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Hardware, Grocery Stores Preceded Mexico Restaurant in Downtown Des Plaines

Mexico Restaurant has become a fixture of downtown, and its heavily-remodeled home held several important businesses before it.

One of Des Plaines' oldest mexican restaurants is housed in a building with a long past of its own.

Mexico Restaurant has quietly been one of the longest lasting eateries in downtown Des Plaines. Its first location on Ellinwood Street was demolished in the mid 1980s for an ill-fated redevelopment scheme which would not materialize for another 15 years, ultimately taking the form of Library Plaza.

In the meantime, Mexico Restaurant became one of the few tenants to thrive in the ill-fated Des Plaines Mall, and one of even fewer to survive the mall's demise. In 1998, the restaurant moved to 694 Lee Street.

For 77 years prior, the space at 694 Lee was one of downtown's oldest retail businesses.

When Ace Hardware closed, generations of Des Plaines residents remembered it for its creaky wood floors and extensive stock of new and old hardware. While the also-departed Kinder Hardware was in business longer and also served hardware needs, it catered to industrial clients, while Ace was oriented to consumers.

The Des Plaines Ace Hardware was first opened by Anthony Paroubek in 1920, and was originally called the Des Plaines Mercantile Company, specializing in seed for area farmers. In 1930, the Des Plaines Mercantile Company became the 13th member of the Ace Hardware co-op, and by the time it closed, it was one of the very oldest Ace Hardware stores still in business.

Paroubek sold the business to longtime employee Bob Dwiel in 1960, and Dwiel's sons Greg and Mark took over the business in its last years.

Before hardware, the building was home to a grocery store, Koenig's Suburban Tea and Coffee Company. It appears that it was built in the first half of the 1910's.

The appearance of the building has changed drastically over the years. The original building was a single storefront with an apartment above, featuring a recessed loggia, or upper-story porch. Later, the loggia was enclosed, and the store was expanded to double the original width, and the store entrance was relocated.

The brick was painted white in the 1940s, and the facade was completely remodeled in the 1960s to its now-dreary combination of aggregate stone and weathered shingle. The original Italianate craftsman detailing of the building is now totally obscured.

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Related: Check out all the Des Plaines Yesterday and Today columns. The last one was about an historic Lustron home that was sold recently in Des Plaines.

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