When customers walk in to Schauer’s Hardware, one unexpected turn can lead them to learning about the store’s history.
The Forest Park, Illinois, business has a second floor of wooden balconies overlooking the downstairs area, which owner Richard Schauer says “makes it very interesting to try and merchandise things.” The balcony on one side contains the store’s selection of grills. On the other is the employee kitchen and office—and an in-store museum showcasing the history of the business, which has been in the Schauer family since 1998 but has been a hardware store in that location since 1920.
That second balcony was originally a storage space, but was converted into a museum at the urging of some customers, Schauer says. “Over time, we started organizing and displaying everything we’d collected. We have some old tools, original boxes of Borax—all kinds of things. We use the older bins and racks to showcase everything.”
Now, parents bring their kids upstairs to see manual registers, old filing cabinets and much more. “After 70-plus years of collecting, we have some cool stuff to show off,” Schauer says. “We even have customers who bring us things to display.”
It’s all part of having a hardware store that’s a mix of original and modern, one of Schauer’s goals. “We’ve done our best to keep it as original as possible. We have an unfinished concrete floor and the old-timey store smell. These are things that can be tough to recreate.”