Our founder, William Walchak, might have been satisfied being a tailor had his wife, Hannah, not insisted he have a business. When he bought a store in Chicago, near Division and Western, he didn’t know much about hardware so he closed the doors and, with catalogs in hand, went through his inventory item by item, studying and learning everything he could. A week later he opened for business.
A growing family and a need to be closer to home prompted the move in 1924 to the corner of Clark and Devon, the first of five Clark Street locations. This was also the year that 2nd-generation owner, Bernie Walchak, was born. The store moved from the corner, to Clark and Wallen. From there it moved to 6339 N. Clark Street. Then came the move to Clark and Highland, 6333 N. Clark. “Uncle Dave thought we were crazy”, explains Bernie Walchak, “Every time we moved we loaded up his (soda) pop wagon to haul the merchandise”.
Changes came as the business grew. The monthly invoices, which had always been sorted at home on the kitchen table, were now on the bookkeeper’s desk. A few employees were hired and Bernie’s children (as well as the children of friends and relatives) spent weekends and summer vacations working in the store. There was a time during the 1970’s when some of the regular customers called Clark Devon ”Hippie Hardware” because of the long hair worn by some of the young men who worked there, including Ken Walchak.
In 1984, third generation co-owners, Ken and Ed Walchak - William’s grandsons, Bernie’s sons - orchestrated the store’s move, back to the corner where it started and the store’s name once again matched its location. This move required more than Uncle Dave’s pop wagon to accomplish. Every able bodied teenager in the neighborhood was enlisted to roll merchandise and store fixtures down the block. And although there was much more space at the new location, two large additions were made soon after the move.
The building had been at various times, a theater, a dance hall, an indoor soccer stadium and a film production studio before it became a hardware store. Although the floor is no longer sloped from its days as a theater, a careful look around the store now will reveal reminders of the buildings’ former life: the proscenium arch, the tiled lobby floor, the film projection room, the stage, and more.
Although less than 10 years old, 2-ton, lighted, stainless steel clock on the building's southwest corner has become a neighborhood icon. It marks the place where 92 years of hardware tradition meets 21st century innovation.
A few angles on the clock.
One of the early stores on Clark Street
6401 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60626
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