After 40 Years A Neighborhood Legacy Closes The Doors
Schmid's Gifts & More holds closeout sale May 7.
Though many Glen Ellyn residents said goodbye to Schmid’s Gifts & More on March 19, they will have a chance to do it again and savor memories of a business that served the community for more than 40 years.
Schmid’s will have a closeout inventory sale this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 486 Pennsylvania Ave. Items will be sold at 75 percent off and there will be reductions on antique furniture and fixtures. To sweeten the day even more, there will be fresh homemade fudge for purchase.
Along with other family members, Becky Cook of Wheaton will see loyal customers come through one last time. Cook is one of five daughters of the late Ted and Florence Schmid, the business’ owners.
Schmid’s Glen Ellyn roots started when Cook’s father worked for his uncle, Harold Schmid, a pharmacist in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood. Ted’s grandfather, also named Ted, lived in Lombard and alerted his son to a Glen Ellyn pharmacy called Heintz Drugs available for sale. The younger Ted bought the business in 1967 and moved his family to their new home. Throughout the years, Cook, her sisters and other family members worked there.
Heintz Drugs remained at the 482 Main St. address for many years until 1976 when Ted bought space vacated by McChesney & Miller Grocery and Market, which moved to Crescent Boulevard. The expansion gave room for a gift area. Heintz was renamed Schmid Pharmacy and Florence joined the family business.
After Ted's death in 1988, Florence continued her ownership of the store. Several years ago, Cook said that Walgreens approached the pharmacy about purchasing its prescription drugs and customer files. In 2006, there was another name change.
“Walgreens was building a store at Five Corners and at that time my mom felt it was the right thing to do,” Cook said. “It was a hard decision. That’s when the pharmacy’s name changed to Schmid's Gifts & More. We sold over the counter medications, fudge, gifts, toys and school supplies.”
Cook says credits the pharmacy’s longevity to supportive residents and employees.
“I think some of it was that people really trust the (neighborhood) pharmacist,” she said. “This was back before the big CVS', Walgreens, Walmarts and Targets. The pharmacists and the employees had relationships with their customers. We had a very loyal customer base who would come in and shop.”
The pharmacy’s homemade fudge was definitely a sweet attraction. Cook recalled her parents attending a special industry gift show and buying a kettle and a secret fudge recipe from a company, and from that moment a local tradition was born.
For 14 years, the job of making the fudge came to former store manager Maureen Kolar. Kolar, a Villa Park resident who now works for the DuPage County Treasurer’s Office, was a 20-year employee. She received the job as “The Fudge Lady” after the original worker retired.
“Actually, it was a very fun task to be given,” Kolar said. “For example, I would be in the middle of bookkeeping and then I had to stop to make fudge. It was a nice diversion. When the pot would be boiling in the store, people would smell the aroma and it became quite a conversation piece.”
Popular flavors included chocolate, chocolate walnut and chewy praline. Prepared earlier this week by Kolar, those fudges will make their last appearance during the closeout event.
During the years, Kolar said about 12 different flavors were made at any given time. That list included maple walnut, cookies and cream, chocolate mint and special seasonal kinds such as pink fudge for Valentine’s Day or peppermint stick for Christmas.
“One of the things that people would always say is that ‘I’ll buy the fudge because I know that it’s calorie-free, ‘” she said, jokingly. “It was one of those things that we would say ‘Oh, buy it, it’s calorie-free and you can’t gain weight.’”
Kolar now misses making the sweet concoction and working with the family.
“It was just a very wonderful place to work,” she said. “The owner and her family are just nice people to work for. I was very lucky to be with the store for 20 plus years. It really wasn’t even a job; it was more fun than actually a job.”
The store closed this year because Cook’s mother wanted to retire and be with family.
“It was bittersweet to close the store because she loved it over the years but she’s in a new season in her life,” Cook said. “Because she wanted to spend time with her family and attend to other commitments, she felt it was the right season to close it. It wasn’t like we could come in and take it over. It’s a huge commitment and even though we’ve been involved in the store over the years, we each have our own families.”
May 7 is a different event than March 19, Cook commented. She looks at it as a kind of “appreciation blowout sale” with an opportunity to reminisce with longtime customers.
“There still a lot of gifts and certain things to choose from and we brought back the fudge,” she said. “It’s not like a normal day. It’s definitely going to be busy and fun.”