Emigh Hardware: 100-plus years of service

A long banner stretches above the entrance of Emigh Ace Hardware and includes a message that assures confidence in its customers. The banner announces a sale in honor of the company’s more than century-long history.

Emigh Hardware is shown in 1952 – its first year of operation at its Country Club Centre location. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

Emigh Hardware is shown in 1952 – its first year of operation at its Country Club Centre location. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

Certainly an announcement by any business acknowledging that it has survived for a century or more is sufficient to attract one’s attention.

But on a local level, the story of Emigh Hardware draws even greater intrigue, considering that the business, which is located at 3555 El Camino Ave., has always been a local story.

The history of this fourth generation, family-owned and operated store began when brothers and Rio Vista natives James and Clay Emigh, who had already gained experience in the hardware industry, moved to Sacramento and opened Emigh Hardware Co. at 1208 J St. in Sacramento.

Prior to opening the Sacramento store, while living in Suisun City, James (1876-1932) purchased the James Kerns hardware store in 1900, and the business was eventually consolidated with the Suisun Implement Co.

James, who served as the Suisun City store’s vice president and assistant manager, sold his interests in the business about a decade later.

This 1952 advertisement was one of Emigh Hardware’s earlier advertisements after the business added a store in Country Club Centre. / Photo courtesy, the Lance Armstrong Collection

This 1952 advertisement was one of Emigh Hardware’s earlier advertisements after the business added a store in Country Club Centre. / Photo courtesy, the Lance Armstrong Collection

But while operating his Suisun City store, James was assisted by his brother for about four years, after which time Clay, who was five years younger than James, became a salesman for the wholesale hardware business, Miller-Chapman-Enwright Co., at 913-917 Front St. in Sacramento.

Clay’s last hardware-related employment prior to establishing Emigh Hardware with his brother was as a salesman for the George H. Tay Co. in San Francisco.

The Emigh brothers’ Sacramento business expanded in July 1912, as their store merged with the Winchell-Cline Co., which was located at 1103 O St. and was managed by Frank B. Winchell.

In addition to carrying general hardware supplies, the Winchell-Cline Co. also offered a line of agricultural supplies and buggies.

With its merger, the Emigh-Winchell-Cline Co., which was led by David M. Cline as its president and James Emigh as its vice-president, moved into the old Thomson-Diggs Co. quarters at 308-312 J St.

Emigh Ace Hardware employees stand in front of the 3555 El Camino Ave. store in this 1980 photograph. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

Emigh Ace Hardware employees stand in front of the 3555 El Camino Ave. store in this 1980 photograph. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

Although smaller than today’s larger warehouse hardware stores, the then-newly-opened, 60-foot by 160-foot, retail and wholesale store was large for its time and advertised itself as “the big warehouse store.”

Regarding Emigh Hardware’s vast inventory at this location, the 1913 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” described the store as the “most extensive hardware establishment in Sacramento County, if not in the whole of Northern California.”

The selection of the merged store’s location was ideal, considering that the site had already been established as a place where locals could purchase hardware supplies, agricultural implements and other offerings.

This image of the company’s well-recognized representative, a cartoon character, known as “Amy,” was introduced by Emigh Ace Hardware during the 1960s. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

This image of the company’s well-recognized representative, a cartoon character, known as “Amy,” was introduced by Emigh Ace Hardware during the 1960s. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Even before Thomson-Diggs, which was a hardware store led by its president, Frederick F. Thomson, opened at the site, Thomson had co-owned a similar business, Stanton, Thomson & Co. at the same location as early as 1889.

And with Perrin Stanton’s previous co-ownership of the Holman, Stanton & Co. hardware and agricultural implements supply store at 211-215 J St., Emigh Hardware has a link in the capital city’s hardware store history dating back to at least April 1879.

At the time of the Emigh brothers’ business merger, Sacramento included more than a dozen businesses that featured hardware supplies among their offerings. These businesses included the Breuners’ store at 600-608 K St., Jordan-Christ Hardware Co. at 516 K St., Paul Oakley at 910 J St., the Sacramento Implement Co. at 721 J St. and Baker & Hamilton at 109 J St.

A June 26, 1913 article in The Sacramento Bee recognized the Emigh-Winchell-Cline Co. as having then-recently taken over the local horse-drawn vehicle business of the Studebaker Company. The article reported that the hardware company, which also acquired the old Studebaker warehouse at 12th and B streets in the same deal, would handle their then-new horse-drawn vehicle business from Emigh’s 3rd and J streets store.

