Today Laura and Sara are joined by Cornel “Junior” Ladan, owner of Cas Hardware located at 5305 N Clark. Cas Hardware and Junior have been a neighborhood institution since 1978 and they will finally close their doors this Saturday, February 15 after 41 years. We hope you enjoy this interview with Junior, Sara and Laura, on-location at Cas Hardware and will join us in saying goodbye this Friday, February 14 at 3pm.
Listen to Episode 97 with Cornel “Junior” Ladan!
- Cas Hardware and Junior are an icon of Andersonville. In 41 years of business, Junior has never missed a day of work. In 1970, Junior emigrated to the States from Yugoslavia. In 1978 he became the owner of Cas Hardware, purchasing the business from a friend. The beginning was hard, and Junior shares that he remembers his young daughter helping in the store after school, cutting keys. For a few months, his wife worked elsewhere, but then came to the business and has been there ever since.
- Junior shares that Andersonville was a lot different back then. The street was different, and not as busy. Slowly, everything began to change for the better. The Alderman Marion Volini used to stop by with her son Mike, and they would make keys and bring in their lamps. After that, the streets and sidewalks were improved. And now, it’s a good place to live and shop. Cas only recently began repairing lamps, about 5 years ago. He first started repairing them for free here and there, but people shared his service with their friends and began bringing in more and more business, including antique lamps. Junior has a relationship with stores all around the city, and in Andersonville has worked with Brownstone Antiques, Andersonville Antiques, and Scout, repairing and restoring antique lamps. He even has businesses from Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana who bring their lamps to Junior. Even after Cas closes, Junior will continue to fix lamps. He’ll keep the same telephone number and you can call to make an appointment.
- So many of us have had keys made at Cas. At a certain point, Junior started counting how many Cas made per month, and sometimes they would make 1,000 to 1,300 per month. Laura asks if Junior knows where everything is now? In the beginning, he didn’t know where everything was. Junior shares some history about Cas, it was originally opened by a man named Casmir in 1954 at the corner of Halsted and Cornelia. He then bought their current building in 1973. When Junior closed the deal with Casmir, Casmir said he’d stay around to help Junior learn about the business, but when he handed over the keys, Casmir left for Alabama. 40 years later, Casmir rented an apartment in the neighborhood and actually worked 2-3 days a week for Junior.
- When thinking of memories, Junior shares that just likes to fix things. Anything electric, like vacuum cleaners, clocks. Even if he doesn’t know how to fix something right away, he will try. Prior to Cas, Junior worked as a janitor and with plumbing and electrical and learned a lot.
- We ask if there is an Andersonville business that Junior misses the most? He shares that he misses the older people who have passed away. Junior fondly recalls meeting up with friends on a daily basis; George the Beer Man, a Hungarian friend, and a few others at Clark and Berwyn. Junior was the “Mayor of Berwyn,” and gave names to his friends as well. Everyone shared stories, mostly about food – goulash, paprikash, and food their mothers made. One friend, Ben, came everyday. And now, Ben’s son visits Cas Hardware. Junior knows all the businesses and is friends with so many.
- Part of the reason Cas Hardware is closing is that Junior and his wife need to help take care of his mother-in-law, 91 years old. He can’t run the business, respond to customers in the way that he would like, and take care of her.
- We can’t imagine an Andersonville without Cas Hardware. From the Chamber of Commerce and everyone we represent, we will miss Cas Hardware, and thank you for serving this neighborhood. Cas has kept our doors locked and lights on, literally, for 41 years.
- “Thank you for everything, the people that are there for me, the Chamber, the Alderman, and everyone who has come to help when we needed something. I’m going to miss the people from this neighborhood. But I’m going to visit them, I promise that. I’m not going to Florida or Arizona, I’ll stay around here.”
- In parting ways, Junior shares that everything he worked for allowed him to put his kids through high school and college. Coming from a childhood that included persecution and hardship under communism, Junior’s father came to the States in 1966 in search of a better life for his family. On January 10, 1970, Junior, his wife, and their 19 month old daughter took a train to Vienna. In April of that same year, they arrived in Chicago. That was the beginning. He scrubbed floors at 500 N Michigan Ave for 6 months, became a janitor, and saved money. “Thank you for the interview, I wish everybody good luck and to be well. So, thank you.”