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Built to last: Schademann Studios works to preserve the past, document the present

Matt Schademann shows off a picture of the inside of a jewelry store, which opened in the building in 1918. Schademann restored the building before moving his photo studio into its space.
Matt Schademann shows off a picture of the inside of a jewelry store, which opened in the building in 1918. Schademann restored the building before moving his photo studio into its space.

BERWYN – Vintage pictures from the 1930s sit along the wall at Schademann Studios, and a portrait of Evelyn Salat, grandmother of studio owner Matt Schademann, sits in the front window.

Schademann, 41, said he inherited his craftsmanship skills from his grandmother, who was a well-known globe maker at Replogle Globes.  

“I inherited her patience for the craft,” said Schademann. “You need a meticulous temperament to create something so carefully.”

His love for craftsmanship also led him to restore the historic building where Schademann Studios is located. This building, located at 6729 W. Roosevelt Road, was originally a jewelry shop owned by Joseph Vocelka in 1918.

During the grand opening of the photography studio last month, Evelyn Vocelka, 92, and the oldest member of the Vocelka family, was the surprise guest of honor and held the scissors at the ribbon cutting ceremony. 

Schademann said the Vocelka family had occupied the building up until the 1990s.

“People thought I was crazy for renting this building and putting this much work into it,” said the craftsman. “There’s always a way to repair and restore things.”

Schademann said when he first looked at the glass on top of the outside of the building, that’s when he knew it had potential to be brought back to its original design.

During a five-month period for six days a week, Schademann restored the building by resurfacing the walls, improving the window design, painting and more.

“I wanted my work environment to mirror my quality of craftsmanship,” said Schademann. “I want local homeowners and buyers to come in here and say someone cares about the heritage and history. I want to give them something beautiful to look at when they drive past.”

The craftsman said he did most of the restoration work himself using his own money. He added that he hates to see vintage buildings destroyed.

“When architects built these buildings in that era, they weren’t disposable like they are today,” said Schademann. “People don’t realize these buildings were designed to be maintained.”

Schademann has worked to not only maintain the image of the historic building, but also historic images taken during the early 1930’s. As a board director for the Berwyn Historical Society, he digitally restores vintage pictures and archives them for the public.

“I scan the pictures as huge as possible; I have to zoom in deeper than my eyes will let me” he said. “If there’s dust on the original picture, it’ll show up as white spots. So you have to go in and clear that out.”

A digitally restored picture of Schademann’s grandfather, Joseph Salat, hangs on the back wall. 

“Anytime I found myself getting weak during the restoration process, I would look at his picture,” said Schademann. “Does he look like a sissy to you?”

Schademann said he originally became interested in restoring vintage items because of family books that are more than 100 years old. He added he would take small 2-inch photos of his grandmother, digitally restore them and bring them to Christmas dinner. 

“It blew my family away,” said the photographer.

Besides restoring old photos and the historic building, Schademann manages his photography business at the building, which includes wedding photos, dog photos and portraits. 

His dog, Brodie, a border collie, serves as the mascot for the photography business.

“I was never a dog person until I got Brodie two years ago,” said Schademann. “Border collie’s are the smartest dog breed in the world.”

The photographer said the majority of his clientele are located in communities near downtown Chicago. He added most of his clients are regular folks – teachers, policemen and attorneys. 

Three years ago, Schademann moved his business location to Berwyn from Roscoe Village, a neighborhood on Chicago’s north side.  He said the Roscoe Village location was too far of a drive from his bungalow in Berwyn. 

“It was a much more charming atmosphere to meet clients here at home,” said the photographer. 

He added Berwyn is becoming a thriving venue for the arts.

“The arts, restaurants and music venues that have been brought to Roosevelt Road are amazing.”

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