De Lauer's Super News Stand on Broadway, a landmark business in downtown Oakland for more than a century, has received a face-lift.
Scaffolding that obscured the front of the two-story building for the past several months has been taken down to reveal new Art Deco-style tilework that replicates what photos show was in place back in the 1930s.
The work was done as part of an ongoing facade improvement program offered by the city of Oakland Economic Development Agency. The local firm, RPR Architects, with offices a few blocks north in the historic Uptown Arts Building, carried out the work.
While researching the history of the De Lauer's building at 1310 Broadway, the RPR team consulted the landmarks survey file in the city's Planning Department, which is maintained by Betty Marvin, a preservation planner and historic building specialist. "Our files show that the building dates back all the way back to 1889 and has received other makeovers over the years," she said.
I find that Marvin is invaluable to anyone interested in Oakland's historic buildings, so she often is the first person I consult when I want to find out about a particular landmark.
The survey file on the De Lauer's building did not disappoint. I learned that back at the turn of the 20th century, it was first known as the Oregon Block and housed a jewelry business and an ice-cream parlor. Meanwhile, a few blocks away, Charles De Lauer and his brother Scott (the brothers were originally from Cleveland) operated a cart on wheels near the train depot on Seventh Street. They sold newspapers and racing forms.
It would be several years before they graduated from selling from a cart to moving into a commercial space, files reveal. Charles' son (also named Charles) took over the business when his father died in the 1930s, and it was he who in 1966 established the "super news stand" in its present location. Fortunately for the family, a BART station opened right in front of their business about the same time.
The files state that 150 newspapers, domestic and international, were sold to frequent customers, and magazines of all descriptions and interests could be found along side the racing forms, travel maps, detective novels, and of course, lottery tickets. Famously, De Lauer's was open 24 hours and day, seven days a week. Members of the extended family worked there over the years.
A fire in 1984 and the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 caused the store to temporarily close. Each time disaster struck, the De Lauer family brought their business back, much to the delight of their longtime customers. In 2008, Charles Jr. passed away at the age of 91 and news reports stated that the news stand was closing for good. Fortunately this did not happen, and operations have continued with new owner and former manager Fasil Lemma in charge.
This fall, Lemma decided to open a second De Lauer's on Park Street in Alameda. He put one of his clerks, James Hartig, in charge of the Alameda shop.
It is good to see this long time Oakland business doing so well, and its new historic facade is a welcome improvement to the downtown streetscape.
For more on the history of De Lauer's and links to past articles and pictures, go to www.oaklandwiki.org and search for Delauer's Super News Stand.