Modesto map firm is closed, for now

Compass Maps Inc., based in Modesto since its founding in 1962, has temporarily closed its office on Kansas Avenue, according to a company official.

A sign appeared at the business earlier this month that read, "Business is Closed," but a company official who did not want to be identified said that sign was put up by mistake.

After The Bee inquired about the sign, it was replaced by one that said "Closed for Inventory" on Tuesday.

The company official said Compass was reorganizing and would reopen, but was unsure when.

Compass had about 30 employees in 2006, according to an obituary for one of its founders, Richard Elke.

The official would not say how many employees Compass has now, but said customers were still picking up orders from Compass at its warehouse behind the main building.

Founded by Elke and his wife, Shirley, Compass Maps became one of California's leading independent mapmakers, selling maps of states, counties and cities across much of the West Coast.

The Elkes started the business in a spare bedroom in their home before moving to a rented building on Kansas Avenue in 1963.

They moved to the current building, at 1172 Kansas Ave., in 1968. The Elkes later retired; Howard Priest is now the major- ity owner.

In a Bee profile in 1978, Richard Elke said he expected to print 2 million maps by the end of that year. At the time, many of the company's customers were chambers of commerce, real estate agencies and title companies.

Last fall, mapmakers at Compass noted that changing technology was affecting demand for paper maps. Both global positioning systems and online options, such as Mapquest, have become increasingly popular.

But Compass' mapmakers pointed out that paper maps had advantages over their high-tech counterparts, such as the ability to show a large area at once.

Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer can be reached at or 578-2331.