The History of Schultz & Odhner's Dry Cleaners in Wilmette
The Story of Schultz & Odhner's Cleaners
In 1901 Schultz Tailoring and Dry Cleaners was started with money earned mining gold in Alaska. It was located at 1152 Central Avenue in Wilmette. Originally the dry cleaning process was done at a building across the street, where Chase Bank is now located. Once cleaned, the clothes were brought to the plant for pressing. This main plant then housed about 5-6 tailors. Schultz Tailoring and Dry Cleaners was one of the first dry cleaners on the North Shore. During the depression, they also operated Black & White Cleaners, a lower cost alternative. Later the Schultz family joined into partnership for a short while with Emil Nord. Many of you may still remember Schultz and Nord.
Meanwhile in Hubbard Woods in the early 1900’s, Mr. Odh wanted to start his own business enterprise, but had to distinguish it from Odh Furniture Store, operated by his brother. The new business was called Odhner’s Tailor and Cleaners. Mr. Odh was the original tailor. Shortly after opening, Mr. Odh was killed by a train. Mrs. Odh sold the business to Bob Klauke and Fred Glover, both of Hubbard Woods. Bob Klauke’s nephew, Fred Golden began working in the store between semesters of high school in 1946.
Fred Golden worked for his uncle at Odhner’s Cleaners for almost 10 years. He was exposed to every aspect of the dry cleaning business. At this time they used carbon tetrachloride to clean clothes. He had one route, for home pickup and delivery.
Fred met the love of his life, Helen Kivland who was born and raised in Wilmette, and they were married in 1951. After joining the Air National Guard, he was later activated into the Air Force, during the Korean War. Business plans would be placed on hold while he and his new family moved to another state to serve his country.
Upon his return from service he needed a way to support his now growing family. He was interested in owning his own dry cleaning business, but funding was an issue. His Dad, helped him make the down payment on Northwood Cleaners by taking out a mortgage. Northwood Cleaners, was originally located in Winnetka later, it was moved to Green Bay and Isabella Rd. in Wilmette. It was originally owned by Mr. Northscott and Mr. Kingswood, hence Northwood.
After owning and running his own store, the pressure had taken the best of Fred and he developed a perforated ulcer. Meanwhile, his cousin’s husband, Roger Windey who had been running the Odhner’s store, agreed to help Fred out while he was in the hospital. He kept Northwood open and ran it till Fred was able to come back to work.
In 1963 a wonderful location became available in Northfield, in the Jules Marling building, in between National Grocery store and Scully’s restaurant. Today Peachtree Place has theirbusiness there. Fred invited Roger to join businesses, thus merging the 2 stores. The new cleaners was called Odhner’s Northwood.
Three years after Odhner’s Northwood merged, Golden bought Windey out, and it became a one family business. Fred’s family had grown to 5 kids by this time and at one time or another you might have found 1, 2, or 3 family members working there. Christy worked there first, after school. She waited on customers and worked on the production line. Danny helped to keep the store clean. Cathy soon followed in her sisters shoes, but she had the added ability to sew. She is currently the shop's seamstress today, several years later. While Colleen was there, the route driver at that time had quit. Lucky for Fred, Colleen was old enough to drive and she offered to do the route during her summer break. When Dennis finished high school, he took over the route and is currently doing that today. Dennis learned how to dry clean from Fred and was later sent to Illinos Fabricare Institute, in Washington D.C. with Cathy to learn the drycleaning business. Fred’s Aunt Maggie was the seamstress back then. Though Helen never worked the store, she helped out by doing the monthly statements. In those days the store would close for one week a year while the kids painted the speed rails and the folks cleaned the plant.
A drycleaner who owned a Martenizing pick-up store, across from what is now- the Winnetka Laundry building, approached Fred with an offer he could not refuse. The Martenizing cleaners wanted to get out of the business and offered the store and everything in it to Fred, for free. So he took it over as a drop store. Helen began making the pickup between the stores in the morning. She delivered the cleaning that was brought into the Winnetka store to the Northfield plant for processing. Fred would clean it and have it pressed and deliver it back later that day.
In 1974 Fred bought Schultz Cleaners in Wilmette, thus coming full circle to Schultz and Odhner’s. He moved the plant to Wilmette, and kept a drop off location in Northfield and Winnetka. Ten years later Colleen’s husband Cory joined the family business. At about the same time a drop off store was added in Evanston. Cory and Dennis began their partnership in Schultz and Odhner’s when Fred retired in 1989. They consolidated all the stores into one and currently own and operate the plant in Wilmette with pick-up and delivery service to the North Shore.
Since Fred moved on, his family values have lingered at Schultz and Odhner’s. Dennis and Cory are joined by several family members. Dennis’ Aunt Dolly worked for Fred early on at Northwood cleaners and came back to work at Cathy’s request after the merger. Cathy is currently the seamstress. Cory’s kids, Brandon, Ryan and Emily all worked throughout their high school years after school. You may have seen all of them help out on the route from time to time during the summers. Cathy’s son Billy worked there up until going on to trade school. You can find Cathy’s youngest, Maggie there most days now. Dennis’ wife Maryann helps out with decorating the storefront, doing monthly statements, and organizing the Wedding Expo that we have participated in for the past 3 years. Cory’s wife Colleen helps out in the store as needed. She has been pleased to see familiar faces of many of the customers that were there when she worked the counter as a high school girl herself. Countless other family members have worked here thru the years. Today, our store couldn’t run without the dedication of Elizabeth, Elfega, Maria, Emmy, and Rachel. Though not blood related, we consider them part of our Schultz and Odhner’s family.
Cory and Dennis have seen many changes to the business since they have partnered, the biggest one being computerization. We were among the first cleaners on the North Shore to utilize computers to invoice, tag and print out monthly statements. We have upgraded our counter computer system several times since Fred left. We can now check the clothes in using our computer, rack them, and retrieve data as needed. Our billing is also done with this sole computer. Our dry cleaning machine is also computerized. It is a closed dry-to-dry system that is designed to clean clothes, leaving them fresh and odor free. Our goal is to return your clothes better than new. We will do any minor repairs needed so that you can wear your clothes immediately. We can handle anything from everyday casual wear to specialty designer and formal wear. Bridal shops on the North Shore know that we are experts in the field of bridal gown cleaning and preservation. Many of our dedicated customers who have relocated to other states still send us their special clothes, which we process and ship back to them.
Today, Dennis manages our delivery routes. Many of the customers enjoy the freedom of home pick and delivery. He also has managed plant maintenance. You can find Cory at the counter greeting our customers with a smile and a friendly hello. He’ll answer any of your dry cleaning questions.
Come help us celebrate our 110th year in business! From 1901 to 2011, many lives have been touched, and many opportunities found. We have been lucky to have had such wonderful employees through the years who have helped maintain our quality. Many people helped our Dad along the way by believing in his dream, and helping to make it a reality for our family. We owe a debt of gratitude to our steadfast customers-- without them we wouldn’t be who we are.
It is with grateful hearts that we have collected, cleaned, and distributed coats, blankets, hats, scarves, and most recently shoes to the needy these past few years. We have been able to help clothe over 500 people in the Chicago area.
Finally, “No word of ours could have built up this volume of business, no advertisement, no sales talk: only the convincing testimony of our workmanship itself is responsible.”