Palatine-area vegetable stand operator Ethel Dahm dies at 88

  • Erwin and Ethel Dahm show off their vegetable stand in the 1990s.

    Erwin and Ethel Dahm show off their vegetable stand in the 1990s.

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/17/2009 8:24 AM

Ethel Dahm's vegetable stand along Rand Road in unincorporated Palatine became a fixture in the Northwest suburbs, drawing customers from throughout the area more than 50 years. They came to Ethel's Place for her freshly grown sweet corn and tomatoes, along with an assortment of other vegetables.

Mrs. Dahm died Saturday at age 88. She lived in Palatine nearly 60 years and most recently live in Barrington.


"At our peak, we farmed between 900 to 1,000 acres of farmland in Palatine, Buffalo Grove and Lake Zurich," says Jim Dahm, now of Reno, Nev., "all with fresh vegetables which we sold exclusively at our stand."

Mrs. Dahm and her family sold their homestead and remaining 15 acres of farmland in 1999 to the developers of Deer Park Town Center, who unveiled the open air, lifestyle center in 2000.

"Mom was still working on weekends until the day we sold," her son adds.

Mrs. Dahm and her husband, Erwin, both had grown up in farm families in Buffalo Grove. On the 50th anniversary of her farmstand, Mrs. Dahm reflected fondly on those years.

"At the age of 13, I was driving the truck filled with vegetables down to the Elston Farmer's Market (in Chicago) to help my parents," Mrs. Dahm said. "I had seven brothers and sisters and I was the only one who stayed in farming."

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When she and her husband married in 1945, family members said they had $300 put away, saved from Erwin Dahm's job as a driver of a milk truck.

Mrs. Dahm, however, had bigger plans. Drawing from her experience selling vegetables at the farmer's market in Chicago, she conceived the idea of selling their own produce locally.

"She started with a wagon on the side of the road," her son says.

Business quickly grew, and the couple then began renting space from an egg and dairy business on Rand Road before eventually building their own stand.

Jim Dahm says that in the mid-1970s, they would sell three to four semitrailer loads of produce, and staff with as many as 35 people, between those that worked the counter and those in the field.

"My mom was always there," her son says, "whether it was teaching her staff, selling to customers, or out in the field. That was the way she grew up."

Mrs. Dahm was preceded in death by her husband, Erwin, in 1991. Besides her son, she is survived by another son, Tony (Connie) Dahm of Kildeer and daughter Helen (Bob) Skutley of Tampa, Fla., as well as 12 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. today at Ahlgrim Family Funeral Home, 415 S. Buesching Road, Lake Zurich. A funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Francis de Sales Church, 11 S. Buesching Road in Lake Zurich.

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