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posted: 3/11/2014 3:29 PM

Arlington Hts. businesses pass on tradition of service

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It would be hard to recollect when we bought our first pizza from Wayne's, but it felt like old home pizza week when I read in the March 3 Daily Herald that Wayne's had been serving up the same pizza recipe for 50 years. It's possible our relationship goes back that long. Wayne's location is not that far from our first home in Arlington Heights.

When co-owner Tony Gillig told the Daily Herald reporter that most of all, he enjoys "working with new people and teaching them the things that got us to where we are today," I recognized a familiar Arlington Heights theme that I often met in business owners I interviewed. "Showing today's youth how to be the best at what they do and instill good work ethic is something I hope they keep with them forever," he said.

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When I read those words, I was whisked back in time to a room at Americana Nursing Home where Herman Redeker was lying with a sore toe.

A pleasantly gruff man of late middle age, Herman had lived his whole life in Arlington, suffered the slings and arrows of the Depression, foreclosure on his home, business loss, separation from his children -- and big toe trouble. But he was full of life and affection for the town where he had spent his many days.

And he wanted to tell me how at his father's store in downtown Arlington they taught the youth of his day, as Gillig says now, "to be the best at what they do and instill a good work ethic … they keep with them forever."

Herman was born in 1898, just five years after his father and his grandfather bought the northeast corner of Campbell and Vail to build Redeker's grocery store.

Herman, as he said of himself, "grew up among the counters." Redeker's sold everything from kerosene to lustrous silks. Most of the stock came from the wholesale division of Marshall Field's warehouse.

Herman was proud of his family's store, as he was of the village, and his supervisor, Mr. Nelson, who believed that business was based 90 percent on friendship. In the store everything "went on the book. Then at the end of the month people came in their horse and wagons on mud streets" to pay their tab. The children got little bags of candy from Mr. or Mrs. Redeker.

Despite his many problems (he spent the Depression working for the WPA, or Works Progress Administration), Herman had a Santa Claus air about him, and his eyes twinkled when he described his father breaking in a new daughter-in-law to the Redeker way of doing business. (Here is where he again sounds like Tony Gillig at Wayne's.)

"If a customer wanted a pound of cookies, my father taught her how to weigh out a precise pound. Then he told her to add a handful of extra cookies. It was the same when she was measuring material. He explained how to measure the cloth exactly to the yard, and then he would tell her to add another third of a yard."

However, Redeker's also sold "a lot of overalls." It wouldn't have worked to add a third of a yard to the legs.

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