Breaking News Bar
updated: 12/28/2011 10:47 AM

Owners of 90-year-old Lake Forest store had vision

Success - Article sent! close
  • Ellen Stirling

    Ellen Stirling

  • Ellen Stirling

    Ellen Stirling

  • Exelon CEO John Rowe in his office, which includes several historical artifacts.

    Exelon CEO John Rowe in his office, which includes several historical artifacts.

  • Eugene McEnery

    Eugene McEnery

  • Michael Metz

    Michael Metz

  • John Venhuizen

    John Venhuizen

  • Jenny Wagner

    Jenny Wagner

  • Bill Mullins

    Bill Mullins

  • Frank Mesina

    Frank Mesina


Not many can say their uncle was Conde Nast, creator of Vogue magazine, and their aunt was Nancy Talbots, founder of Talbot's clothing stores.

Ellen Stirling of Lake Forest can, but she'd rather brag about other things, like The Lake Forest Shop that marks its 90th year in business in 2012.

Her grandmother, Margaret Baxter Foster, started The Lake Forest Sport Shop in 1922. She loved clothes so much, she decided to go into business. The grandmother actually took it a step further by featuring "sport clothes" for women, a revolutionary style in the 1920s, when most women only left the house wearing their best dresses.

That came at a time when 1920s and 1930s were considered "action packed decades." Even her uncle promoted glamour, beauty and a higher lifestyle, that defined the era. And her aunt carried on that tradition with her own string of stores.

After her grandmother died in 1965, Stirling's parents took over the business and expanded it to four stores, including one in Barrington and another in Hinsdale.

But by the mid-1980s, the parents sought to close the business due to financial concerns after tough economic times. That's when Stirling jumped in.

She and her husband, Jim, were living in England with their three daughters and decided to return home. She hated to see the stores close, so she took over as owner and buyer, seeking out new designers to pump new life into the business. While she promoted new designers, she eventually did close three stores but kept the original one on the North Shore.

She also decided to change the name, simply by dropping the word, "sport." As times changed, so did the meaning of "sport clothes, which eventually morphed into casual clothes.

"We were having people coming in and asking for sporting items," Stirling said. "I even remember one Christmas Eve this man wearing a black leather jack, someone who ordinarily wouldn't come into our store, asked where the bowling balls were. That's when I said OK, 'sport' is coming out of the name."

Now, Stirling is planning a banner year in 2012 to mark the store's 90th anniversary, aiming to host various events with a fashion-forward sense, she said.

"My grandmother was a visionary and we want to carry on that tradition," Stirling said.

A heart for history

Exelon Corp. CEO John Rowe, who is receiving an honorary doctorate from Dominican University on Jan. 14, has been a long time lover of history. Besides having some Egyptian artifacts in his office, he wears a wedding ring and cuff link coins, all with the image of the Greek goddess, Athena.

Cheers for new chairman

Eugene McEnery III, president of North Aurora-based Euclid Beverage LLC, was elected vice chairman of the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois for 2012. He also will serve another one-year term as director-at-large and chairman of the group's political affairs committee. Euclid distributes MillerCoors, Heineken, Crown Imports, Pabst and others.

Warm bus, warm heart

Naperville resident Tom Stanley donated the use of the bus from his company, Education to Equity, so kids could attend the Operation Polar Express, a holiday event for children battling life-threatening illnesses. The bus was driven by Naperville resident Carol Pradel.


Michael Metz joined Climate Pros of Glendale Heights as a HVAC/R service adviser. Before that, he worked at General Refrigeration for 15 years. ... North Aurora resident Benjamin Kirchhoff has been named financial center manager for Fifth Third Bank's Mount Prospect branch. He's also the chairman of the board of directors of The Kroehler YMCA. ... John Venhuizen, who has been with Oak Brook-based Ace Hardware Corp. since 1992, will become its chief operating officer on Jan. 1.

Dennis Kosko, a longtime vice president of property at Skokie-based The Missner Group, has retired and was replaced by Gina L. Galante. She recently joined the company after working as a consultant in the real estate industry. ... Jim Patrician will become CEO of Schaumburg-based Coordinated Benefits Co. LLC, an employee benefits advisory firm. He's a native of Arlington Heights and now lives in Algonquin with his wife and two children. ... Jenny Wagner left her position as branch manager of US Bank in West Dundee to join Crystal Lake Bank & Trust to focus on development of new business relationships for the bank. And Bill Mullins left Citibank to become vice president and senior retail banking officer at Crystal Lake Bank & Trust.

Naperville resident Frank Mesina is the new financial services representative at MetLife in Downers Grove. ... Wheeling resident Jeanne Heid-Grubman, health care administrator for The Holmstad retirement community in Batavia, has been appointed to a three-year term on the board of The Pioneer Network. ... Kathryn Frerichs is the new sales manager and Antonika Thomas is overseeing associations and governments for the DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau in Oak Brook.

•There's more to business than just the bottom line. We want to tell you about the people that make business work. Send news about people in business to Follow me on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.