LAKEVIEW — Pam and Steve Lipshutz, third-generation co-owners of Tenenbaum True Value Hardware in Lakeview, have worked at the family business most of their lives.
The siblings started helping out around the hardware store, 1138 W. Belmont Ave., when they were kids and the store was owned by their father, Morrie Lipshutz.
“My dad had me at the register by the time I was old enough to add, so I was just a little girl and he’d have me standing on a box and pushing numbers,” Pam Lipshutz said. “This store has been a part of our lives from when we were babies. Our customers have watched us grow up, and now we’re watching their own kids who still visit the store grow up.”
Morrie Lipshutz, who died in 2019, taught his kids all about the hardware business. But the most important lessons, his children recalled Wednesday, were on how to treat customers with respect. That core value helped cement the family business as Lakeview’s beloved go-to hardware store since it opened in 1923.
And that bond with their customers is why it’s so “bittersweet” for the family to shut down the business after 98 years, Steve Lipshutz said.
Tenenbaum Hardware began its closing sale Thursday, with the goal of selling everything inside the store, down to its fixtures and equipment, over the next two months.
“We’ve gotten very emotional about closing, it’s so bittersweet after all these years,” Steve Lipshutz said.
“We’ve made a lot of great friends that are customers over the years, and I know they’re heartbroken,” Pam Lipshutz said. “But it’s just time. The building is tired, we’re tired and business isn’t what it used to be.”
Pam and Steve Lipshutz have agreed to sell their single-story building to developer SNS Realty Group. Should the company receive city zoning approval, it would build a five-story apartment building with retail on the first floor.
The plan would have 33 apartments, 16 parking spaces and 28 bicycle parking stalls, according to documents filed with Ald. Tom Tunney’s (44th) office. The project will be a transit-oriented development, meaning it has lower parking requirements, because of its proximity to the Belmont station.
The City Council’s zoning committee will vote on the proposal during its June 22 meeting. If approved, it would go to City Council for final approval.
The siblings fought back tears as they discussed the store’s closing Wednesday.
“I’ve probably spent more time at this location in my life … than any other place in the world, so it’s pretty much home,” Steve Lipshutz said. “It’s hard because people have been stopping by all morning to see us and say, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re leaving. What will we do without you? We’ll miss you.'”
Pam Lipshutz said the store has come to be known for its friendly atmosphere where anyone can come in and ask for hardware help without feeling judged or brushed off by staff. Over the years, the family’s hardware store has become known for top-notch service from people who treat customers like family.
Sometimes those customers return the favor. Steve Lipshutz recalled one shopper — Wayne Stanley, whose photo is hanging by Pam Lipshutz’s desk — who would often help out around the store when he came in to visit.
“I remember I was unloading at least 100 cases of paint — back before forklifts, so everything was done by hand — and Wayne saw me and he goes, ‘Junior, what in the hell are you doing? You’re doing it all wrong,'” Steve Lipshutz said. “So he grabbed the paint from me and basically did my entire job for me.”
Throughout the years, customers have been invited to the siblings’ weddings, and they’ve attended funerals for a few customers in the past year.
“It’s almost like family. That’s why closing is hard,” Steve Lipshutz said. “It’s like saying bye to family.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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