SENECA — Ellis Ace Hardware is celebrating its 140th anniversary. Located at 255 S. Main St. in Seneca, the store is owned and operated by local entrepreneurs Davis and John Ellis and David’s son, Michael Ellis.
“This marks an exciting milestone for us,” said Michael. “We’re proud to be part of this community for 14 decades. It’s been our honor to help customers with their home maintenance needs, and we look forward to another 100 or more years of serving the residents of Seneca and surrounding communities.”
In 1872, Joel W. Ellis purchased stock in the local lumber business in the small community of Seneca to help a booming small town on the Illinois & Michigan Canal get their place on the map. Joel would never believe what his small dream had become for generations of his family 140 years later.
A few years after adding hardware and implements while leaving lumber behind, Joel’s hardware business really began to boom. Joel found himself the first postmaster in the small village of Seneca in the heart of the Midwest, just about an hour from the bustling city of Chicago.
Joel laid the ground work for a family business that would outlast wars, depression, recession, and the boom of the big-box stores. Joel believed in his customers, their projects, their families and his community.
As times changed and ownership of the store was passed down from generation to generation, the small business of Ellis Hardware changed as the world did. In 1953, Norbert Ellis, great-grandson of Joel died suddenly in the stock room of the hardware store, leaving his wife Frieda, a widow with two small children, the owner of a growing hardware store.
Frieda didn’t listen to the words of her friends and family; she buried her husband and opened the hardware store that very next Monday. Frieda knew her customers, knew her merchandise, and paved a customer service foundation that quality doesn’t cost — it pays.
She threw herself into the work not knowing a bolt from a screw, she learned quickly and began to help the business thrive. Frieda began joining community and business groups to give back to the community, a trait that carries on today at Ellis Hardware.
Frieda knew it was her job to keep the business afloat for her two growing sons to later have the opportunity to own. That opportunity came, and her two sons, John and David Ellis, came into the store and built the business even bigger.
Focused on customer service, willing to make changes as the market demanded, like the risk takers in the family before them, John and David built a new store, four times the size in the late 1970s when everyone told them they were crazy. John and David knew their customers wanted more.
Today, Ellis Hardware stands for service, commitment to their customers, and service to their community. Joining the community groups, hosting local contests, flying Santa in each Christmas for the communities children to give their Christmas lists to, and giving away hotdogs and soda to the community every Halloween when hosting a costume contest are just a few of the community involvements the Ellis family began.
Believing in community and believing in their business is what was the drive to always be willing to change and make the store bigger and better.
Now at 140 years old, Ellis Hardware is Illinois’ oldest family-owned hardware store employing five Ellis family members spanning the fourth and fifth generations.
Michael Ellis, David’s son, came straight to the business after college. He immediately joined the Seneca Business Association, serving on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, joining the Village Plan Commission and creating the Seneca Development Organization.
Ellis family members of the past laid the ground work for a philosophy of believing in and investing in their customers, their community, and their business.
The Ellis family has many plans for their 140th anniversary this summer, including special sales, customer appreciation days, and some other secret specials that will be announced soon.
You can visit the Ellis Ace Hardware Facebook page at facebook.com/ellisace and “Like” their page for all the latest information on the anniversary celebration.
Store hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The phone number is (815) 357-6144.
About Ace Hardware
For more than 85 years, Ace Hardware has been known as the helpful hardware store by both customers and communities. In 2010, Ace ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Home Improvement Stores for the fourth consecutive year,” according to J.D. Power and Associates.