Minton's may get chopped | January 23, 2009 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - January 23, 2009

Minton's may get chopped

Housing plan could mean the end for city's oldest business

by Daniel DeBolt

On Jan. 27, the City Council will consider a plan to replace the city's oldest business with a high-density apartment complex.

Almost 100 years after Minton's Lumber and Supply opened up near the downtown train station, the council will consider a preliminary "gatekeeper request" for 200 apartments on the 3.5-acre lot. The 57-units-per-acre project would be among the highest density residential developments in the city.

Debby Shulz, Minton's president, says the business has been hit hard by the current economic climate and by competition from big box retailers. Shulz said her mother and father have decided to lease the property to a housing developer if feasible.

In past recessions, Minton's customers would simply scale back their home construction projects. "But this recession is different," Shulz said. "People are losing jobs, losing their 401(k) money — everyone is just really tightening up."

Council member Jac Siegel said it was "sad news" that the city could lose the family-run business — a place where the employees are known for their helpful service.

Part of city history

Minton's was originally a branch yard for Parkinson Bros. Lumber and Hardware, which opened in 1897 on what was then known as Front Street, conveniently located alongside the railroad tracks.

After a honeymoon trip to Mountain View, Nebraska businessman Earl Minton bought the lumber yard in 1911 and opened up a thriving retail operation. As the city grew, Minton went into the home building business, constructing "Palmitas Park," a 1924 subdivision that still stands on Loreto, Velarde and Anza streets. Minton would later become mayor of Mountain View.

The current family of owners came on the scene in 1965, when Herb Eaton, who had traveled from Vermont, purchased the business. After Eaton retired in 2007, Shulz, his eldest daughter, took over the day to day business operations. Eaton's retirement is another contributing factor to the sale, Shulz said.

In 1995 a "suspicious fire" — one of the largest in the city's history — burned much of the business and caused millions of dollars in damages. Eaton told the Voice that several real estate developers had made offers on the property before the fire.

Proposal tests the waters

Seeking a lease deal for the site is Prometheus Real Estate Group Inc., the same company that owns the Americana apartment complex on Continental Circle and developed the five-story Park Place condos on the 700 block of Castro St.

The proposed buildings would be four stories tall along Evelyn Avenue and taper to two stories along Villa Street. Plans include an underground parking garage and a small courtyard.

"The density is very similar to Park Place," said city development director Randy Tsuda.

The design is preliminary, however, and may not pass muster with the City Council.

"It's a quality developer — that's the good news," Siegel said. "But they need to scale back the project somewhat."

Siegel said it was good to develop near the train station, but that there would still be numerous cars. "Its going to cause a lot more parking issues than we have already," he said.

A development proposal made last year for the same block may provide some indication on how the council may react. Developer Classic Communities sought to replace the auto shops at Abate's Industrial Square with three-story row homes. Though the project was less dense than the Prometheus proposal, Classic Communities pulled it from the council agenda at the last minute, apparently predicting a rejection by council.

Posing another problem for the proposal is the city's "precise plan" for the block, which says residential buildings cannot exceed three stories. However, the city's general plan update may bring changes to the precise plan.

Tuesday's decision will determine only whether city staff will refine the proposal for future consideration. "We're not okaying a project," Siegel said.

Shulz wanted to make it clear that the development proposal did not mean Minton's was closing. She said the business would remain open for at least a few more years as the project goes through the planning process.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at


Posted by Lou, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jan 22, 2009 at 2:17 pm


Posted by Bob, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jan 22, 2009 at 3:44 pm

We should not approve any more large-scale developments until the Mountain View Whisman School District works out their overcrowding problems.


Posted by Steve Dodge, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jan 23, 2009 at 6:57 pm

They should not allow that area to become residential. There's plenty of homes and units in Mountain View area already, and more are already coming (Mayfield Mall site for one).

M. V. is becoming seriously devoid of industrial space, what with all the conversions of existing space to offices and/or homes/apartments, as happened to the entire Ellis street area, once a Mecca of manufacturing employment opportunities.

You can't draw DECENT PAYING businesses to town or keep existing services local if you don't provide anyone with an affordable place to set-up and run a business in the first place...

We're in a recession now. We need to create JOBS, not more luxury-priced homes.

Posted by Michael, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 24, 2009 at 7:28 am

There is a Minton's downtown? News to me. Then again, I've only lived here for 31 years. I do know where Home Depots are in Sunnyvale and EPA.

Posted by Mike H., a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 24, 2009 at 5:29 pm

This is very sad. It is much nicer to do business at Mintons and the quality of the wood is usually better.

Support local business. Stop more high density housing.

Posted by Joe F., a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 25, 2009 at 6:31 pm

It will be a shame for the city to loose Minton's Lumber Co. I have been using Minton's since 1977, both professionally in my construction business, and Home projects.I love their staff, professionally they give everybit of help to their customers, they are service oriented.We don't need to drive to Home Depot!!! you have a real lumber company. This town is very lucky. If the city lets this company go you will regret what a real lumber company is. It's service and wood. minton's is ACES.

Posted by Douglas H, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 26, 2009 at 4:26 pm

When considering high density housing, think of how you want our city to be in ten years, more like Palo Alto or more like Los Angeles. Have to tried to find a parking space downtown on a typical weekday afternoon?

Posted by JS, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 26, 2009 at 9:59 pm

While Minton's has been a long-time Mtn. View business, its building, along with the adjacent structure to the south (the one with that odd little gym) and its parking lot are utter eyesores, relative to the rest of the neighborhood. And if the Minton people want out and to lease the land for something more profitable to them and visually appealing for the neighborhood, heck, let them build new housing -- within city guidelines, of course.

Posted by BK, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 27, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Minton's has lost the respect of my clients after the fire in 95' personally I don't care if the place is torn down, there are two other lumber yards near by if you still want the "mom and pop" feeling. There is always Bruce Bauer or Sunnyvale lumber, both are just a couple minutes away. Let them go... People can find other jobs.

Posted by JoJo, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 29, 2009 at 11:59 am


Posted by CSAA member watchdog, a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2009 at 9:58 pm

I agreed with JoJo slowing down = possible fire insurance scam in the future?