In her book My San Francisco, Gertrude Atherton described a day shortly after the 1906 calamity:
One day Senator Phelan and I were strolling along Van Ness eating candy from a bag he had bought at one of the booths, and like everyone else, discussing the future of San Francisco. ‘Now who do you suppose that is?’ I exclaimed, indicating two young men some distance ahead. They were sitting on a box on the edge of the sidewalk holding a large white placard in front of them. They proved to be Paul Elder and John Howell with the name of their new firm, site and all, painted in large black letters on the white background. They grinned as we paused before them and looked as cheerful as a May morning without a fog. We shared our candy with them and talked of the new city that was to rise on the site of those ashes now being shoveled into carts.
Elder and Howell clearly had the “Spirit of ‘06”: the positive, untroubled determination to rebuild the ruined San Francisco. The Van Ness sidewalk along which Atherton and Phelan were strolling was the temporary shopping district. Elder was among the first to build there, hiring well-known architect Bernard Maybeck to design the new store. The result was an Arts & Crafts gem reminiscent of his finer Berkeley bungalows. The familiar Maybeck motifs are all here: simple and rustic lines, heavy exposed beams, medieval-style light fixtures and matching furniture.
The new shop was much smaller than the Post St. shop had been: one large room primarily for books, and one small room primarily for pottery and other art objects. The store was open for business by August 1906, with John Howell–later a rare book dealer himself–as manager while Elder and Nash were in New York.