Rich Schauer, owner of Schauer's Hardware at 7449 Madison St. | File photo

Schauer’s Hardware, 7449 Madison St., just received national recognition for being the top home improvement store in the state of Illinois. Schauer’s was named “2021 Hardware All Star” for Illinois. It’s the only “All Star” in the state and one of only 50 such stores nationwide. The award was bestowed by Hardware & Building Supply Dealer (HBS Dealer), a national publication. 

Receiving the award was especially poignant for owner Rich Schauer because he received it on June 2, the 10th anniversary of his father’s untimely death. Schauer is the third generation to operate the family-owned store.

The HBS Dealer selects All Star stores on the basis of various business criteria, such as longevity, growth, employee development and retention, creativity, and community involvement. Schauer’s has all those bases covered.

Longevity – The location has been home to a family-owned hardware store for 76 years, with the Schauer family taking over Peaslee’s 35 years ago.

Growth – Schauer’s sales rose during the pandemic, as homeowners in lockdown worked to improve their properties.

Employee development and retention – “I encourage cashiers to make their own decisions about returns,” Schauer said, “and we treat customers the way we want to be treated.”

Creativity – Schauer dressed as The Grinch a few years ago for the “Holiday Walk.”

Community involvement – “Being in a small hometown, we love to help the community as much as we can, not just through hardware supplies and services but through contributing to community events, like the live window display during the “Holiday Walk.”

It’s ironic that Schauer’s was named best home improvement store in the state, because that brings to mind large corporate-owned box stores while Schauer’s is the opposite.

“We’re the ‘Walgreens of Hardware,’” Schauer quipped. “Customers are paying for convenience and knowledge.” The store’s motto is, “Helping Forest Park one person at a time!” His slogan is, “Get in, Get out, Get it done.”

“People are coming here because they have a problem,” Schauer said. “They don’t know what to do. Some are unhappy with how their project is progressing. The big box stores lack this kind of customer service.” In fact, Schauer has been asked to leave large home improvement stores on four occasions because he was dispensing advice to customers. Once he was told it was because of “safety and security.”

Schauer’s may have great customer service but, like all hardware stores, it is short on inventory. “The supply chain is still not completely restored,” Schauer said. “Customers have to be patient.” Homeowners making improvements boosted sales. Now there’s a boom in moving because homeowners are “sick of their surroundings.”

“I see things looking up for the store,” Schauer said.

The HBS Dealer Award will certainly help. Schauer has posted it on social media and hundreds of people have responded.

“The award will raise awareness that little guys like us are still here to help. We’re not going anywhere.”

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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