Gene M. Schneider, 88; local hardware store owner

Gene M. Schneider

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Gene M. Schneider, one of the last “Old School” owners of an independent hardware store, took pride and great personal care to meet the needs of his customers, who loyally returned to his Central West End business for just the right nut, bolt or tool. While other old-time hardware stores have been shuttered in recent years, Schneider’s venerated New Market Hardware was one of a few independent ones that kept the tradition alive.

Mr. Schneider, whose family had owned and operated the store since 1924, 10 years after its founding, died Saturday, Sept. 10 at his Ladue home. He was 88 and had been in declining health since he received a pacemaker three years ago, according to family members. He had retired from working at the store during that period.

Mr. Schneider’s mother Bess inherited New Market Hardware, which was named for its proximity to the farmers market that had been across the street at Laclede Avenue and Sarah Street, after her brother left St. Louis for Pittsburgh, where he went into the then thriving steel business.

Bess Schneider died in 1976, while working at her desk in the hardware store. Gene Schneider then took over full management of the family business.

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Mr. Schneider grew up in Clayton. He was a graduate of Washington University with a degree in mechanical engineering, and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

After the war, Mr. Schneider met Betty Jean Spasser at a party aboard the Admiral. They married in 1949. He joined New Market Hardware and marketed the store by calling on hospitals and schools and making lasting friendships with his loyal customer base. He took pride in finding exactly what each customer wanted.

Mr. Schneider’s son, Steven, continues the family tradition by running the store, which still opens at 7:30 each morning. It serves commercial and individual customers with old-fashioned “hands-on” attention to help find the right item amid the store’s rows of vintage shelves and filing cabinets.

Mr. Schneider’s wife, Betty Jean Spasser Schneider, died in 2007. Survivors include his son, Steven Schneider of St. Louis; and three daughters, Susan Schneider of Jerusalem, Linda Schneider of Portland, Ore., and Lisa Schneider of Albuquerque, N.M., and three grandchildren.

Funeral services were held last Wednesday at Berger Memorial Chapel, 4715 McPherson Avenue. Burial was at United Hebrew Cemetery.