Lakeview’s Tenenbaum True Value Hardware store closing after 98 years, to be replaced by apartments

After nearly a century of personalized service to its Lakeview neighbors, including emergency deliveries to Wrigley Field, Tenenbaum True Value Hardware is preparing to shut down and sell its Belmont Avenue store.

The 98-year-old business is closed until Thursday, when it will begin the approximate two-month process to sell off its inventory. The building, known for the “big red T” sign that towers over the store, will be demolished and replaced by apartments, according to siblings and third-generation store owners Steve and Pam Lipshutz.

It will be the end of an era for North Side residents who looked to the family for materials and advice on home projects.

“It’s bittersweet because we provided something to the neighborhood,” Steve Lipshutz said. “The people have become friends.”

“And family,” Pam added. “We’ve had customers pass away, and it’s like losing family.”

Tenenbaum True Value Hardware was opened in 1923 by Herman Tenenbaum, and his son-in-law Morrie Lipshutz became in involved in the business in 1955.

His kids grew up working in the store and learning about renovation projects from Morrie’s home-flipping business, Steve Lipshutz said. Their hands-on experience has been shared with customers in the decades since, providing a personalized touch that can’t be found in big-box stores, he said.

Over the years, there also have been four dogs to roam the store and greet customers, including the current one, a Cavachon named Bentley.

Morrie Lipshutz died in 2019, and his other son Hal — a lawyer who did legal work for the store — died in January.

In his last years, Morrie encouraged his children to sell the business. “He felt we spent way too much time here and that we weren’t able to have a life outside the store,” Steve said.

“He didn’t realize how much work he put in until it until he saw us doing it,” Pam said.

Pam, 59, and Steve, 62, each plan to visit Europe for the first time, as they figure out what comes next.

After Morrie Lipshutz’s death, his children were inundated with offers from developers to buy the property, the siblings said.

They have a deal to sell the single-story building at 1138 W. Belmont Ave. to Chicago developer SNS Realty Group. They declined to say how much they’ll receive in the sale, which is contingent on SNS securing zoning approval for its plan to erect a five-story apartment building with retail on the site.

The proposal is scheduled for a vote before the City Council’s zoning committee June 22. If it’s approved by the committee, it would move to the full City Council for review.

SNS Realty Group hopes to demolish the hardware store and begin construction by late this year, managing member Michael Schwartz said. It will take about a year to build, he said.

The proposal is for 33 apartments, one ground-floor retail space, 16 parking spaces and 28 bicycle parking stalls, according to documents filed with the city. The project qualifies for zoning as a transit-oriented development, which has lower parking requirements, since it’s near the Belmont CTA train station that serves Red, Brown and Purple Line trains.

On Tuesday, the siblings became teary-eyed discussing the upcoming store closing as they recounted some of the unusual orders they filled.

Under previous team owners, the Chicago Cubs were longtime customers, ordering everything from rope and clips — used for raising the flags, including the iconic “W” that flies after Cubs wins — to cleaning supplies.

In 2004, falling concrete chunks at the ballpark raised major safety concerns. Tenenbaum quickly tracked down and delivered 10,000 nylon ties to hold up protective netting above the stands, Steve Lipshutz said.

Another time, when Cubs slugger Andre Dawson’s foul ball shattered protective glass used to shield WGN cameras, Steve Lipshutz brought a replacement to the historic ballpark before the next day’s game. He was invited to stay, rubbing elbows with Cubs players in the dugout as they took batting practice.

As Tenenbaum prepares to close, the fate of the iconic sign is undecided.

“If somebody wants to make an offer, we’d hate to see it go down with the building,” Steve Lipshutz said. “Everyone knows the big red T.”

Twitter @Ryan_Ori