The business, which was then known as the Emigh-Winchell-Cline Co., moved into the old Thomson-Diggs Co. quarters at 308-312 J St. in July 1912. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

The business, which was then known as the Emigh-Winchell-Cline Co., moved into the old Thomson-Diggs Co. quarters at 308-312 J St. in July 1912. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

The Emigh-Winchell Hardware Co., as the business was then known, relocated to 709-715 J St. in about 1918.

During the 1920s, the store was even more of a family-operated business, as James’ sons, James, Jr. and Albert, who were twins, and Colby, were working at the store.

Following the 1932 retirement of the company’s then-president, Clay, the store relocated to 1300 J St. on a portion of the property of today’s Sacramento Convention Center, and regained its original name of Emigh Hardware Co.

It was also during the 1930s that James retired and Albert Emigh, who joined the company in 1919, was serving as the store’s president.

In a Feb. 29, 1932 article, The Bee reported that Alpha Stores, Ltd. of Grass Valley and Nevada City purchased stock and fixtures, which were appraised at about $24,000, from Emigh Hardware.

In announcing the store’s then-new location, which opened on March 15, 1932, The Bee reported that the hardware firm was a $25,000 corporation with Albert, Colby and Margaret Emigh as incorporators.

This view of the interior of the Emigh-Winchell-Cline Co. store shows some of the company’s offerings, which included plows and automotive accessories. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

This view of the interior of the Emigh-Winchell-Cline Co. store shows some of the company’s offerings, which included plows and automotive accessories. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

The business maintained its existence through the Depression and World War II years, and with the later building boom in the suburbs, the company opened a new store at 3450 El Camino Ave. in the then-newly-developed Country Club Centre in 1952.

At the time of the new location’s opening, the 13th and J streets store was still in operation, yet would eventually close.

A 1957 Pacific Telephone directory advertised Emigh Hardware as a seven days per week, single location business offering “Everything in Hardware.”

The business’s inventory at the time included plumbing supplies, builders’ hardware, tools, paints and varnishes, home appliances, household goods, pipes, electrical, gardening and plumbing supplies, and even sporting goods and televisions.

The Emigh-Winchell Hardware Co., as the business was then known, relocated to this structure at 709-715 J St. in about 1918. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware
The Emigh-Winchell Hardware Co., as the business was then known, relocated to this structure at 709-715 J St. in about 1918. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

‘Call Me Amy’

The 1960s is remembered as a very important decade for the business, if for nothing more than the creation of its memorable drawing of the company’s then-new representative, a cartoon character, known as “Amy.”

The drawing with its accompanying “Call Me Amy” saying served as a creative approach to teaching the community the correct pronunciation of the surname, Emigh.

A composite of an image produced by Colby and Jesma’s daughters, Carol and Mary, the overall-wearing, pigtailed character, with her hat, hammer and saw, remains a familiar sight in present day Emigh Hardware advertisements.

Under its then-new general manager and Colby’s son-in-law, Rich Lawrence, Emigh Hardware moved to its current, 35,000-square-foot location on El Camino Avenue, near the corner of Watt Avenue, in 1973.

The 1960s also marked the beginning of Emigh’s affiliation as an Ace Hardware Corp. store.

With its commitment to customer service and providing a wide selection of hardware items and other supplies, Emigh Hardware has continued to be an important local business.

And today, Emigh customers also have the convenience of shopping at Emigh’s Casual Living, a patio furnishing store, adjacent to the hardware store at 3535 El Camino Ave.

Emigh Hardware Co. was located in this building at 1300 J St. from 1932 to 1952. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

Emigh Hardware Co. was located in this building at 1300 J St. from 1932 to 1952. / Photo courtesy, Emigh Ace Hardware

Lawrence, who has served as the company’s president since 1980, said that the hardware store is dedicated to providing the highest level of customer satisfaction.

“At Emigh Hardware, our customers are treated to extras they just can’t get elsewhere,” said Lawrence, whose wife Mary – the same Mary who helped create “Amy” – is the granddaughter of Clay Emigh. “Our store is staffed with over 75 knowledgeable employees, some of whom have been with the company for more than 20 years. They provide service that starts with a smile and doesn’t end until you find what you want and know how to use it.”

Cat capital? A purrrrrr-fect idea…Designate Sacramento an official cat capital

  Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a two-part series featuring cats of the Sacramento area.

  

A pair of tuxedo cats, Ming (left) and Maggie, of Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery do their best to assist with the business’s incoming e-mail messages. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery

A pair of tuxedo cats, Ming (left) and Maggie, of Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery do their best to assist with the business’s incoming e-mail messages. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery

Cat lovers rejoice! A movement to make Sacramento a “cat capital” begins right here.

