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Congdon and Crome to close after 109 years

Original post made on May 23, 2013

Downtown office-supply store Congdon and Crome will close, nearly 110 years after its opening in Palo Alto in 1904.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 23, 2013, 9:58 AM

Comments (48)

Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 10:35 am

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!


Posted by Mary T, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2013 at 10:40 am

NOOOOOOOOOO! I will sorely miss C&C. For a small store, they have a terrific selection of papers, pens, pads ... all sorts of useful things, as well as fun and interesting gift items. They never let me down, and the staff was a delight. I guess I should learn by now not to get too attached to anything in this town.


Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2013 at 10:41 am

Another business forced to close by greedy landlords.


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2013 at 10:52 am

So sorry to see C and C leave. I have shopped there for 48 years.


Posted by 35 Year Resident, a resident of Professorville
on May 23, 2013 at 10:54 am

What a loss to the downtown neighborhoods!

Slowly but surely the small, service-oriented businesses that have been such essential elements of Palo Alto's unique downtown character are being forced out by the greed of the small group of downtown property owners who control virtually all the business real estate on University, Lytton and Hamilton avenues.

When will the City Council step in and institute some type of rent control to help ensure that Palo Alto's downtown doesn't become a place that caters just to the high end commercial businesses and proliferating startups?


Posted by Larry, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 23, 2013 at 10:59 am

Palo Alto is gradually losing its soul, bending and ultimately breaking under the weight of economic reality.


Posted by Ted D, a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2013 at 11:00 am

I have been shopping at Congdon and Crome since the 70s, 40 years, and will miss the store and the staff, who have always been helpful, courteous and fun to talk with. I wish them all the best and am sorry that they have to close.


Posted by Suzanne, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

Congdon and Crome gave me my first summer job back in the 70's.
This is very sad!


Posted by Lynn, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2013 at 11:17 am

Very Sad. :( I will stock up on items I can only get there.


Posted by W. Jack Kidder, a resident of another community
on May 23, 2013 at 11:29 am

Another nail in my coffin of nostalgia. In high school I bagged groceries across the street at the Purity Store. As a business man and local resident I remember other long gone local merchants that served us -- Eyerly Hardware, Liddicoat's Market, Guy Foster Meat Market, Barry Shoes, etc. Remember among other items buying a single, legal-sized form that clients used to write leases for their downtown properties. Today that same form is 50-60 pages generated on a computer. Long live the President Hotel Barbershop, Mock's Photography and Palo Alto Sport Shop (plus Bernie Hoffacker's little bike repair shop in the back corner of the latter facility -- now largely expanded on University Avenue).


Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 11:33 am

My (mostly) well-behaved dogfriend and I were always welcomed with a friendly greeting and the offer of assistance and a biscuit.

One time we discovered a wonderful 25-cent pen on their sidewalk clearance cart. Since I was just out walking with my dog, I had only an emergency $20 bill, for which I apologized profusely. The sales associate told me not to worry about it -- and I was able to pay for the pen on my next walk the following day -- with 2 dimes, a nickel, and 3 pennies.

Now I wish I had just given them the $20 bill and said, "Please keep the change."

I will miss them terribly.


Posted by Cindy Costell, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 23, 2013 at 11:35 am

It's ironic that this sad news story is bordered with several ads for high-end real estate companies.... Dear Congdon and Crome, as your customer since 1958, I will also miss you. Thanks for all the good years, and best wishes to all your wonderful staff.


Posted by The-Internet-Is-Disruptive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 11:43 am

This article doesn't offer any other perspectives on the issue other than rents. The Daily Post's article included C&C's recognition that the Internet, and digital technology has been on the march for a long time now, and its effects--such as email vs snail mail, and email vs printed memos, is taking its toll on traditional office products stores (which stopped selling typewriters a long time ago).

No doubt the rent increases have had an effect on some of the older, smaller, retail stores in downtown. But there are other winds blowing here, too.


Posted by Sean, a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2013 at 11:44 am

My wife used to shop at C&C. She loved it. However, she stopped going downtown, because of all the aggressive bums there. Downtown has really gone downhill, in terms of a friendly retail experience.


Posted by Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Tears. Another hometown store is gone and with it the memories. C & C did our wedding invitations over fifty-three years ago. I bought baby memory books, all the usual stationery items, greeting cards. And now it too is gone along with the memorable Dick Felt's Store for Boys (and girls), Eyerley's, Rapp's Shoe Store with the myna bird and the train around the ceiling., JC Penny's, Whitson's Draperies, and Woolworth's famed soda fountain - all vanished too long ago. Downtown Palo Alto was a real hometown 'downtown'. Old timers will remember...newcomers can't know what we had.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm

This is a shame, very sorry to hear it. I have shopped their since I was a kid shopping for school supplies, but I guess not enough - sorry. I really liked the original store on University with the giant basement!

