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Marlowe’s Ace Hardware to shut its doors

Josh Steassists customer Marlowe's Ace Hardware Hampshire. | Photos by Denise Moran-For Sun-Times Media

Josh Stein assists a customer at Marlowe's Ace Hardware in Hampshire. | Photos by Denise Moran-For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 12, 2012 11:09AM

HAMPSHIRE — A longtime downtown store in the village is going out of business, and its owners are retiring.

Hampshire couple Dean and Marge Marlowe have owned and operated Marlowe’s Ace Hardware, 129 S. State St., since June 1, 1981. They purchased the business from the Myers family who ran it as Myers Ace Hardware for 30 years.

“Part of the building was once the Ella Johnson Memorial Public Library,” Marge said. “The last section to be added to the building was built in 1945-46. The late Village President Bill Schmidt once said he remembered watching movies shown on the outside walls of the building.”

Storied history

Ella Johnson Memorial Public Library is currently located at 109 S. State St. Since it was founded in 1936, the library has moved five times.

Marge said their business has been run like a general store except that they did not sell clothing or food, except for candy.

“Our mix of merchandise has changed,” Marge said. “We started out with a lot of housewares. Fifteen years ago, we took over Schmidt’s Card & Candle Hallmark account and added giftware. We used to visit the giftware floors at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. There are only two giftware floors at the Merchandise Mart now.”

The advantage that Marlowe’s Ace Hardware has over other stores is that it has a basement for storing merchandise. Many customers have said it is rare for the store not to have what they were looking for.

“Since a lot of stores do not have basements, they have to sell out at the end of the season,” Marge said. “People could come to us for pool chemicals year-round if they had hot tubs. We’ve also sold box fans year-round.”

The store sold toys such as Webkinz.

“That went very well,” Marge said. “Webkinz taught kids how to use computers.”

Dean and Marge have three adult children: Bonnie Olson of Belvidere, Carol Fiandalo of Huntley and Brian Marlowe, who is a lieutenant with the Hampshire Fire Protection District. They also have four grandchildren: Jacob Fiandalo, 9; Abby Fiandalo, 7; Alex Olson, 5, and Molly Olson, 2.

“Our grandkids like coming to the store,” Marge said. “They like looking for treats.”

One store employee told Marge that people working at the store were like a second family.

“Pat Wanat of Hampshire has been working here for over 15 years,” Marge said. “We’ve had some employees who started working for us while they were in high school. They continued working for us while they were going to college. The employees here do everything. They make keys, mix paint, run the register, stock the shelves and help the customers. Former employees stop in every time they are in town.”

Marge said they have tried unsuccessfully for two years to look for a buyer who would purchase the building and keep it as an Ace Hardware store.

Marlowe’s Ace Hardware will be open until Nov. 10, or until the inventory is sold. The building itself is being listed by Lynn Klein of Century 21.

“The town has been good to us,” Marge said. “We will miss the people here. It’s a great town for raising kids. It’s good to have downtown businesses. We hope the building finds a new owner.”

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