Lou Manfredini is well known to Chicago and suburban fans as host of the WGN Radio show, Mr. Fix-It. He also hosts WGN-TV's half-hour program, House Smarts, and contributes to other shows with his repair expertise. In addition, he is the spokesman for Oak Brook-based Ace Hardware, Downers Grove-based Perma-Seal and other companies.
As if that wasn't enough, he owns and operates two Ace Hardware stores in Chicago and Villa Park. And he's searching to open a third store in the suburbs, he said.
"My wife Mary Beth runs the back of the business with payroll and human resources and other aspects of the business," said Manfredini, 52. "I'm the strategic 'Oh my God that's shiny, let's get it' kind of guy and she'll ask how much we'll need to pay for it."
Manfredini said selecting the next site is important, not just because of stiff competition from big-box retailers like Home Depot, Lowes and others, but rather Amazon, Target and even Kohl's that carry similar household products.
"The hardest part of retail is that there's so much retail," Manfredini said. "You just can't open a store, even with a good brand like Ace in just any spot. You really have to study it."
The Highland Park native who grew up in Highwood has always been a good study, especially while working with his father Massimo Manfredini, an Italian immigrant, who ran an auto repair business. His dad left the third grade to work.
"I started working with my dad at a young age and it just didn't register then, but I just liked being with my dad," he said.
Lou Manfredini graduated from Deerfield High School and studied at Millikin University in Decatur. He didn't graduate college because, he said, he ran out of money twice.
After that, his first business was as a homebuilder and he worked with a partner. He did that for about eight years. He then went into real estate development.
By the 1990s, he started appearing on the radio and doing other media work and was tapped by Ace Hardware as its spokesman in 2000. That's when he began traveling the country as a spokesman, he said.
"I got further and further away from building houses," he said.
By 2004, after working in the media and as an Ace spokesman, he came home one day and told his wife he'd like to open an Ace Hardware store.
"My wife said, 'We don't need a hardware store,'" he laughed.
His first store opened near Devon and Central avenues in Chicago's Edgebrook neighborhood and, later, they opened a second store in Villa Park. And like other Ace retailers, he attends the Ace shows twice a year, including the one last week at McCormick Place, which showed the new products available to sell for 2017.
"We're partners in all of this, a port in a storm," Manfredini said of his wife. "Sure we're juggling a lot of plates right now, but what makes this business work is the great people behind it."
Picture perfect wedding
Kaili Harding, president of the Schaumburg Business Association, got married Aug. 13 to David Kaminski, a partner with Daspin & Aument LLP law firm in Chicago.
During a sunset ceremony at Panama City Beach, Florida. They held their ceremony and reception with 46 guests at her parent's home there. Harding grew up going to Panama City Beach as a child. Her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all have had vacation homes there.
The reception was catered by long-established restaurant, the Saltwater Grill, with a prime rib carving station, and fresh Grouper caught right from the Gulf waters along with southern favorites for the reception buffet. The wedding also featured live steel drum and calypso music, "and we danced and partied till midnight," she said.
BTW, their rehearsal dinner the night before was at the restaurant, Firefly, with Executive Chef Derek Langford, who also was the chef at the 2012 Olympics in London. He served the first family when they came on a spring break vacation to Panama City Beach.
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