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posted: 1/27/2010 12:01 AM

In 50-year career, he put Van Driel's on the map

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  • Irmi and Max Ullrich in a 2006 photo when they decided to close Van Driel's after 50 years.

      Irmi and Max Ullrich in a 2006 photo when they decided to close Van Driel's after 50 years.
    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

 
By Eileen O. Daday

His name never appeared on the storefront, but everyone in Mount Prospect knew Max Ullrich, who ran Van Driel's Medical Surgical supply store for decades.

What started as a job as a pharmacist at the corner drugstore turned into a niche business for Mr. Ullrich, that drew customers from throughout the Northwest suburbs.

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In all, Mr. Ullrich spent 50 years at the store, located at the corner of Emerson Street and Northwest Highway in downtown Mount Prospect, including 38 as owner. He died Sunday at the age of 80.

When he retired in 2006 and closed the store, the Village of Mount Prospect gave him and his wife, Irmi, the "Best Business Partner" award at their Shining Star Awards banquet.

"It was a family business that was always very warm and friendly," says Jim Uszler of the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce, "and supportive of things going on in the community."

When Mr. Ullrich began working for Van Driel's Drugs in 1958, the shop featured a soda fountain, cosmetics and greeting cards, as well as filling prescriptions for area families.

After the owner retired in 1970, Mr. Ullrich looked to separate the store from other small independent pharmacies, moving it instead into the field of medical surgical supplies.

"At the time we went into home health care, in the 1970s, there was nothing else like it," says Irmi Ullrich. "Being a pharmacist by profession, he had the technical knowledge and the training to help people."

Customers came needing everything from wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and orthopedic braces to surgical dressings, oxygen equipment and even stethoscopes and other medical tools.

"For years, it was the only place you could go," says Mr. Ullrich's daughter, Claudia Boyle. "The store was known for carrying everything."

Family members described how Mr. Ullrich made house calls to help customers with their health care equipment.

They also pointed to his additional background as a certified orthotist, who could measure patients for corrective braces and other orthotic devices, giving him added knowledge in the home health care field.

When Mrs. Ullrich joined the store, she added a line of surgical stockings, and for more than 20 years, the store drew customers throughout the region for their extensive line of support hose.

The demand for fitted compression stockings continues, and Boyle now carries on the family business. Her Van Driel's Medical Support Wear located is six blocks east of her father's store on Northwest Highway in Mount Prospect.

Besides his wife and daughter, Mr. Ullrich is survived by his children Chris (Debbie) Ullrich, Andrea Ullrich and Alex (Vanessa) Ullrich (Vanessa); and seven grandchildren.

Visitation takes place from 4-9 p.m. Thursday at Friedrich's Funeral Home, 320 W. Central Road before a 1 p.m. funeral Mass Friday at St. Raymond de Penafort Church, 311 S. I-Oka St., both in Mount Prospect.

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