Sure, this is an unofficial movement, but such an action has to begin somewhere.

Our city is already recognized for a variety of things, including one of its most historic notorieties, its official designation as the “Camellia Capital of the World.”

But with a tour around the Sacramento area, it is clear that we are missing the mark when it comes to honoring one of the city’s most cherished animals – the cat.

Signs of the city’s deep affection for cats are all around us from the names of school mascots such as the Lions of McClatchy High, the Cougars of Kennedy High and the Panthers of Sacramento City College to cat-related statuary and details within local architecture.

Shop cats Ming (bottom) and Maggie find unique places to hang out at Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery

Shop cats Ming (bottom) and Maggie find unique places to hang out at Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery

A close look at the 92-year-old Central Library building at 828 I St. and across the street from the library at the 77-year-old post office, for instance, reveals images of the heads of lions.

A lion’s head fountain is located behind the Julia Morgan House at 3731 T Street.

Additionally, lion statuary can be seen in such places as in front of McClatchy High and in front of a few buildings on 22nd Street, between S and V streets.

One of the more telling signs that Sacramento is already at least an unofficial “cat capital” is the fact that cat ownership is not always a residential affair.

And those who find this statement confusing are certainly not familiar with the many “shop cats” of the Sacramento area.

Among these shop cats is Ace, an 11-pound, white and gray Maine Coon cat at Ace Hardware at 4005 Manzanita Ave., Ste. 24 in

Ming, a shop cat at Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery, blends in with the scenery of this local business. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery

Ming, a shop cat at Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery, blends in with the scenery of this local business. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery

Harley Cowger, a sales floor employee at the hardware store, said that Ace selected the store as his home.

“(Ace) was a feral cat and he walked in here one day (about seven months ago) and hasn’t decided to leave yet,” Cowger said. “He has free range and he has his own little apartment out back and he pretty much does what he wants. Customers love him and he even has his own Facebook (Web site) fans.

But Internet presence as a Sacramento cat is not exclusive to Ace, as Ming and Maggie, a pair of tuxedo cats at Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery at 4681 Fair Oaks Blvd., also have their own pages on the Web site www.fairoaksblvdnursery.com.

In praising Ming, Candie Abke, the nursery’s gift shop manager, said that Ming has excelled in customer service through greeting customers, following them around and even riding in the carts of some customers. She added that Maggie is a biter and is thus still in training.

Despite their contrasting demeanors, Ming and Maggie both receive royal treatment and sleep in a “cat palace” bed at the nursery.

Like many cats, Ace of Ace Hardware in Carmichael finds no problem with blocking the view of a computer monitor. / Photo courtesy, Carmichael Ace Hardware

Like many cats, Ace of Ace Hardware in Carmichael finds no problem with blocking the view of a computer monitor. / Photo courtesy, Carmichael Ace Hardware

East Sacramento certainly does not strike out when it comes to shop cats, as the area has at least one such cat.

Talini’s Nursery and Garden Center at 5601 Folsom Blvd. is home to Caspar, one of the oldest and largest shop cats in the city.

Weighing about 18 pounds, Caspar actually appears even larger than her weight may specify. But many people who know her best say that she is also “a lot of fluff.”

Talini’s manager Jill Franklin recently related the story of how Caspar became a resident of Talini’s about 12 years ago.

“She was a feral cat,” Franklin said. “She was a little kitten and she used to hide (behind the store). She was just too cute for anyone to resist, so we started feeding her. At first, she wouldn’t let anyone touch her and she would just kind of follow us around through the plants at the nursery like a little ghost, so we named her Caspar. She (later) warmed up to us and she’s been our little shop cat ever since.”

Franklin added that throughout the years, Caspar has developed such a large fan club that many people stop by the nursery for the lone purpose of visiting this very popular shop cat.

There are many images of cats throughout the Sacramento area, including this lion’s head image at the Central Library at 828 I St. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

There are many images of cats throughout the Sacramento area, including this lion’s head image at the Central Library at 828 I St. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

“Some people come here and the first thing they ask is ‘Where’s the cat?’ or ‘Where’s Caspar?’ Franklin said. “They spend the whole time looking for the cat and not really wanting any plants.”

But people who arrive at local businesses to simply visit shop cats is a common theme for any such store with a resident cat.

Corey Okada, a clerk at Beers Books at 915 S Street, said that Raffles, the store’s cat who was named after a character in a book featuring a cat burglar, also has her own fan club.

