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Two strong waves of winter weather dumped 6.7 inches of snowfall at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. It was not enough to shut down air travel completely in Chicago, but the winter blast did cause enough chaos to shutter schools and businesses throughout Chicagoland.

As the storm dwindled to flurries and the sun started to peek out from the clouds for the first time in days, a sign of the times was placed outside Schauers Hardware on the snow-dusted sidewalk.

Bad weather is good business,says Richard Schauer, the third generation owner of Schauer’s Hardware located in the western Chicago suburb of Forest Park. We have already had several phone calls, ‘Are you open?’ My answer is, ‘Why wouldn’t I be?’ Because a lot of other businesses are closed, and right now, is when they need you. That is why we are here.

Schauers Hardware is a cornerstone in the hardware community as seen in their time-tested journey over seven decades. The store held previous locations in Chicago at 63rd and Ashland, 54th and Kedzie, and Archer and Harlem. Richard’s grandfather is the original owner, passing on the business to Richard’s father before he took over the reins.

“I put my heart and soul into this building and this business,” explained Schauer. “We are part of the community and we are needed. Hardware is essential, like plumbing and welding. People come to Schauer’s Hardware because it’s a friendly neighborhood store; it is about the service. Being a small-town hardware store, they come for our advice.”

Schauer says the value he provides to his customers is his vast knowledge about how to fix things.

“My reputation is everything. My name is on the building,” Schauer stated with understated pride. “I try and be honest and even if I don’t know something, I will tell you where to find it.”

“I’ve been able to stay in business all these years because I’ve followed the advice of all the hardware guys that I have known since I was a kid. I have watched and learned from them. But it is also a connection with the community. I am not just a store– I am Schauer’s Hardware.”

Schauer cherishes his customers and the business he has grown over the decades.

I love being a retailer because I like helping people. I like what I do,” Schauer said with a smile. I am here to try and get everything done for people that other sources cannot.

“I need Illinois to know that small businesses are essential, and we are the heartbeat of everything,” explains Schauer. “When COVID hit, we were still open. We kept going. Everything else closed. We are needed. We don’t want to be treated like the big corporations. We cannot follow the same rules as big corporations.  Small businesses get overlooked because we have always been here. But if we were all gone, you’re going to lose a lot of money for a town. You are going to lose a lot of jobs for people and you are going to lose knowledge.”

As serious as the message Schauer conveyed during our conversation, he also stressed the importance of bringing a lighter side to your business.

 If I could give advice to a brand new retailer, it would be to work hard at it. Enjoy what you do because it is not easy. It is long. It is hard. But as long as you enjoy what you do, you will do fine.  Have fun. Goof around with your employees and the customers. Do not be so serious. Enjoy it. Customers also do not expect it because they are used to everybody being humdrum and ‘here you go.’ Welcome customers into your house. This is your house. Have fun and enjoy it.”

Schauer said of all the retailers in Forest Park, he can comfortably state that his business represents the pulse of his community. That is why, he said, it is important to pay it forward to the people who have given him so much.

We support the local community by being part of the Chamber of Commerce. We support local events, the police department, and the fire department. Every town needs an anchor store. You need that little personable store.”

“Modern technology has changed the whole hardware industry a lot and people go online to buy tools and hardware, but there is always going to be a place for us mom and pop stores because you cannot replace that personal touch that we have.”

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