Born and raised in Tinley Park, Wannemaker’s Home and Garden founder William Wannemaker (1926 – 2005), had a passion for family, business and hard work. After graduating from Thornton Community High School in Harvey IL, William enlisted in the Army Air Forces and trained to be a tail gunner for B-17 and B-29 bombers in World War II. After his military discharge he returned to the Chicago area and went to work alongside his father, also William, a well digger. William learned the importance of hard work and dedication while working for his father.
In 1947 William married his wife, Ruth Gee, and the couple initially resided in Tinley Park where they began a family. Soon after, William went to work for his father-in-law, Teddy Gee, at Gee Lumber and Hardware. In the early 1960’s William helped found the E.G. Home Center stores in Carol Stream and Downers Grove.
In 1967, William set out on his own and bought Tollgate Nursery, a smaller nursery and gift shop on Ogden Avenue in Downers Grove, which four years later would become Wannemaker’s Home and Garden. After purchasing Tollgate Nursery, William moved his family to Downers Grove to be closer to his new business. He understood the importance of engrossing himself in the community he would now rely on to help Wannemaker’s flourish. With the help of his two sons, Jim and Bob, they turned the business into a complete home center which included lumber, hardware, plumbing, paint, electrical products and gardening. Wannemaker’s quickly became a must stop shop in the Western Suburbs thanks to the family’s dedication to the community, its people, and excellent customer service.
Wannemaker’s has shifted landscapes over the years to adapt to ever changing trends in the industry. In the mid 90’s William, along with his son’s Jim and Bob, saw the need to switch gears and move away from mostly hardware lines. Today, you will no longer find lumber, hardware or paint supplies at Wannemaker’s as they have mostly shifted away from these products to focus on outdoor gardening, high end patio furniture and seasonal gifts and decor. It was Williams keen business instincts and knowledge of the industry that helped him develop and implement strong strategies vital to the success of the business he built.
Jim and Bob continued their father’s vision and dedication into the 21st century while picking his brain to understand the intricacies of retail. William instilled the importance of family in Jim and Bob and watched as they both built happy families in nearby Lisle while running the business. William was proud to hold the title Grandpa Bill as his 11 grand kids’ would come to know him. Jim and Bob continued to build on their father’s teachings and strengthen the brand and overall experience at Wannemaker’s.
In 2011, a 3rd generation of the Wannemaker family, Jim’s daughters and son, moved into the business to carry on the stores history and tradition of great selection and service. Kristen, Joe, Kelly, and Jennifer Wannemaker are extremely eager for the opportunity to learn the family business from their father and the seasoned staff. They are eager to apply their knowledge developed in school and the corporate world to strengthen the business built by the generations before them.