They should join forces with University Arts - both cool places that sort of have a common base and customers I bet!


Posted by RandallMcMurphy, a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Ah, they sponsored our little league team back in '69.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Sean said:
> My wife used to shop at C&C. She loved it. However, she stopped going downtown, because of all the aggressive bums there.

I don't think I've ever seen a "bum" over by Congdon and Crome ... and Palo Alto does not have aggressive bums. Aggressive bums do not last here without running in with the police. I do not give money to "bums" ever and I have never gotten a hard time, in fact more of them say have a nice day or something to that effect. Do I like it ... no, but I have to say they are a minor annoyance, and certainly not threatening or aggressive.

Using the closing of a business to jump on the homeless demostrates the aggressiveness of some people towards those who are weaker than they are in vilifying them and criminalized them by slander. It's not good to bear false witness, even if you are deluding enough to think you are going to solve the "bum" problem.


Posted by Barbara, a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Crescent Park Anon has a good idea -- C&C joining forces with University Art!! Yes!


Posted by oh well, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 23, 2013 at 12:35 pm

So long C&C! Agree with other posters that Palo Alto has lost it's soul and sold out to the property owners and developers who build their multi-story glass buildings and then fill ground retail floors with pizza restaurants and nail shops. Oh well. Thanks to the help of the city management and city planning officials, who the majority have been here less than 10 years and could care less as they will have moved on, and who ignorantly continue to sell out Palo Alto's downtown and neighborhoods. Thanks also to city council members who worry about important issues like plastic bags, smoking, and flying rainbow flags while downtown small business's are failing and others continue their exodus. Job well done! What a pity!


Posted by Sean, a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm

> Aggressive bums do not last here without running in with the police.

@CrescentParkAnon: My wife did not report her bad experiences to the police, she just decided not to go down there anymore. You remind me of that previous city council member, a woman, who defended the bums, until she was accosted by one of them. Then she demanded aggressive police patrols, and then we got the bicycle cops who chased them out of downtown. You are very naÔve, I think.

I can understand why downtown is going the way it is, with young startups and bars. Those folks don't really fear the bums, until they get accosted. It reminds me of San Francisco.


Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Very sad losing all these independent stores while the City Council does nothing but appease greedy landlords and big developers who are turning us into Anywhere, USA. Maybe we can pay the same tax rate.


Posted by Julie, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm

The stationery store on Santa Cruz Ave in Menlo Park is also owned by Patricks and carries some of the same merchandise. That's the only happy note in this sad story. I've shopped there since I was a kid (in the location that is now Joseph A Banks). I do think that was a better location than the current one but understand if the business environment did not support staying there after.


Posted by Uptown Girl in a Downtown World, a resident of Stanford
on May 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm

WoW! I remember going to Congdom and Crome for poster board for my many class projects for school. Sad to see it go, downtown has really changed over the years, I miss the old downtown, Woolworth, Copeland Shoes....#tear


Posted by Floyd, a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2013 at 2:06 pm

And office furniture in the basement of which I purchased a lot.
I tried to stay out of Staples, Office(whatevers)etc.
It's going to be harder now with the only independent stationery store on California Avenue (which used to be on University).
Lunch at Good Earth anyone?


Posted by wally, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2013 at 3:02 pm

"Another business forced to close by greedy landlords."

Please let us know where to stop by your buggy whip shop. I could use a new one. For a display at the historical society.


Posted by Robin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I am as distressed as everyone else. The closure of this wonderful, well-located gem will increase traffic because anyone who wants the type of products it sells will have to drive to Menlo Park or East Palo Alto. The end of an era indeed.


Posted by wally, a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2013 at 3:11 pm

"Posted by CrescentParkAnon.


>

I don't think I've ever seen a "bum" over by Congdon and Crome ... and Palo Alto does not have aggressive bums.... Do I like it ... no, but I have to say they are a minor annoyance, and certainly not threatening or aggressive."


Wow, again with the complete denial of downtown as it really is, or someone who doesn't venture out after dark. I've seen 'bums' acting crazy and aggressive inside CVS. I hope you're aware of all the robberies downtown. Or has your wife never been robbed so no one else ever has either?

Even the tall bum with the beard--doesn't have the raincoat he wore for years and years and years these days....even he who is usually silent and only mumbles sometimes goes a little wacky and SCREAMS at people.


Posted by Old Timer, a resident of another community
on May 23, 2013 at 6:30 pm

When I first saw it decades ago on University, I wondered if it was related to the store of the same name mentioned in "Life with Father".


