Downtown business patriarch passes

Mercury News columnist Sal Pizarro posted the following on May 9:

Hank Coca died at age 85 on April 29, but he leaves a strong legacy in the downtown San Jose furniture store that bears his name.

If you wonder how strong, consider this:  Downtown San Jose was in its Golden Age when Coca opened the store, then called Furniture Discount Warehouse, on the corner of Santa Clara and Third streets in 1957.  The city’s center has crashed down and come back up again, and Hank Coca’s Downtown Furniture has seen it all.  It survived the exodus of just about everyone — including the Mercury News and City Hall — in the 1960s, the crippling transit mall construction of the 1980s, the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and the onslaught of high-rises, craft bars and co-working spaces over the past decade.

He was just 26 and married less than five years to his wife, Salome, when he opened the store after managing a furniture store in Redwood City.  Imagine that.  A 26-year-old Mexican-American — born and raised in San Jose — owning his own downtown business during the Eisenhower years in what was still an agricultural town.  People gave up on downtown, but Hank Coca stayed.  And when he retired, his son, Henry Coca Jr., took over the family business, and he stayed, too.

Few people who aren’t politicians or pioneers get to see their names live on in San Jose.  Hank Coca deserves a statue, but for now, it’s enough to see “Hank Coca” in huge letters on Santa Clara Street.

SJDA Note: Services were May 10 at Lima Family Santa Clara. The Coca family requests donations in his memory go to Sacred Heart Community Service, 1381 S. First St., San Jose, CA 95110.