General Hardware to Close After Nearly 40 Years

Closure whittles list of local hardware stores down to one; Photo hub The Image Flow plans to move into space at 401 Miller Avenue.

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. 

RJ November 03, 2011 at 06:58 PM
One of the biggest losses here is the rare quality of customer service. Several times over the years, Kelly has offered my husband advice on how to fix something, and one time, actually fixed a bike reflector for my little boy on the spot. I also purchased a toaster at General Hardware several years ago and it turned out to be defective. I no longer had either the receipt or the original packaging but Mary at GH graciously took it back and replaced it, no questions asked. And of course, it is always nice to return to a store that remembers you and your children. You just can't put a price on that kind of customer service--or I guess, sadly, you can.
Dee Bell-Becker November 20, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Mill Valley continues to make poor choices, based on greed, because it can, due to location. What we will end up with, and what we are quite close to having at this point in time, is a collection of pointless boutique businesses. We will have to travel some distance to shop locally. This makes the sixth useful business in Mill Valley that I have happily patronized which has gone out of business because the rent was "brought up to present standards", which is a lot of bull that means the landlord wants more money. The prices in this hardware store were not overpriced. I compared prices quite frequently and never paid more in Kelly's store. He often gave neighbors a "neighborhood discount". When is the last time you went in to a store and could receive personal instruction about a DIY project. Kelly could take you through any project you wanted to take on. The first time Mill Valley has to deal with a natural disaster, the town will pay quite dearly for being without useful businesses. A hardware store that you can walk to should have been a priority for keeping us all safe. I highly recommend that everyone get busy with "being ready" as there will now be no other way available to get through a natural disaster. I remember when the power blew for several days. Where did people line up for candles and lamp oil? Ace Hardware on Miller. This landlord needs to sort priorities. BTW, I know that the rent was raised several times during Kelly's reign. Dee Bell-Becker
Mari November 20, 2011 at 07:19 PM
What can we do as a community to change this shift? Is it unrealistic to even imagine a relocation? crowd funding campaign?
Mari November 29, 2011 at 06:59 PM
I am serious about this. How many people have been helped by that store? I was thinking about going to Image Flow - but now I never will - WHY can't they reconfigure the space and share it? If General Hardware leaves - I will NOT ever use Image Flow or recommend it. Remember what happened to the Cantina? Maria Maria? Cantina? I bet a similar outcome for this scenario. Kelly - I hope to see General Hardware back, better than ever in a couple of years - in the same location or down the street.
Mari October 09, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Calling all Homestead neighbors - have you joined Nextdoor yet? https://nextdoor.com/invite/c69e1498c43ff4051c8b


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