Posted by palo altan, a resident of another community
on May 23, 2013 at 8:36 pm

BUMMER! I always spent hours in the old store on University Ave, just looking at every little item. I went downstairs to get office furniture. I bought expensive pens and beautiful stationary. GREAT greeting cards. THen at the the latest iteration on Waverley, my favorite pens, and always nice help at the counter. Boo hoo~


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

This closure is part-and-parcel of the policy that Palo Alto chose over a decade ago. Allowing over-development creates three types of pressure on stores such as this:
1. Allowing nearby properties to redevelop at above the normal zoning causes rents to rise in the nearby buildings because property owners look at return on the size of the property, not what is there (the same way that when an expensive house is built next to yours, your property value goes up even though nothing has changed there).
2. Because of the commoditization of loans, it is better for a building to have a national chain than a local business, because the people in NYC assigning a rating to the loan know the former (I was told this by several separate developers in the mid 2000s).
3. Higher densities of certain types of businesses drive out other types because the former shift the relative profitability of surrounding businesses. For example, increasing office space is routinely accompanied by increases in restaurants and beauty salons at the expense of businesses such as neighborhood-serving hardware stores (a former Asst City Manager said that she monitored the health of University Ave by watching the ebb and flow of nail salons). Palo Alto has chosen not to follow the practice used by various cities to avoid having their retail get badly out of balance. Yet when you talk to City officials, they portray having a coffee shop on the first floor of a large office building as enhancing Palo Alto's retail offerings.


Posted by John B, a resident of Stanford
on May 24, 2013 at 12:02 am

For 42 years, C&C has been my "old reliable". One more nostalgic demise.

Re: Downtown Palo Alto...borrowing from Yogi Berra..."nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded".


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2013 at 8:13 am

I only went in this place a couple times when I worked around the corner a few years ago. The prices were sky high, so I would go instead to Walgreens or make a trip to Staples in Menlo Park if I really needed something. I'm sure they were a nice people and provided nice service, but the prices made me not want to go back. I imagine that had something to do with their demise.

Doug Moran's economics lesson above has me scratching my head. The only thing that causes rents to rise is demand vs. supply. Downtown PA has tons of demand (esp for office space). And national chains are better tenants from a lender's point of view not because "people in NYC know their name," but because they are bigger companies with stronger financial resources, not subject to the ups and downs of a single market - and hence less likely to go belly up or try to bail on the lease. Finally, you'd think lots of offices would be good for an office supply store - but this one did not seem to change with the times. There may be lots of things wrong with PA's development policy, but this store closing doesn't seem to be one of them.


Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2013 at 10:05 am

Palo Alto is losing its "soul?" Is that a code word for nostalgia for, um, a less diverse, more blue collar time?


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on May 24, 2013 at 10:15 am

Toady: Palo Alto was never blue collar....East Palo Alto yes, but not Palo Alto.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Fred,

> Doug Moran's economics lesson above has me scratching my head. The only thing that causes rents to rise is demand vs. supply.

That's not really true, or it is an overly simplistic way of looking at pricing.
For example, why does gas cost more in the Bay Area than it does in most of the rest of California. It's because people in the Bay Area have more money. How much one can afford to pay factors importantly into prices, as well as other things such as whether the product is a luxury or necessity, supply and demand of course, and then there are strategic factors as well such as why Japan would not want to import all of its rice from abroad when it is so much cheaper.

When you get down to it a lot of our prices are highly influenced by security and the military, and our conceptions of the status quo and that life and the economy will continue as it has in recent memory, which it does not always do but which none of us can reliably predict.

For instance, no one I know really thinks about the end state of virutally all buisnesses being owned by anonymous capital, and as automation takes over all jobs being patronage jobs to the owners of that capital and how that will affect/destroy our society and civilization for most people if they cannot afford to buy into the economy and be part of it.

Anyway, I digress, yes on average things Congdom and Crome were a bit more expensive, but they had amazing stuff you would not be able to get from Staples. Go there now and the quality of what they carry is much better. They have better chairs, lots of cool pens and markers, attaches and pouches things like that Staples and Office Depot does not have.

I will miss it.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Blue Collar workers in Palo Alto? I say yes, my parents knew some, my Uncle and Aunt with cousins knew some. In fact I knew some. As for C and C, what a sad demise but then again changes happen.

Big box national discount chain retailers that seem to have a whole aisle to devoted to pens, pencils, erasers, and markers.

