OLD TOWN — An independent hardware store now in Old Town won't get to celebrate its 40th anniversary as it prepares to close up shop this summer.
Kim Tipre moved her family-run Tipre Hardware store four blocks to 627 W. North Ave. two years ago after it had spent 37 years at 229 W. North near the center of Old Town. The move was prompted by a teardown development, and now lightning is striking again as the Father and Son Plaza strip mall where the store is located is being readied for a proposed 14-story, 365-unit high-rise.
It's hard times for independent hardware stores, and especially tough times for the Tipres the last few years. Tipre's husband, Joe, who ran the original store, died four years ago — fondly remembered by all those who knew him.
Then came the first new Old Town development and the move not two years ago.
"The landlord was so excited," Tipre said, recalling that he gushed, "We're a family business. You're a family business. We're excited to have you."
The parking lot they gained in the strip mall, however, didn't produce the expected increase in traffic.
"For us, we had to be there where people get off the train and walk past," Tipre said. "Even though there's no parking there, our numbers were much better" at the original location.
Joe Tipre, she said, had always insisted they couldn't go west of Sedgwick Street.
"You were right, Joe," she added.
They made the store work in the new location, however, but now the lease runs out in July with no chance to renew it. She found out about the development from news reports, the first almost a year ago.
"They never told us one word about it," she said. The last day could come before that, she said, declaring that the store would close "when we sell the last thing."
She briefly considered moving again, perhaps near the Home Depot at 1232 W. North, which doesn't carry Benjamin Moore Paints, which have always been Tipre's stock in trade. But Benjamin Moore designates strict boundaries for its vendors, and Tipre would have been hard-pressed to find a spot that wasn't already somebody's turf.
"I'm not interested in doing another paint line," Tipre said. "That's our bread and butter."
For all that, Tipre, who was born and raised in Old Town on Willow Avenue, was philosophical about the changes.
She doesn't begrudge the strip mall owner or developer, not with a reported $30 million sale price.
"He's not entitled to take advantage of what's happening on Clybourn?" Tipre said. "That's only fair."
She might return to her original design business, Finishing Touches, which coexisted for 20 years alongside the hardware store before Joe's death. She might just retire, Tipre said.
"LIfe's a river," she added. "So I've seen all of it, and what people think is Old Town, that's not what it looked like those many years ago, either."
The Old Town Triangle Historic District might offer some protections north of North Avenue, but Tipre said Old Town was altered by the shutting down of Ogden Avenue, just as it was altered before that with the influx of counterculture types in its '60s heyday, just as it's being altered with renewed development today.
"That's life," Tipre said. "It just changes."