About fifteen years ago, Wayne Schauer was scouting out a new location for a hardware store. His family had been in the business for 40 years and had owned a number of stores in Chicago and other suburbs, but he was looking to downsize his operation to a single store.

In 1997 Madison Street was a far cry from the highly successful commercial district it is today. Mostly it was antique stores and a slew of taverns. Peaslee Hardware Store was one of the anchor retailers having been run by the Peaslee family since the 1920s.

Rich Schauer, Wayne’s son,  remembers visiting the Madison Street store with his father that year: “I looked at him and I said, ‘Are you sure that this is where you want to be?’ and he said ‘This is going to be a great town.'”

“He had a vision 15 years ago when we came out to Peaslee’s,” Rich added. “He loved the town.”

Wayne was right; this is a great town, and in large part, because of people like him who have had a hand in shaping it.

Wayne’s vision for a new Forest Park was in sync with local nonprofit Main Street Redevelopment Corporation’s efforts to revitalize the once drab Madison Street commercial district.

“He was one of the pioneers,” recalled Art Jones, a Main Street co-founder. “He not only invested himself financially…he invested himself personally; he immediately became part of the community.”

Peaslee’s was a friendly, family-run business, Jones noted, adding that Wayne sustained that concept by developing not only a rapport with the store’s clientele, but a relationship.

“He achieved that immediately because of who he was,” Jones said. “He was warm and gentle. I never saw him agitated or upset.”

“Wayne truly enjoyed people and the interaction; he was having fun – that was the key to his success…his love of people,” said Dave King, another Main Street co-founder. “He was a class act.”

Wayne Schauer died last week at 71. Although he was not a native Forest Parker, the village was as much his home as his actual abode. His commitment to the village and its residents was evidenced by his efforts to personally meet the needs of customers, by the time and money he invested in restoring his storefront just last year, by the store’s active involvement in every event on the street.

Wayne was the embodiment of a small town merchant. Everything that is good about being family-owned, having history but not being stuck in history, was true of the store which Wayne, his family and his colleagues built on Madison Street. His son Rich will now take the reigns, and will likely do an outstanding job filling his father’s shoes. But Wayne’s presence will always be felt in the store and around town.

We want to thank Wayne for everything he did for the village and the impact that he had on everyone who was fortunate enough to meet him. Goodbye, old friend.