by Mat Cohen
It’s rare for a father-son duo to go to the local elementary school dressed as Santa and an elf to wish kids a merry Christmas. But for Jeremy Melnick and his dad, Les, it was to give back to the community they’ve been part of since 1950. Jeremy’s grandfather opened his first Gordon’s Ace Hardware store franchise on the corner of State Street and Oak Street, neighboring Ogden Elementary School and expanded the number of their stores over time to include a highly frequented but tucked away store at 680 N. Lakeshore Drive.
“It’s how I got started in the first place,” Jeremy Melnick said. “It was a daily, weekly conversation around the dinner table.”
Melnick got his masters degree and left banking 21 years ago to partner with his dad in the family business.
“In the back of my mind I think it was always something I’d want to get into,” he said. “Twenty-one years later, here I am.”
Gordon’s Ace has eight locations, four scattered around downtown neighborhoods.
“We’ve been a part of it for so long,” Jeremy Melnick said. “There’s been an Ace store down here forever… you see generations of customers, which is always nice.”
Gordon’s Ace didn’t always have the coverage across the neighborhoods it has today.
“When we partnered with my dad we had a growth plan,” he said. “We opened our second store on Orleans in 2005. Eighteen months later we bought a four-store chain.
“We went from one to two, to six stores in a relatively short period of time from 2005 to 2007.”
The location in Streeterville, 680 N. Lake Shore Drive, has been nicknamed “the secret Ace” by its customers because there’s minimal signage.
The location, which has been in the neighbor- hood for 30 years, and owned by the Gordon’s for seven, is closing the end of December.
Store manager Bob Willis says he’s come to know many people throughout his 10 years as manager.
“They’re all sad to see us leaving,” he said. “It’s been the best part to help people and get to know people around the building and in the neighborhood.”
Despite being in the city, Gordon’s Ace stores create a local community, stocking such items as local barbecue sauce or humidity tools to suit high rises downtown.
The company gives back to the community everyday. Last year it raised $100,000 for Lurie Children’s Hospital.
They won’t rush into finding another Streeterville location, but with the right place and timing, they hope to be back in the neighborhood soon.