Viewpoint

More than a store

December 6, 2012 

Councilman Myron Graham, left, and Mayor Kenneth Schwartz in 1973 surveying city creeks to improve drainage.

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

Graham’s sat on Monterey Street, adjacent to Muzio’s. Both were within a stone’s throw of Mission San Luis Obispo. Theoretically, Graham’s was a paint store, but if you needed artist’s paints or other art supplies, you could find them at Graham’s. If you needed your artwork framed, Graham’s could do it — and do it beautifully. A jar full of signature graham crackers always sat on the counter for the hungry.

You didn’t have to live in San Luis Obispo very long before you became acquainted with the store’s proprietor, Myron Graham, who passed away this October.

Once Myron met you, he remembered your name forever. Anybody and everybody needing paint mixed to achieve a special color could count on Myron. Quantity didn’t seem to matter. You would be equally served if you needed a pint or 50 gallons.

Graham’s was especially kind to Cal Poly art and architecture students. Myron gave student discounts and extended credit. And he offered prizes of merchandise for class projects. Graduates returning for homecomings invariably asked, “How’s Myron?” Many would make a special pilgrimage to the store.

Myron involved himself in everything cultural: The Art Center, the Little Theatre, The Historical Society, the Symphony Association, the Library, The Community Concerts Association, Cuesta College, and he had a passion for his Rotary Club. He served eight years as a city councilman and helped push the Mission Plaza to completion. In short, he became the cultural conscience of San Luis Obispo.

My favorite story about Graham’s occurred on a busy Saturday morning. The store was packed with customers, but Myron was giving his rapt attention to only one customer at a time. It was impossible to distract him from serving that one customer. A lady standing next to me was growing more frustrated by the minute. I don’t know how long she had been waiting, but she stood first on one foot then the other. Finally, she turned to me and blurted out, “This isn’t a store, its an institution!”

That sums up our Myron Graham and his wonderful, wonderful store that was.

Kenneth E. Schwartz served as mayor of San Luis Obispo from 1969 to 1979, city councilman from 1998 to 2004, and taught architecture at Cal Poly from 1952 to 1988.

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