ago, the only hardware game in town.
“We are very sorry to hear about any family business closing here in Mill Valley,” said Goodman’s owner and general manager Zviki Govrin. “We were very happy to have a small hardware store in town and are sorry to see them go.”
Kramer, who was a salesman at California Hardware and had Baack as one of his accounts, bought it from him in 1990. Kramer said General Hardware had built up a loyal customer base over the years, and he informed them of the impending closure by mail this week.
“After so many years I’ve gotten some wonderful customers who have turned into very dear friends,” Kramer said. “People are angry and they’re taking it very hard. Some people are just flabbergasted.”
General Hardware remains open, with a going out of business sale starting Thursday, Nov. 3 and running until the inventory is depleted, Kramer said.