$26,000 property tax bill forces iconic Bronzeville hardware store's closure
A longtime Bronzeville staple went out much the way it came in: to the smooth sounds of jazz music.
Meyers Ace Hardware has been in that Chicago neighborhood in one form or another for 95 years and through three generations of owners. It rose to fame in the 1950s as a jazz club known as the Grand Terrace, but for years has been supplying hardware items to loyal customers.
Owner David Meyers said property taxes and competition from bigger stores and online outfits made it impossible to make money, and he closed the store in March.
Meyers was feted with a party put on by the neighborhood that featured jazz musician George Freeman.
Meyers said he could no longer manage property taxes on the store, which have increased to $26,000, a much higher spike than average.
“It’s very hard to run a business and pay the property tax," he told the Chicago City Wire.
His options limited, Meyers said he would have had to increase prices to pay the taxes, but he already struggles to keep competitive with Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Amazon, which can offer lower prices and would be undaunted by increased property taxes.
His family-owned business did not have that kind of cushion in its profit margin.
“I have pressure to pay the bills, and everything is going up,” he said.
Meyers, a third-generation owner of Meyers Ace Hardware, has a degree in marketing and understands merchandising, and up until this year, business has been solid. But a nearby housing project, also faced with higher property taxes, recently closed, meaning he lost business as well as employees.
“All my staff is African-American, and together we supported the community,” he said.
Meyers said during frequent riots in Chicago in 1968, many protesters vandalized businesses around the area, breaking windows, spray-painting exteriors and lighting storefronts on fire. Yet someone had written on the front of his store: “Soul brother, do not touch.” The hardware shop went untouched.
That message was a testament to how close his store and the neighborhood were, he said.
“I am 62 years old and have never had another job,” he said. “All I wanted to do in my life was work at this hardware store.”
Meyer’s grandfather purchased the store in 1921, Meyers’s father took it over later, and David Meyers got it after him – the last of a tradition.