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Daily Herald: Zimmer Hardware honored for historic, 136-year run in downtown Palatine

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

Zimmer Hardware in Palatine received a proper farewell this week for its 136-year run in the village.

Accompanied by David Freeman, whose great granduncle founded Zimmer, Cook County Board Commissioner Scott Britton of Glenview used public comment time at Monday night's Palatine village council meeting to read into the record a resolution his colleagues passed to recognize the store.

The resolution offered "thanks and well wishes" to the family of Albert Zimmer, who started the hardware store in 1883.

"I think it's a great honor the county would do that for our contribution to the business environment of Palatine," said Freeman, who still lives in Palatine. "There were many, many years (the family) put in there, and I worked there as a kid. Very honored."

Zimmer Hardware was Palatine's oldest continuous business until owner Nancy Martino was hit with a court-ordered eviction notice in March and later closed shop.

The county resolution notes that Zimmer Hardware was known for its narrow aisles with items from floor to ceiling and two obsolete gumball machines at the entrance. Special services were offered, such as key cutting and screen repairs, the resolution states.

"Zimmer Hardware prided itself as a local, hometown hardware store with a wide variety of products of all types for do-it-yourself projects," Britton said.

Zimmer founded his namesake hardware store at the corner of Bothwell and Slade streets in downtown Palatine. Not long after the debut, he moved to the 16 N. Brockway St. building, where the store's streak of operating for 136 consecutive years began.

He lived with his family in an apartment above the hardware store. After Zimmer's death, his stepdaughter, Lydia Wienecke, and her nephew, Howard Freeman, operated the business until she died in 1958, according to the Palatine Historical Society.

Freeman family members, including David, continued to live above the hardware store and ran it until selling to Mike Lemonidis and Dick Brumm in 1972. Martino bought Zimmer from Brumm and Lemonidis in 1996.

Tony DeFilippis, operator of Pizza Bella on Northwest Highway in Palatine, now owns the Zimmer building.

Some long-lost Zimmer history was found after the new owner took over the Brockway Street structure and began clearing it out, Freeman said. The items presented to Freeman included a bill of sale from 1922 and a special award that Zimmer received in 1972 for being a loyal Daily Herald advertiser while the newspaper was marking its 100th anniversary.

Zimmer Hardware also was named one of the "Retailers of the 20th Century" by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

Freeman and Palatine Mayor Jim Schwantz hope the 19th century Brockway Street building reopens with some type of business. Schwantz said the village has yet to receive any proposals.

"We covet our history," Schwantz said. "We love our history. Nobody wants to see historic buildings go down. We'd love to see it repurposed and continue to be used as a structure that it is today. So, we'll see."


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