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Made in San Jose: 13 things created in the great 408

From fruit cocktails to floppy disks, San Jose’s business scene is truly inspired.


Adobe is one of Silicon Valley’s many claims to fame.

Photo via @geo.dragon.s

Table of Contents

Made in San Jose. Yep, that sure has a nice ring to it. From food and tech, to entertainment and other fun finds, we’ve rounded up 13 things home-grown in the great 408.

While some of these brands have branched out beyond our city, one thing’s for sure — there’s some major inspo happening around these parts.

A Google Maps screenshot of the original Lee's Sandwiches on Santa Clara Street.

This is the original site of the first Lee’s Sandwiches on Santa Clara Street.

Screenshot via Google Maps

Food + restaurants

Lee’s Sandwiches
When the sandwich shop founder Chieu Le came to America + settled in San Jose in 1980, he began studying English and venturing into the catering truck business. When his parents Ba Le and Hanh Nguyen came to town in 1983, the couple began serving banh mis to the San Jose community — and it was a hit. With much support, the first permanent Lee’s Sandwiches location opened on Santa Clara Street.

Eggo waffles
San Jose brothers Tony, Sam, and Frank Dorsa started in the food business in 1932. Their first successful product was Eggo mayonnaise, which claimed to have the “highest egg content” among mayo brands. A few inventions later, Frank invented a waffle iron carousel, which was used to make thousands of fresh waffles per hour. By the 1950s, Eggo waffles had hit nearly every grocery store.

Fruit cocktail
It would only make sense in the Valley of Heart’s Delight, no? In 1930, Herbert Gray created fruit cocktail at the Barron-Gray Packing Co., which was located on South Fifth + Martha streets. However, the first marketed fruit cocktail was under the Del Monte brand of the California Packing Corp., or Calpak, in 1938.

A black-and-white picture of the first IBM Plant in San Jose.

The first IBM Plant was on 16th + St. John streets.


Hard disk drive
Engineer Reynold B. Johnson of IBM can be credited with inventing the world’s first hard drive. The IBM Model 350 Disk File appeared in 1956, held 50 disks, and could hold up to 3.75MB of data. The device was so huge that it weighed over a ton + had to be transported via forklift truck.

Floppy disk
While the floppy disk was originally created by Yoshiro Nakamatsu at the University of Tokyo, his idea was turned down by many Japanese businesses, so he was led to grant the sales license to IBM. It wasn’t until 1971 that IBM introduced it commercially to the US, becoming the first to provide a storage medium for small systems.

Headquartered in San Jose, this company was founded by former Xerox employees John Warnock + Charles Geschke in 1982. The duo had programmed a system designed to read a computer-generated page, see the precise position + size of objects on the page, and generate a representation of it at any resolution. Xerox declined the tech, so the pair named their new company after the Adobe Creek in Los Altos.

In 1998, tech entrepreneurs Peter Thiel and Max Levchin met at Stanford University after Thiel gave a speech on global market opportunities. Later that year, the pair founded a company that was initially called Confinity. Their aim was to provide the first low-cost, digital payment application for both consumers + businesses.

Marketing picture of a modern Chuck E Cheese, featuring the golden gate bridge, the purple Mr. Munch in a Cable Car, and Chuck, the rat, in a purple shirt with green trim smiling and giving a thumbs-up.

Chuck E Cheese’s more modern design.

Photo via Chuck E Cheese


Chuck E. Cheese
There’s definitely a whole, wild history of Chuck E. Cheese on Tully Road — but let’s talk about the first one. Founder Nolan Bushnell, who also co-founded Atari, opened Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theatre on May 17, 1977 in a 5,000-sqft location at 370 S. Winchester Blvd. The aim was to bring food, family, entertainment, games, and pizza all under one roof.

“The Wave”
There’s nothing like the feeling of arena camaraderie after doing a successful “Wave” at a sports game. While nationally televised for the first time at the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees playoff game, George Henderson — more locally known as Krazy George — was set on the idea after practicing with smaller crowds at San Jose State football games.

In 1972, Nolan Bushnell + Ted Dabney launched the arcade game business. A few months later, the wildly successful Pong game catapulted their growth. By 1977, they introduced the Atari Video Computer System and sold millions of games over the next 15 years.

A Google Maps screenshot of the original Shoe Palace on Bascom.

The original Shoe Palace.

Screenshot via Google Maps


Shoe Palace
The Mersho family started the Shoe Palace at the San Jose Flea Market in 1993, and later set up its first brick and mortar at 2206 Business Cir. Its first mall location opened in 2003 at Oakridge Mall.

Orchard Supply Hardware
Though now Outdoor Supply Hardware, this company was founded in 1931 as Orchard Supply Farmers Co-op — about 30 farmers pitched in money to purchase supplies for pruning. The first warehouse on Bassett Street sold pails, orchard ladders, sprays, and more. Throughout the years, the locations got larger and larger, eventually moving into a 26,000-sqft retail space on West San Carlos Street.

Oral B
While not the inventor of the toothbrush, young San Jose dentist Robert William Hutson can be credited for establishing the Oral B Company in 1949. After learning of Henry Nicolas Sargol’s newest toothbrush, which was less abrasive but more effective, Hutson set out to develop those ideas even further. He used small filaments of nylon so the brush would be both strong + gentle on the gums.

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