Chicago Sun-Times



The shelves are getting emptier each day at Gillman’s Ace Hardware on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square.

Next week, owner Alan Gillman says he’ll close shop for good, ending his family business’ 75-year, two-generation run.

“I’m still walking through this kind of numb. It really hasn’t hit home,” said Gillman, 64. He’s been holding a liquidatio­n sale since January.

Business at his store at 2118 N. Milwaukee Ave. has faltered in recent years, he said.

Sales fell by a third after 2020 when bike lanes replaced street parking on the store’s side of Milwaukee, he said. Pressure from rising real estate taxes also played a factor.

Gillman kept his store open during the pandemic, but business dwindled further. He also competed with big-box retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

“I would’ve been able to pay that additional money. But with half the business, it’s kind of difficult,” he said.

The response from the community has been overwhelmi­ngly positive, he said.

“A couple dozen have broken down and cried. And I’m like, ‘I’ll be all right,’” he said. “The only thing I’m going to miss is the people. You develop so many relationsh­ips.” “It’s bitterswee­t,” he said.

Gillman has seen the neighborho­od gentrify, changing his customer base from families and contractor­s to younger folks.

Gillman rents the space. He wishes he’d bought property decades ago before the values skyrockete­d.

“Buildings around here, you could get for nothing. But you were also dodging bullets to get to the door,” he said.

Gillman’s Ace opened in the late 1940s, a joint venture between his father and uncle, Gillman said. The original store was a few doors down in what is now Pilot Project Brewing.

The store later moved across the street to the building that houses the Congress Theater, according to a 1993 Sun-Times obituary for Gillman’s uncle, Reuben M. Gillman.

The store moved into its current location in the early 1990s.

Gillman was born in Chicago and grew up in Skokie. His dad brought him to the store as a kid on weekends.

“The theater was right next door, and I’d get into the movies for free,” he said.

After returning from college, Gillman was unsure about a career path and began helping out at his dad’s store.

“Then it became a regular thing,” he said. When his dad and uncle got older, and his uncle got cancer, they considered selling the store. Gillman bought their stakes.

“The rest is history,” said Gillman, who’s been working at the store for 42 years. Gillman said his tenure was “pretty smooth.” “You can’t always do what you like — you have to love what you do. And I learned to love it,” Gillman said.

He hasn’t decided what he’ll do after closing the shop. A Buffalo Grove resident, he said he may try a 40-hour-a-week gig for a couple of years.

“I don’t know. When you do something for so long, you’re a horse with blinders looking straight ahead. So it will be different,” he said.

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 ?? DAVE STRUETT/SUN-TIMES PHOTOS ?? Alan Gillman is closing Gillman’s Ace Hardware, 2118 N. Milwaukee Ave., after a 75-year run.
DAVE STRUETT/SUN-TIMES PHOTOS Alan Gillman is closing Gillman’s Ace Hardware, 2118 N. Milwaukee Ave., after a 75-year run.

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