After 31 years of business and memories, the Marlowe family is closing its namesake Ace Hardware store in Hampshire, citing a need to retire.
Owners Marge and Dean Marlowe, both 66, began a closeout sale Wednesday and expect the inventory to run out by mid- to late November. They are looking forward to the next phase in their lives, which will involve traveling and chasing their four grandchildren.
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"At 66, I'm ready to retire, but I really would have been much happier to have someone continue on with it," Dean Marlowe said. "You put your heart and soul into something for 31 years, you'd like to see it continue on and see someone else do well with it."
The hardware store, on State Street in downtown Hampshire, has been around since the late 1890s. The Marlowes are the fifth family to own the store.
"We've been in it long enough, it's time for somebody else to take over," Marge Marlowe said.
Except, that doesn't appear to be in the cards.
The property has been on the market for two years, but the banks wouldn't issue mortgages to the four buyers who expressed serious interest, Dean Marlowe said.
Moreover, rather than taking over the family business, the couple's three children have opted to follow their own paths.
Their eldest, Bonnie Olson, is a homemaker in Belvidere; their younger daughter, Carol Fiandalo, works as an accountant for the Schaumburg Business Association; and their son, Brian Marlowe, is a lieutenant in the Hampshire Fire Protection District.
Yet, the next generation is grateful for the lessons they learned in the family business.
"I learned a lot about hardware growing up there and as a woman, when people see that I know how to do repair work and fixing, they're pretty impressed," Fiandalo said.
The Marlowes made a lot of friends and met many good people at the store in those 31 years.
Five people are employed there, and while some have secured new jobs others haven't. All of them will be getting bonuses, once the store closes, Dean Marlowe said.
On Thursday afternoon, just a few customers were inside. Some picked at Halloween decorations and cards, while others were buying plumbing equipment.
For Shirley Contine of Hampshire, store was all about customer service.
She's been patronizing the store for 12 years and says the employees are very helpful, always know what they're talking about, what they're selling and where everything is.
Once Marlowe's closes, she'll either shop at another Ace in nearby Genoa, or try some of the big box stores on Randall Road. But she'd rather keep her business in Hampshire.
"Maybe there will be another hardware store here," Contine said. "I hope so."