Wayne Schauer, 71, has been in the hardware business for 60 years, ever since his father bought the family’s first store on the corner of 63rd Street and Ashland Avenue in Chicago when he was 11 years old. Schauer Hardware at 7449 Madison St. celebrated this milestone last weekend with giveaways, a raffle for a Weber grill, and sales of no less than 20 percent off every item in the store.
Since 1951, The Schauer family has owned a total of four stores in Chicago and Winfield. They purchased the Peaslee Hardware store from the Shanahan family in 1996. It is now their only hardware store.
The store and its iconic front-door handle, which is in the shape of a hammer, were recently featured in the pilot episode of The Chicago Code. Location scouts liked the classic feel of the store. When shooting took place last fall, a shot in which a going-out-of-business sign was placed in the window caused a bit of a stir. Schauer said that people who saw the sign called, concerned that the store was going under.
The building has been used as a hardware store since 1927, and Schauer said that they plan to have another celebration when the store turns 100 years old.
His only break from the hardware business was when he followed his older brother Warren and younger brother Terry into the Army. All three were given non-combat jobs, with Wayne stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. His older brother Warren drove trucks in Germany while his younger brother Terry worked on early military security computers in Japan.
After returning from military service, only Wayne went back into the family business, though Terry later purchased the Winfield store.
Schauer says there have been a lot of changes to the hardware business over the decades, with evolving building codes and changing products, but, nonetheless his business remains competitive. Schauer said that he tries to work around the bigger stores rather than competing directly against them. His store carries different brands and items, though they do try to keep their prices in line with the competition.
Schauer’s must be doing something right: They are one of only a few family-owned hardware stores in the area that have lasted this long. According to Schauer, only Buikema’s Ace Hardware in Naperville, Kin-Ko Ace Hardware in Downer’s Grove, and Duke’s Ace Hardware in Burbank can claim such a milestone.
After 60 years it remains a family business. His youngest son, Richard Schauer, manages the shop, while his oldest, Scott Schauer, takes care of the business’ computers and runs the Hallmark store next door – which the Schauer’s own.
“They were born into it,” said Wayne Schauer. When they were young, their mother Sandra Schauer paid them a penny a paper for stuffing envelopes with the Christmas letter and sale paper.
“This is where we are after 60 years,” Shauer said. “And it looks like we’ll be doing it the rest of their lives, too. They may make it to 100.”