Briefly from Around the State

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Naperville Marketing History

When perusing the Holland Business Directory of 1886, the first of its kind in Naperville, you are immediately impressed with how genteel the advertisements are.

Certainly humans have been advertising since probably forever. Caterwauling peddlers are part of our history and are still present today in certain bazaars and marketplaces.

Of course now the caterwauling doesn’t stay in the marketplace. Advertisements show up in our mailboxes, on our televisions, along our highways and on the phone in our pockets.

Modern marketing isn’t actually all that old. Mass manufacturing in the late 1800’s and relative prosperity in the early 1900’s was the impetus for the swell in merchant advertising.

Today’s business owner might want to keep in mind comments about marketing made in 1926 by President Calvin Coolidge:

“Advertising ministers to the spiritual side of trade. It is a great power that has been entrusted to your keeping which charges you with the high responsibility of inspiring and ennobling the commercial world. It is all part of the greater work of regeneration and redemption of mankind.”

Now that’s a refreshing spin on marketing we should all get behind!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Businesses that Reach across the Decades

 While we in Naperville enjoy our reputation as active members of the Illinois Technology and Research Corridor, we also love our history. So it’s no surprise that our business community reflects the same innovation and traditional ties.

Historically, woodworkers who normally crafted furniture and cabinetry also made coffins when the need arose. Serving as the community’s undertaker became a logical second profession.

In the early twentieth century, undertakers could be counted on to have a vehicle long enough to transport a body on a stretcher, so their hearses often pulled double duty as the city’s ambulance service as well.

Oliver and Arthur Beidelman were brothers who worked for their uncle Fred Long and Long’s partner Peter Kroehler at their furniture and under-taking business on Washington and Jackson.

At one point a chapel was added to the building specifically for funeral services. The Fitness Experts are currently in the chapel’s ground floor.

Oliver’s  son took over the funeral parlor operations with partner John Kunsch and his granddaughter continues to run the family furniture business.

Charles Friedrich was another such furniture maker and undertaker who had a shop on Jefferson Street. In the 1930’s he moved his business to Henry Durrand’s expansive home on Mill Street. Friedrich’s son Ben continued operating the funeral home after his father died and eventually hired an assistant in 1967 named Ray Jones.

After Ben Friedrich’s passed, Jones purchased the business, adding his name to Friedrich’s and keeping the beautiful Mill Street house. Son Dave and daughter Stephanie are now part of the Friedrich-Jones team. Ray Jones was honored by the Naperville Chamber with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 .

The funeral director profession certainly has changed over the years, but service to our community obviously has not!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When Naperville Had "Service Stations"

Some of us still remember a time before “self-service” gas stations. You would pull up to the pump and roll down your window to tell the uniformed man how much gas you wanted.

He’d ask you to pop the hood and while the tank was filling, he’d squeegee your windows and check your oil.

You would then hand him a few dollars through the window and be on your way, without ever leaving your car.

America has long been in love with their cars and Naperville was no different.

Downtown used to be full of service stations. In the 1940’s, two of them, Ernie’s Phillips 66 and Nelson’s Pure Oil, were situated across the street from each other on the corner of Washington and Van Buren.

Both service stations were long-time fixtures in town. When Ernie retired, he sold his Phillips 66 station to one of his employees. Buzz Nelson took over Lee’s Pure Oil following his father’s death.

In the 1947 telephone directory, Ernie’s and Lee’s have lots of competition in the “Automobile” section. And  check out the phone numbers:  Ernie’s phone number has only four digits and Nelson’s
has only three!

Lee Nelson’s service station is immortalized along with other favorite Naperville transportation memories in the mural painted on the Washington Street side of The Lantern restaurant. The mural is called “A City in Transit” and features trains and planes as well as automobiles. Look carefully the next time you walk by and see if you can find the sign for Lee Nelson’s Service Station.

your oil.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Naperville’s All Zip-a-dee-do-dah in 1947

The Disney song was number two on the charts during 1947, emphasizing the buoyant mood of Naperville’s residents and Americans in general.

With World War II over, the soldiers were home, ready to jump back into their lives by going to school, getting jobs, finding spouses and settling down to raise babies.

Certainly there were bumps on the road. Housing was in short supply for all these  new young families. The Chicago Tribune regularly posted a list of suburban building permits which showed a huge increase in estimated value over the previous year as builders tried to keep up.

North Central College stopped accepting student enrollment when they reached capacity in June, with 175 students still on their waiting list.

New beginnings was a world-wide theme. Princess Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh. India celebrated its independence and the United Nations moved Israel one step closer. Thor Heyerdahl finished his grand Kon-Tiki voyage and some weird reports were coming out of Roswell, New Mexico.

In Naperville, Mayor James Nichols was serving his fourth term in city hall. Mrs. Annie Merner Pfeiffer made the final donation from her family that included Pfeiffer and Kaufman Hall and Merner Fieldhouse, donations valued at $17 million in today’s money.

After years of “doing without” during the War, people were eager to go, do and spend!

Cars were huge and glamorous — when you could buy one. It took a while for manufacturing to catch up to the demand. Old-timers recall buying a new car sight-unseen after getting word that a local dealer was able to snag one from the manufacturer and hide it in a neighborhood garage.

The Naperville telephone book for 1947 had seven full pages of auto dealers, repair shops and service stations, more than any other trade.

All over America in 1947, people were humming “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” and Naperville was humming right along.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Naperville Business Circa 1886

The business community of Naperville published its first directory in 1886, decades before forming the Naperville Association of Commerce, our Chamber’s first incarnation.

The Holland Publishing Company created these directories for many area cities in Illinois and Wisconsin, financed by advertisements purchased by local businesses.

Those ads are marvelous bits of history, noting who owned what as well as where businesses were located,. They also showcase what everyday people bought, where they shopped and the jobs they held, giving us a window into a world that disappeared more than a century ago. 
The Directory “respectfully suggests” that our town consider numbering lots in a “systematic plan,” which apparently hadn't happened yet.

But Holland also praises Naperville as having “a valuable location, shipping facilities, social, religious and scholastic advantages of high merit and a full complement of liberal business men...not surpassed and but seldom equalled, in any other village of only three thousand inhabitants.”

Last year our Chamber of Commerce celebrated its first century and Naperville can still be said to be unsurpassed and seldom equaled. We are fortunate to have the advantages and opportunities found in our community.

We look forward to business growth in new year and the next hundred years! Excelsior! Ever upward!