When it comes to naming a business, some owners choose a grand and awe-inspiring title, such as “The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company” (a chain of grocery stores that most customers simply call “The A&P” ).
Charles A. Kribs took a different approach when he opened his business in Kankakee during the last years of the Great Depression. He simply called it “Charlie’s Store”.
Located on the ground floor of a three-story yellow brick building on the northwest corner of Court Street and Chicago Avenue, the store was a local landmark from the late 1930s until its retired in 1961.
âCharlieâ Kribs was not from Kankakee; he was born in 1899 in the town of Prairie du Rocher, in southern Illinois. He was working in Hammond, Indiana in the late 1930s when he decided it was time to start his own business. How he chose Kankakee to start this business was told in a 1954 profile in the Kankakee Daily Journal.
“Some people become residents of a community by chance, others by choice,” the newspaper notes in its “Portrait Gallery” column. âAmong the latter group is Charles A. Kribs. … Sixteen years ago, the Kankakeean, then a resident of Hammond, Indiana, decided they wanted to go into business. He chose the type of business he wanted, then started looking for a city to set it up.
âHe wanted to stay within a 60 mile radius of Chicago and he wanted a city that seemed like a thriving community with a bright future. Kribs studied maps, charts, reports and the like and finally decided that among all the cities, Kankakee seemed to be the best.
Kribs moved to Kankakee in 1938 and opened his first business: a unit of the Western Tire and Auto Stores chain. He was located in the building where he would spend the next 23 years serving clients. This building was erected in 1912 by a fraternal group, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The Odd Fellows used the upper floors for meeting rooms and offices, while renting the ground floor. Before Kribs rented the space for his auto supply store, it was occupied by a product wholesale business.
In 1941, the name of the company was changed to “Charlie’s Auto and Sport Shop”, a title which summarized the types of merchandise for sale there. The 1941 city directory listing for the company had the description “Nationally Advertised Sporting Goods, Lowest Prices, Complete Auto Accessories.”
In 1946, the name “Charlie’s Store” was prominently displayed on a large illuminated sign on the second floor above the entrance to Court Street. The sign was visible on several blocks to the east and west of the building
Kribs was a regular advertiser in the Daily Journal, often using humor to capture the attention of potential customers. A June 1946 advertisement had the word “SUCKERS?” “In large print followed by the line” No, not you. I just want you to read this. The ad then listed items such as hip boots, rod sticks, nylon lines, seines, minnow buckets and fishing lures such as Hawaiian Wigglers and “jitterbugs.” The same ad included a description of a radio / record player combination “designed for better living”. The store’s product line then expanded to include âlight equipmentâ and âhousehold appliancesâ.
The phrase “Charlie says:” appeared at the top of many of its ads, followed by a concise saying (eg, “Imitation is the best of compliments”) or a comment on the merchandise being advertised. A December 1946 advertisement promoted car battery chargers, “rocket pens” that would write for “15 years without filling”, Christmas tree stands, flashlights, automatic searchlights and grills. chrome protection. Charlie’s comment: âThese gifts are just as good for a lady as Santa Claus. “
In the photo accompanying the Portrait Gallery article, a small sign saying “I am a doer” is visible behind Kribs’ desk. It sums up the energetic approach of the businessman – in addition to running his business, he was deeply involved in the community. His company sponsored a number of baseball, softball and bowling teams, while he was personally active in the Chamber of Commerce, Community Chest campaigns, Boy Scouts, Youth Organization. Catholic, the Kankakee County Democratic Central Committee and several fraternal organizations. After retiring from business in 1961, he served for a number of years as a Kankakee County Juvenile Probation Officer.
“Charlie” Kribs died on May 14, 1991, at the age of 91.