Orchard Supply Hardware, also known as OSH, announced last week that its Long Beach location at 4480 Atlantic Ave. in Bixby Knolls will shutter in the next three months in a first wave of store closures as part of a major business restructure in a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The June 19 announcement came as a surprise to many longtime employees and customers of the hardware store, which has been a main tenant of the Bixby Knolls Shopping Center for 14 years.
The news also came as yet another blow to the community after a Ralphs grocery store, located not too far away on Long Beach Boulevard, closed just a few days prior without explanation.
OSH, which has 91 locations in California, entered into an agreement for the nearly 80-year, San Jose-based company to be acquired by Lowe’s, while remaining a “separate, stand-alone business.” Lowe’s, however, has only agreed to purchase 60 stores.
So far, OSH is closing an “initial” eight store locations, including Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Citrus Heights, Fairfield, Lone Tree, Midtown, Newark and Vacaville. “We are still reviewing store performance and cannot say with certainty which other stores may close or when,” reads a statement on OSH’s website.
The remaining stores are expected to maintain the OSH brand name and sign in front, with employees continuing to wear the company’s signature green shirts, according to a statement from OSH President and CEO Mark Baker.
The company, however, plans to roll out new “neighborhood format stores” to better serve customers, he added. “In short, we’ll be the same Orchard, but we’ll be in a much stronger financial position,” Baker said.
Still, the decision to close the Long Beach location has stunned some nearby residents and even city officials, who have since taken to social media to express their concerns.
Eighth District Long Beach City Councilmember Al Austin, who had met with Ralphs representatives before it closed, said via Facebook that the announcement of OSH’s closing is “disappointing,” adding that the company’s main office should hear from “loyal LB customers.”
“This is disappointing news,” he stated. “The neighborhood OSH has been my hardware store of choice for several years. Yet another challenge and opportunity.”
Former 8th District Councilmember Rae Gabelich also commented on Facebook, stating that it’s “another corporate decision that will leave a hole in Bixby Knolls.”
The departure of OSH also adds to the vacancies at the Bixby Knolls Shopping Center, which is owned by Glendale-based Gaska Corporation.
Gabelich commented that the property owner has been slow in “bringing the entire property up to today’s standards,” referring to a retail strip in a back portion of the center.
The property owner had once received $3 million in redevelopment funding for upgrades but the section remains undeveloped with several vacant storefronts. There is also an empty retail space between OSH and Marshalls.
Phone calls to Gaska representatives by the Signal Tribune seeking comment were not returned before press time.
Cyndy Lippert, who took over as store manager two years ago and lives in California Heights, said she couldn’t comment on the reason for the closure but did say it would be a “huge loss to the community,” adding that the location remains the only conveniently located hardware store for nearby residents.
“We have a very loyal customer base,” she said. Lippert added that there have been “challenges” but the store was “heading in the right direction.”
OSH has also had a strong relationship with the City as a partner with the Long Beach Water Department by providing discounts to residents enrolled in the City’s lawn-to-garden program, added Lippert, who herself has transformed her yard to California native plants.
Some shoppers there this week said they were shocked that the store is closing.
“I had no idea,” said California Heights resident Monica Contreras, 33, who said she hadn’t been a frequent customer there. “Maybe I should have started shopping here.”
Other customers said they prefer the store to home-improvement-supply giants Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Fred Johnson, who lives in Compton, said he plans to start looking online for other locations while stocking up on plant food for palm trees before the store closes. He said OSH is the only place in the local area he’s found that carries the right plants and products.
“This store is the closest one for me, and I’ve been coming here for years,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what the reason is, but I know they have it here. This store right here is pretty valuable. I’d hate to see it go.”
OSH spokesperson Leigh Parrish said via email that the store closures are to be completed in the next 90 days, although “that timing could shift.”
She added that Orchard’s decisions regarding closures are based on “historical store performance and the company’s assessment of how individual stores may contribute to its repositioning strategy moving forward.”
Company officials said current employees will be able to interview for openings at other stores during the repositioning process.