VILLA PARK – Weeks before the Villa Park Ace opened toward the end of August, curious residents were peeking in the windows and asking workers milling around when they’d be able to start shopping.
The community was primed for a hardware store and news that an Ace was coming to Villa Park was met with excitement, as was the news that the store was owned by Lou Manfredini, Mr. Fix-It on the WGN Radio program, and his wife, Mary Beth.
“I’m really appreciative and humbled by a lot of local people coming in to say how happy they are that there’s a hardware store back in the community,” Manfredini said.
The store had its soft opening Aug. 22, when the doors officially opened, and will celebrate its grand opening over the weekend of Oct. 4 to 6.
The store is at 46 S. Villa Ave. and it’s on a site that previously housed another hardware store that closed last winter. The Manfredinis already own an Ace store in Chicago’s Edgebrook neighborhood and had been planning to open a second one for several years.
“It was the opportunity that really brought us here,” Lou Manfredini said. “After seeing the store, I drove around looking at the housing stock and the businesses, and I met with the village staff.”
He said opening a store in Villa Park seemed to be a “no-brainer” because of the available space for the store and the support of the community and local government.
“To lose our hardware store was really hard news to take, but to turn around and bring a hardware store back to Villa Park was encouraging,” Villa Park Village President Deborah Bullwinkel said. “Every town needs its own hardware store. Now we have our own hardware store.”
Bullwinkel said she’s excited about the hardware store because it will support the needs of local residents, but it also will support the local economy by providing jobs for residents, keeping sales tax revenues in town and bringing new customers to the other businesses neighboring Ace.
“A hardware store is a destination,” Bullwinkel said. “It’s nice that we have someone in Lou who has name recognition, but it’s nice just to have our own hardware store.”
Manfredini said five out of his 10 employees are Villa Park residents. The store’s top leadership team is comprised of three employees who collectively have 75 years of experience in the hardware store business, Manfredini said.
One of leaders is Dave Seiller, the store’s manager who worked with Manfredini at his other store before being promoted to manager of the new store. He’s been working in this field since 1977 and said the thing he’s looking forward to most about being in Villa Park is serving the community.
Manfredini’s experience in hardware stores extends back to when he was 13 years old working at a local store in Highland Park. It was something that stuck with him through high school, college and into his adult profession.
“I like helping people, it’s just who I am,” he said. “The hardware store and the Ace mentality suit my personality. To have the ability to help people one-on-one, it’s just really rewarding.”
He said he plans to make the store an integral part of the community by remaining active in local events and activities and by supporting different community groups.
“It’s called Villa Park Ace because it’s their hardware store,” Manfredini said. “That connection to the community is something that’ll be part of our mission.”