The Crusader Newspaper Group


By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader

The hacksaws, tape measures and lamps are all on sale. Some shelves are empty. Everything, including boxes of Christmas lights, must go. However, the mural that was once the backdrop for performances by Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong will stay.

After 95 years in business, Meyers Ace Hardware—a community institution that served Bronzeville through the Great Migration and the Jim Crow era—is closing its doors.

Changing times, stiff competition and years of declining sales doomed a family business that stayed in the community as Blacks moved in and whites fled to the city’s North Side.   Previously the home of the historic jazz club, Sunset Café, the building’s future became uncertain after it was sold to an undisclosed buyer earlier this month.

The store will close at the end of February.

It’s the latest business to fall in Bronzeville—a historic Black neighborhood where gentrification remains a growing concern among residents and community leaders.

News of the store closing stunned residents and loyal customers; many have known owner David Meyers for years. Located at 315 E. 35th Street, the store has built a reputation as a community institution, remaining in the neighborhood despite experiencing hard times.

One regular customer, Frank Moss, 67, said he found out about the store’s closing three weeks ago after he saw the signs on the windows.

“It was such a shock,” he said. “I grew up around here and to see it go is sad.”

Moss was one of the few customers shopping at the store on Feb. 14 when a Crusader reporter visited the business.

Meyers said the store has been losing money in the last five years. He said he put the store up for sale six months ago after making the difficult decision to close the doors.

“It’s been very hard,” said Meyers. “I feel very bad. We’ve been here for a very long time.”

Once a popular neighborhood store, Meyers Ace Hardware began struggling when Big Box stores opened up in Chicago. A Home Depot in the West Loop is less than six miles away. Meyers said Walmart and Target also lured customers away from his business.

There was a different business climate when Meyers Ace Hardware started in 1921 as a family hardware business. Back then, Meyers Ace Hardware store operated at a different location. They moved to the current site on 35th Street in 1962 when Meyers’ father bought the building from Louis Armstrong’s manager, Joe Glaser. In 1967, the family business took on the Ace Hardware name.

The building still contains remnants from its days as the legendary Sunset Café Jazz Club, which later became the Grand Terrace Jazz Club. A colorful mural remains on the wall in the manager’s office. It was once the back wall of the stage of where jazz artists performed during shows hosted by Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. Jazz great, Cab Calloway, got his professional start onstage under Louis Armstrong at the Sunset Café.

Meyers still has an old, large placard announcing a show with American jazz composer Sun Ra at the Grand Terrace.

The building’s storied history and murals continue to attract visitors from other Chicago neighborhoods and other states.

In 1998, the building was named a Chicago landmark, but the designation doesn’t cover the interior or the murals in Meyers’ office.

With the building’s future uncertain, residents are planning a special farewell ceremony on March 17 with jazz guitarist George Freeman.

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