Mountain View Voice

News - November 19, 2010

Minton's — going, going, gone

Auction marks closure of city's oldest business

by Daniel DeBolt

Machines and supplies were sold for pennies on the dollar as the city's oldest business was liquidated, lot by lot, at an auction last Tuesday.

To make way for a housing development, Minton's Lumber and Supply is on its way out after 99 years in Mountain View. On Nov. 9 an auctioneer with a British accent roamed the store with a crowd following him, pointing to large lots of things like door handles, wood trim and home electrical supplies.

"How about this lot? Any interest? Going once, going twice, sold for $30." It seemed anything could be bought at Minton's on Nov. 9 for less than $50, even an aisle full of building supplies.

"I feel very sad," said downtown resident Melanie Kaye, who happened to drop by during the auction. "Everybody in my neighborhood, including me, shopped here."

Kaye's home on Loreto Street is one of several on Loreto, Anza and Velarde streets built by Earl Minton in the 1920s. Her doors and cabinets had the Minton's name on them, and she found during one project that the special woodcutting blades used to make the woodwork on her home still existed at Minton's Lumber and Supply.

Last week that equipment was being auctioned off at rock bottom prices. One man said he had purchased a shaper, a piece of woodcutting equipment worth over $1,000, for the paltry sum of $50.

"The machinery over there, they are just giving it away," he said. "Nobody knows how to use it anymore."

The same man won hundreds of boxes of nails, worth an estimated $5 each, for only $30. Another person got an aisle filled with plastic plumbing fittings for $5. Much of the store had already been picked through weeks before when everything was being sold for 75-percent off.

It was easy to buy the stuff, but it may not be so easy to sell it. Ebay helps, some of the bidders said.

President Debbie Shulz said the store had been losing money for years and could not compete with the lower prices at big box stores like Home Depot. Shulz and her family are not selling the property, as they will be paid rent by housing developer Prometheus Real Estate Group in a 75-year lease agreement.

Early next year construction will begin on 203 apartments and an underground parking garage on the site. Young professionals are expected to take up residence here, replacing the woodworkers, homeowners and contractors that frequented Minton's.

Manager John Rios said he had worked there for 21 years because he enjoyed working for a family run business. "It's hard to see this happen. But you have to go on, you can't stop," he said.

"I do hope they appreciate the value of what they are moving into," Kaye said of the future apartment dwellers on the site, which site right across from the train station and a block from Castro Street. "What a sweet spot."

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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