Have a really good look at the cereal aisle.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2013 at 1:29 pm

@CrescentParkAnon - I can't tell if maybe you are just pulling my leg, but here goes. "For example, why does gas cost more in the Bay Area than it does in most of the rest of California. It's because people in the Bay Area have more money." Wow, really? I think that boils down to supply costs (population/cars vs. refinery capacity vs, cost of trucking gas from other markets, cost of real estate, cost of labor to run the gas stations, environmental regulation enforcement) and demand (if we did not have much money, the price would go down some - since we would demand less gas). Rich people might be willing to pay more (more demand for convenience), but absent higher costs, they won't have to (e.g., Mountain View Costco prices probably similar to other Costcos, since the building and people costs are a small part of their total costs).

But I can tell you for sure, being a downtown PA tenant - when demand was lower (2009) rents were a lot lower; now that demand is booming, so are rents ;-)


Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Hey neighbor:

Might want to check out another section of this website.

Web Link

"Over time, the demographics of Palo Alto have changed dramatically. What once was a homogeneous, mostly blue-collar community, with an enclave of Stanford University professors, has become a diverse, mostly well-to-do, well-educated, but aging, population."


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Fred, I didn't say supply and demand has nothing to do with it, it is not everything. All costs are higher in the Bay Area for almost everything, despite the economy of scale that comes from being densely packed and close to sources of products, such as refineries. The refining capacity is here, gas is cheaper where it has to be hauled to ... and extra expense. There are also very few new gas stations, so the property costs of gas stations are not a major factor in the cost of gas. People charge what the traffic will bear. Car prices are higher here as well despite having to ship them less.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm

@CrescentParkAnon - ok, no problem. If you want to believe the price of things is determined by the wealth of the buyers, you certainly can. I'll remind myself of that every time I shop at a Palo Alto grocery - the high prices aren't because we keep out low-cost, large-format options, it's because I must be rich!


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

"Fred"'s criticism of my comments uses a simplified version of "supply and demand" that is a good first approximation taught in the opening weeks of Econ 101 -- for example, it assumes that commodities are highly fungible, that the markets for different commodities are independent or have only very simple interactions, there are no monopolies, quasi-monopolies, cartels, collusion,...

Similarly his claim that national chains being preferred because of better financials is wrong -- the argument that he makes actually is that they have highly _predictable_ financials (my point) which is what is important to the lender (managing risk). One of the situations seen in a variety of cities is that a locally-owned store with a long history and strong financials is replaced by a national chain when the building is redeveloped and the national chain struggles.

On leaving downtown for supplies, eg to Staples in MP, for better price: He isn't factoring in the extra transaction costs (something the simplistic model of supply-and-demand ignores). One of the basic problems of economic analysis is to avoid the illusion of making things better by (unintentionally?) shifting costs off-the-books (externalities, throwing problems over the fence,...).


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm

People that shop at Staples, Office Depot and if you think about it? Costco. While prices are cheaper, I would find choice and selection high on their list. Who knows maybe it is the in house service that they have to offer or maybe the parking.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2013 at 6:20 pm

@Doug [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] We can make supply and demand as simple or complicated as you like (with regulation, cooperation, transaction costs, agency costs, future uncertainties, etc.) but at the end it pretty much rules when it comes to pricing of commodities like commercial real estate (or office supplies for that matter). [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Professorville, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 24, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Another one! So sad. Been shopping there since 1947 and no, Staples and Office Depot are NOT the same as C. & C. Palo Alto has lost so many "great ones" that made the town special. See some of the other postings for examples - nostalgia yes, but it is sad to see Palo Alto retail go the way of other towns ---primarily filled with chain stores.


Posted by some_chick, a resident of Woodside
on May 25, 2013 at 1:24 pm

One of the only places I could find the funny postcards by Ashleigh Brilliant :-(


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Fred,
Contrary to your claim, commercial real estate is not a commodity. I have been at multiple presentations and workshops by the professionals who manage commercial real estate and each time I learn that it is far more complicated than I imagined. Suites in an office building may approximate a commodity, but retail spaces don't.

In retail, shopping malls have an advantage over downtowns because the mall management carefully manages the mix and placement of individual stores. For example, some times of retail do better when similar stores are clustered near each other; other types need to be significant separation. For example, for various categories, move-in costs, especially remodeling, are often the difference between success and failure -- what I repeatedly heard was that once a space had been converted away from a particular category, that category was highly unlikely to ever return to that space. I have been told that many national chains have formulas for their facilities that allow only limited variation because of the extensive R&D that went into those formulas.


Posted by A Palo Alto kid, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 31, 2013 at 11:44 pm

I grew up shopping at C&C on University and am very sad to see it go. But, it's a free market, and if the demand for space allows building owners to demand (and get) more rent, that's good for them, bad for the rest of us. But, in the end, we all vote with our pocketbooks, and if you were not supporting them because you could save 5 cents by driving to EPA to a big box store, you have no right to complain.

I hate to see them go, but I hate more to see someone loose the ability to run their business the way they feel they can (i.e. rent control).


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