Pilsen Fixture Alvarez Hardware plans to keep the old-fashioned business in the family | Latin Voice | Chicago News


Over the past decades almost everything in Pilsen has been affected by change. But in those days, the face behind the counter at Alvarez Hardware has always been the same.

“I say to my grandson, you know you have to be part of the community, they have to know who you are. You have to treat everyone with respect,” said owner Rodolfo Alvarez. “Serving people is my passion. I like to be with people, to talk to people and to serve people.

Julian Alvarez says for as long as he can remember, his grandfather has been a pillar of the community.

“If you walk around Pilsen and [people] see it, people will be like, ‘Hey Mr. Alvarez!’ You know, they’ll salute him,” Julian said.

Rodolfo Alvarez’s packed 18th Street store has been the place to go for Pilsners looking for a new shovel or pipe fitting since he bought the business from his beau. father in the 1980s.

“I didn’t know anything about the hardware business,” Rodolfo recalls. “My father-in-law offered the business to several of his clients. I was the last resort.

Rodolfo said he was finally sold on the opportunity to own his own business, but at the start of running the shop the finances were a bit shaky.

“I used to run to vendors four or five times a day because I couldn’t buy, say, a box of elbows or nipples or whatever,” he said. “I used to buy five pieces at a time, six pieces here and there. And then when I come here, my wife tells me ‘they’re gone, come back! Here’s the money!’ It was a struggle, but it paid off.”

But in those early years, he says the community taught him what he needed from his local hardware store.

“I learned what to buy and sell to our people. Over time, you know, that changed, so now we sell a bit of different merchandise depending on the clientele and the schedules.

Today, Rodolfo Alvarez teaches his grandson Julian the softer side of the hardware industry and how to deliver the service that keeps customers coming back.

“We have clients who have left the neighborhood, they go to the suburbs, to the south, to the west, to the north,” Julian said. “They still come back because they know full well that we will take the time to explain things to them.

Julian remembers coming to the store as a teenager and taking his first steps in understanding the business.

“It’s my second home, you know, we don’t pay for child care. It was a daycare for me. So I grew up here,” he said. “Every Saturday morning we would get up early, pick up the merchandise and bring it in, mark it. I would ask questions like, what does it do? What’s the point ? Why do people come for this? And my grandfather, you know, he used to tell me.

Rodolfo said he was pleased with his grandson’s interest in taking over the business, as well as his affinity for customer service.

“I tell my grandson. There will always be a need for a hardware store in Pilsen, even though the big box stores are a monster and have a lot of stuff that we don’t have,” Rodolfo said. “The knowledge we have and knowing the needs of the community makes us unique.”

“I will definitely pick up the slack and keep it going. It’s like the legacy we have,” Julian said. “He’s proud of me right now too, you know? But yes, I will make him proud.


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