For just shy of 100 years, Oak Park residents have been going to Dressel’s Hardware, 1137 Chicago Ave., for their home improvement needs. The Oak Park staple has been in the hands of the Dressel family for three generations – but soon, the store will be operating under a different name.
Dressel’s Hardware has been sold to Olson’s Ace Hardware, an Ace franchise group owned by Daniel Olson which has locations in Franklin Park, Park Ridge and Waukegan. Following the end of the Dressel’s closeout sale, the shop will undergo renovation next month to convert it into an Olson’s Ace Hardware location.
While the floor plan will be rearranged and new product lines brought in, loyal Dressel’s customers will be pleased to know that some of the store’s family charm will remain. About five Dressel’s employees are staying on staff, including a member of the Dressel family.
“I’m very excited because I’m staying,” said Todd Dressel, who co-owned Dressel’s Hardware store with his brother Bob, who plans to retire after spending a commendable 50 years in the family business.
The transition from co-owner to employee will be a welcome one for Dressel, who told Wednesday Journal he is not in the least bit sad to lose the responsibilities associated with owning a business. Such responsibilities include minimal time off.
“I’m looking forward to that change,” said Dressel.
The sale will preclude Dressel’s Hardware from achieving its 100-year milestone, but there will still be a centennial of sorts to celebrate. With Dressel staying on as an Ace employee, the Dressel family will have served the hardware needs of Oak Park for a total of 100 years – all spent in the same storefront.
Dressel has 40 years of experience working at his family’s hardware store, which his grandfather Charles A. Dressel opened in 1923. The store was expanded under his father, Raymond Dressel. One of his earliest jobs at the family hardware store was moving a pile of bricks out behind the shop during the expansion. Dressel was only six or seven years old.
“I made a penny a brick,” he recalled.
Raymond Dressel retired in the early 1980s and enjoyed about a decade of retirement before his death. Dressel and his two brothers took over the store following their father’s retirement. He and Bob Dressel have been the sole Dressel’s in charge since 2018. That is when their eldest brother Chuck died.
When a business has been in operation for as long as Dressel’s Hardware has, it is only natural that long-time customers become more like friends and employees more like family. In the days since the sale was announced, several loyal patrons and former employees have stopped in to say hello and reminisce about time spent there.
In a letter sent to customers announcing the sale and thanking them for their support, Dressel honored the many people who worked at Dressel’s Hardware during its 99 years in business. Ronald Rogers and Rob Zelton, who spent decades working at the hardware store, were mentioned by name, as were Charles Dressel, Raymond Dressel and Chuck Dressel.
While Olson did not respond to requests for comment, Dressel believes Olson will be able to honor the legacy of Dressel’s Hardware as Olson’s Ace Hardware is also a long-standing family business. Olson’s grandfather John Killinger opened the family’s first hardware store in 1948. Killinger then sold the business in 1970 to his daughter Joan and her husband Donald Olson, Olson’s parents.
Olson’s Ace Hardware will celebrate 75 years in business next year. Its status as a long-running family business sweetened the sale for Dressel and his brother.
“When you’re in business that long, you build up a lot of trust with your clientele,” said Dressel.
As an employee, Dressel intends to help Olson win the trust of Oak Park shoppers. In the meantime, he and his brother are focused on making the transition smooth for not just Olson, but for their customers too.
“We definitely cherish them,” said Dressel. “We have gained a lot of friendship through this business.”