Question and answer section
COLE HARDWARE CAREERS
Cole Hardware has been around since the 1920s, when it first opened to serve the Cole Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. Our company’s founder, Dave Karp, purchased the store in 1959. He ran the entire operation as a one-man band out of the tiny space that is now the warehouse and storage area for our Cole Street store. Dave had a genuine desire to help everyone who walked through his door—ideally making them laugh along the way! Cole Hardware thrived under his stewardship, and eventually things got busy enough that his wife, Margie, started spending her days as the store cashier. Dave and his little store grew to become a much-loved mainstay of the community. His approach to running his business could be summed up by the sign he hung over the cash register, with this motto: “There are no strangers here, just friends we haven’t met.”
Rick Karp, our company’s current president and “Keeper of the Karma,” started as the official floor sweeper in 1963 at the age of 13. It wasn’t always Rick’s plan to make a career in hardware, but Cole Hardware grew to occupy a special place in his heart, and a few years after graduating from college, he happily joined Dave as a business partner. Rick’s first big project after joining the business was to expand the store into the building next door when it became available. With that experience under his belt, and the store continuing to thrive, Rick was able to take the opportunity to grow our business to serve other neighborhoods around San Francisco—opening one store roughly every 10 years! Our company looks a lot different today than in those early days when Dave and Margie were running the show all on their own, but we keep Dave’s motto in our hearts as our guiding principle to make our stores a welcoming and fun place for all to shop. Rick coined his own customer-service-oriented phrase that gets repeated a lot around here as well: “Do whatever it takes to create positive dinnertime conversation for the customer!”
Dave passed away in 2015, but his Cole Hardware family brought him joy until the day he died—especially for the last couple years of his life, as in 2013 his grandchildren Adrianna and David Karp joined the family business. It is our mission to carry on Dave’s legacy—making sure that Cole Hardware is not only a great place to work and shop, but that we make our community a better place too.
While Cole Hardware has always been a leader in environmental efforts through public outreach and education and partnerships with various City agencies, in 2006 we formally began our green-certification process with San Francisco’s Department of the Environment’s Green Business Program. We complied with the City’s stringent regulations in the areas of recycling, composting and water reduction, energy and water conservation, and pollution prevention. In December 2006, our Cole Street location was awarded certification, with our Mission, Downtown, and Russian Hill stores following in 2007—thus making us the first green-certified hardware stores in the nation! Our new North Beach location earned the Green Business certification in February 2018, less than a year after it was opened. Our SoMa store was certified later that year, along with our Rockridge store, who received their Green Certification with Alameda County.
Nearly 25 years ago, Rick Karp partnered with the City of San Francisco to launch a spent battery recycling drop-off program. Since then, our program has expanded to accept CFLs and fluorescent tubes, leftover paint, spent propane tanks, Brita water filters, cell phones, mercury thermostats, and used toothpaste tubes.
In 2015 we received the Infinity Arrow Award from the California Product Stewardship Council, in which our efforts were recognized for recycling 24% of all take-back programs in San Francisco.
Our founder, Dave Karp, Purveyor of Hardware Wisdom
The Cole Hardware credo…
Commitment to savings:
Rewards program members receive a 3% quarterly dividend on purchases.
Commitment to the community:
We donate 10% of what you spend to local charities (you get to designate
one of our Community Partners as beneficiary).
Commitment to you:
Over 90 years of guaranteed customer satisfaction.
Commitment to the environment:
We’re reducing our footprint by implementing environmentally sound practices in our stores.
Cole Hardware in the News
Read what others are saying about us!
Diverse San Francisco retailers collaborate on training
High-tech Goodwill warehouse ensures workers gain crucial skills
The best places to shop in San Francisco’s Cole Valley
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Coins for the Community
Our Coins for the Community program began in August 2011 with a few spare change jars at each of our registers, collecting coins for one of our deserving nonprofit Community Partners. Each month we choose a different local organization that can benefit from the generosity of our patrons. While many national nonprofits do great work with the large donations they receive, we realize the huge impact a few thousand dollars can make to a local organization operating on a shoestring budget.
What a difference a December makes! Thanks to the generous spirit of the holiday season, our December Coins for the Community effort collected $9,551.98 for W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s domestic violence shelter and the many programs they administer. In January, we raised $4,297.43 for Groceries for Seniors and St. Paul’s Pantry of Hope. Our funds for February are earmarked for senior dog rescue from two great organizations: Muttville and the Milo Foundation.
For March, our collection will benefit Seeds of Awareness, whose mission is
to transform schools and communities by cultivating empathy, connection, and support through counseling and mentorship programs in schools, teaching social-emotional learning in the classrooms and providing cutting-edge mindfulness-based counseling and nature-based social skills groups to our local communities.