Beloved Rogers Park institution, Clark and Devon Hardware, marks century milestone

In this era of big box retail, it can be tough for a little mom-and-pop store to survive — and even thrive.

This is why Clark Devon Hardware in Rogers Park is celebrating a very special anniversary this year. 

"So right now we’re going into our 100th anniversary," said store President Xan Flink. "That is a long run."

Clark Devon Hardware has been sitting at the corner of, yes, Clark and Devon, for a century now. Its iconic hardware clock is a neighborhood landmark. The store sells everything from paint to fertilizer to sanding sponges, some 40,000 different items covering 12,000 square feet.

But it’s not just the stuff they sell that’s kept them in business for so long.

"We know many customers by name and many of my customers are friends of mine actually," said Dorin Bircu, who manages the store’s plumbing section and has worked there for 25 years. "We essentially are building doctors. And they know where to come when they’re in trouble."

Customers say it’s as much a community as a hardware store. 

"There’s always people here who can help you very nicely," said contractor Sidney Jones. "And if you don’t know how to do it, they can tell you how to do it."

The store's specialty is catering to property managers, engineers and maintenance workers, which is why they cut more than 10,000 keys a month and act as something of a key bank, storing master keys for thousands of Chicago buildings.

And because Clark Devon Hardware caters to property managers of some of Chicago’s oldest buildings, they carry stuff in the store you won’t find anywhere else. 

"It used to be gas lighting in the city. And a lot of these light fixtures are still attached to those gas fittings," said Austin VonderHeide, who manages the store’s lighting department. "That’s one reason we have whole drawers of gas fitting. They’re actually now electrical fittings, but our design is to fit the gas pipes."

For 99 years, the hardware store was owned by the Walchak family. In 2023, when the grandsons of the founder were ready to retire, there was no one ready to take it over.

So they did something unusual. 

The Walchak’s sold the business to the employees, which means everyone you see working there is also an owner. More than 40 owners, including President Xan Flink, who started as a cashier 16 years ago.

"For us as employee owners it’s job security, for sure. It’s a chance to build wealth," said Flink. "It’s a chance to decide the future of this business as we see it should go."