ROGERS PARK — Clark-Devon Hardware got some unexpected praise from a national publication this month.
In September's issue of Popular Mechanics, celebrity chef and TV personality Ted Allen dubbed the hardware emporium a quintessential "Great American Hardware Store."
Owner Ken Walchak said Monday he "had no idea" Allen planned to write about the store his father opened in 1924.
"Somebody, I'm assuming a customer, must have ... just sort of left [the magazine] open on my desk here at the store," he said, recalling when he first learned of it.
Ben Woodard says the owners hope one of Allen's notes was tongue-in-cheek:
Allen, well known for his cookbooks and appearances on Bravo's "Queer Eye" and the Food Network's "Chopped," wrote about his "favorite" hardware store, which he visited while living in Chicago in the late '90s and early oughts.
Now a resident of New York, Allen wrote that Clark-Devon "had (and probably still has) everything, meaning you almost never needed to drive out to a big-box airplane hangar."
In the column — which expressed appreciation for all of the independent hardware stores of America — he recalled that the stereotypical "Mean Hardware Guy" could be easily found behind a counter or down an aisle at Clark-Devon.
He was, and inevitably still is, brusque, wearily but quickly turning from one weekend bumbler to the next, almost seeming to enjoy the cluelessness of the questions, always setting things right with the answers. He saw me through the renovations of two turn-of-the-century heckholes, generally opening the dialogue with, "What are you trying to do?"
Walchak said the gruff description of Clark-Devon's customer service was met with varied opinions among family and store employees.
"Some of us thought, 'Hey, that’s not how we want to be known!' And others of us felt, 'Well, it’s sort of this persona that gets passed down — and is the popular mythology of the Mean Hardware Guy," he said. "I hope that everyone took it tongue-in-cheek."
One thing's for sure, Walchak said, the people of Clark-Devon don't want to be referred to as a "a bunch of you know whats."
Walchak also admitted he had no idea who Ted Allen was, and couldn't recall if he'd ever seen him in the store.
"I feel like the guy that just crawled out of a big cave somewhere," he added.
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