Eckart’s Hardware: Village’s oldest family business

Gazette Article by: Jane Lord
Appeared in the Gazette: Winter 1994

Eckart Hardware sign, c.1930s

Three generations of Eckarts have made nuts and bolts their business in the east Elm Street hardware store that bears their name. It is Winnetka’s oldest continuing retailer.

In 1881 founder Julius Frederick Eckart came to Chicago from Germany. Trained to do frescos, he launched a successful painting business. Before moving to Winnetka in 1910, he had decorated many homes and buildings, including the Board of Trade and McVickers Theatre. In 1915, recognizing the Village’s need for a hardware supplier, he opened a small store at 726 Elm, opposite its present location.

As Eckart Hardware prospered, its owner envisioned having his own building. In 1923 that dream became a reality with completion of the 3-story structure at 735 Elm. A third floor was added to the original plans to provide housing for local teachers; family members lived on the second floor.

The early store had wooden floors, glass-doored display cabinets, and ladders mounted on rollers that slid the entire length of the store.  The founder’s six children took turns working at the store. After Julius’s death, his son, William assumed the store’s management. At age 10 his grandson, William G. Eckart, Jr., was filling pint bottles with kerosene, linseed oil and turpentine from 50-gallon tanks. For 41 years the store has been his permanent job, coming under his management in 1972. Today he and his wife, Sharon, are the only Eckarts in the business.

One former Eckart employee, Julius Ulbricht, set a record few attain. He was hired in 1926 and stayed until he retired in 1981. He got to know most of the Village’s residents who depend on Eckart’s for their hardware needs.

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9 Responses to “Eckart’s Hardware: Village’s oldest family business”

  1. July 13, 2017 at 7:42 PM #

    My name is William Flood. My grandmother was the sister of Julius Eckert.
    Any family members who might be interested I will be glad to share any information I have.

    • March 4, 2019 at 9:04 PM #

      Hi William! My name is Sarah Eckart, I’m the granddaughter of William Eckart. It’s always exciting and interesting to fill in the family tree! I’d love to get to know who my ancestors were!

  2. June 1, 2019 at 6:04 PM #

    Do you know anything about Sharon Eckart, William’s wife?

    • June 17, 2019 at 9:13 PM #

      Unfortunately, no, we do not have any information on a Sharon Eckart. Sorry we couldn’t be of more help!

    • May 2, 2021 at 8:59 AM #

      I worked at Eckart’s from 1977 to 1985 and 1988 to closing in 1999.
      Sharon did the books and accounting and was a great kidder always holding her own. She, unfortunately passed away suddenly in 1999 right before the store closed, and is interred at the Winnetka Congregational Church.

    • September 16, 2023 at 9:03 PM #

      Her name was Sharon Ruth Hatten, from St. Joseph, MO. Have more info if interested.

  3. September 17, 2020 at 6:38 PM #

    I remember the store quite well. I ought to. My mother was Louise Victoria Eckart, one of Julis F Eckart’s seven kids. Today is long after this article was written. Bill’s wife Sharon has past on. Bill, my cousin, was still living when I last saw him a few years ago. Mark, Bill’s son by his first wife, was living in the Eckart Building. Bill has long retired from the hardware business. When I last visited the area, the store had become a coffee shop.

  4. June 8, 2021 at 10:28 AM #

    I previously wrote her about working at Eckart’s from 1977-1985 and 2988-1999. Julius Ulbricht was a wonderful, caring, gracious, friendly, helpful person who worked there with us. He told me that his mother asked him if working at the store would be a reliable and lasting job, and he worked there from , I think, 1928 to 1981. It was a blessing to be able to work around him. What a great guy.

  5. December 16, 2021 at 11:25 PM #

    My grandfather, Frederick Julius Eckart was one of the children. He moved to Minneapolis with his wife Ruth McNamara, to be with their only daughter, Mary Lee. Mary Lee married Thomas Wolff and I’m one of their 5 children. My gramps was a wonderful man

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