75 years of Mom and Pop hardware

LAUREL VILLAGE — The smell of popcorn lingered in the air on a bright weekend afternoon as a woman stepped out of her car.

Photos by Gabriella Gamboa/SFBay

Judy Capellino raised her hand to say “hi,” and was greeted by a manager who welcomed her by name.

This scene played out for long-time customer Capellino as as Standard 5&10 Ace on California Street celebrated its 75th anniversary this weekend.

Capellino wasn’t going to be left out, telling SFBay she’d been shopping at Standard almost since it opened:

“The staff is terrific. Anything you want is here, it’s a one stop shop. For living in a big city, it’s like living in the burbs.”

The old-time five-and-dime store opened its doors in 1939. Since then, it has managed to weather difficult business climates, gentrification, incoming waves of tech workers and the changing character of San Francisco.

Co-owner Michelle Leopold told SFBay great customer service — and taking calculated risks throughout the years, to capitalize on market trends like Beanie Babies — have helped keep Standard going:

“This is still your go-to everything store. We hope people realize they can’t get the same customer service elsewhere.”

Customers packed the store’s aisles this weekend while employees clad in bright green shirts and headsets greeted them at every corner.

From Legos to Hallmark greeting cards, from Weber grills to housewares and electronics, Standard is not a dollar store, said Leopold, it’s a general store.

This mom and pop store, opened during the heyday of five-and-dime outlets, has been owned and operated by only two families throughout its 75-year history.

Simon Kapstein opened Standard 5 10 25¢ in San Francisco in 1939 after leaving his position as manager of the Woolworth five and dime.

In 1946, Kapstein hired German immigrant Guenther Leopold as a stock clerk.

Kapstein’s son Bob worked with Leopold, and the pair opened two more stores in San Francisco. Then, in 1988, Leopold’s son Jeff entered the business and eventually bought out Kapstein to become partners with his father.

Meanwhile, Jeff’s wife Michelle — who calls herself the mom in the “mom and pop” store — jokes that Jeff married her for her marketing skills.

While other stores have clung to the past, Standard has embraced the future and now boasts a newsletter, a housewares magazine, a website, three Facebook pages, a Twitter account and a text alert system.

Meanwhile, Guenther Leopold, now 82 years old, still works at the store as he’s done for the past 65 years, along with Jeff and Michelle.

Jeff Leopold told SFBay that a big part of having a business in Laurel Village was its many small family owned stores:

“We’re not a mall. You can walk into any mall in America and find the same 10 stores.”

Standard is celebrating its 75th anniversary throughout May with contests and special deals throughout the store.