“(Raffles) has quite the following,” Okada said. “She’s the perfect cat to be a store cat. She gets petted all day and doesn’t mind, unlike a lot of cats. People love her and come in just to see her.”

Two of the more unique shop cats in Sacramento are Ti and Teva, who roam on long leashes in the customer lounge of Black Rock Auto at 615 15th Street #A.

Black Rock Manager Mark Pflepsen said that these rescued strays have adapted to become some of the friendliest cats he has ever seen.

Roy Van Meter, assistant manager of Ace Hardware in Carmichael, holds the business’s shop cat, Ace. / Photo courtesy, Carmichael Ace Hardware

Roy Van Meter, assistant manager of Ace Hardware in Carmichael, holds the business’s shop cat, Ace. / Photo courtesy, Carmichael Ace Hardware

“They are super friendly,” Pflepsen said. “You can take either cat and push them down, roll them upside down and play mop with them and slide them around and they just love it.”

In the Land Park area, the longtime, local record store, Records at 1618 Broadway, is home to Joey, about a six-year-old cat who also resided at the store’s previous location on the K Street Mall.

There is something about literature and cats that go well together and perhaps this is why bookstores are one of the more common businesses with shop cats.

Unfortunately, the two shop cats of one of the city’s more cat-friendly bookstores, Time Tested Books at 1114 21st Street, passed away about five years ago. But the store still shows its love for cats with its wooden cat on wheels and a wooden cat that sits above the business’s records.

With apologies to Caspar, a 23-pound cat at Richard L. Press Fine Books at 1831 F St. #A likely holds the title of the heaviest shop cat in Sacramento.

Describing the cat, Richard L. Press, the business’s owner, said, “His name is Arshile. Everybody says that it’s a Maine Coon, but Maine Coons have fluffy tails, supposedly. This is not a fluffy tail. This is a tabby, but he’s a giant.”

Press, who previously owned a shop cat, named Willow, said that Arshile appears quite often on a video about his store. The link for the video is www.vimeo.com/18289183.

Ming of Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery is among the Sacramento area’s most popular and friendly shop cats. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery

Ming of Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery is among the Sacramento area’s most popular and friendly shop cats. / Photo courtesy, F.O. Blvd. Nursery

The presence of Sacramento area cats on the Internet can also be found on the Web site, www.youtube.com. The site includes various Sacramento area feline-related videos, ranging from a collection of photographs of Clarice the cat set to the music of Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat” to a story of a cat that allegedly saved the life of its owner during a fire.

And from the Sacramento music scene, there is a band, called Fish Cat Fish, and a widely recognized image used by the Deftones, one of the most popular bands to emerge from the capital city, is that of a “screaming” (actually yawning) kitten.

Cat fever even extends across the Sacramento River, as is apparent through the city of Davis’ B&L Bike Shop, which is home to a shop cat, named Milo.

But perhaps no greater tribute to cats can be found west of the capital city than at West Sacramento’s Raley Field, which is home to the extremely popular Sacramento River Cats Pacific Coast League baseball team and the team’s mascot Dinger the cat.

The team is appropriately named when considering the many feral cats that reside along the eastern and western banks of the river.

Although many local residents are not fond of the fact that the non-baseball river cats and many alley cats of the downtown/midtown area run free with no owners, these cats provide further evidence of Sacramento’s need to be officially recognized as a “cat city.”

With no committee members, no committee, no official stand by this publication and no other known mention of this movement besides this informational, thought-provoking article, Sacramento’s potential prominence as an official “cat city” is obviously lacking its much needed support.

The shop cat of Ace Hardware at 4005 Manzanita Ave. is most appropriately named, Ace. / Photo courtesy, Carmichael Ace Hardware

The shop cat of Ace Hardware at 4005 Manzanita Ave. is most appropriately named, Ace. / Photo courtesy, Carmichael Ace Hardware

But as a bit of encouragement for those who are hesitating to support this issue, the following modified quote of Mark Twain – apologies to Mr. Clemens! – should be remembered: “It’s not the size of the cat lover in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the cat lover.”

Despite the existence of much time before the November election, attempting to obtain official “cat city” status should be no easy endeavor.

But whatever happens, one thing is for sure – cat fever is strong in the Sacramento area.

 

Talini’s Nursery and Garden Center in East Sacramento is home to the very blue-eyed Caspar the cat. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
Sac-Cats-Photo-09

Talini’s Nursery and Garden Center in East Sacramento is home to the very blue-eyed Caspar the cat. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

lance@valcomnews.com