In 1931, Paul Elder Jr. began working in his father’s bookstore. He gradually assumed management roles as his father’s health declined, becoming president and manager in 1943. Paul Jr. was joined in the business by his wife Eloise (1909-1973). Eloise was a former artist, and she coordinated the continuing series of book readings and art exhibits at the Paul Elder Gallery.
After many months of ill health, Paul Elder Sr. died on 23 January 1948. Four months later, on the first of June, Paul Elder & Company moved for the final time, a block-and-a-half away to 401 Sutter St., at the southwest corner of Stockton. Paul Jr. and Eloise were putting their own stamp on the fifty-year-old business.
The new bookstore was a dramatic departure from the previous shops, where atmosphere had been the overriding concern. Gone were the smaller rooms, dark walls, and an Arts & Crafts emphasis on unpainted wood. Post-war Mid-century Modern ruled the day: architect Bolton White created a modern, open design, using extensive street-front windows and a bright—one might even say gaudy—color scheme.
As happened in 1909 and 1921, some furnishings were brought along from the old stores in a nod to the long history of Paul Elder & Company. Two of Bernard Maybeck’s carved screens from the 1909 store were installed at the base of the stairway, and a row of gothic windows from the 1920 store were placed on the wall above. The heavy wood bookcases and medieval chandeliers were no longer wanted.
In October 1968, Paul Elder Jr sold the two remaining bookstores to Brentano’s. “My wife Eloise and I have been working too hard, too long,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. He decided to sell “because of an accumulation of things: the field is overcrowded, the competition is tremendous… automation calls for big-business organization.” He wouldn’t say what he had in mind, but “it won’t be another bookstore. But I’ll be enjoying myself. I always do.”