Former politician still trucking after 53 years in business
BY DENISE MORAN For Sun-Times Media
Bob Kudlicki readies his truck outside Marberry Cleaners and Launderers in Hampshire. He is marking 53 years in business this year, and cites “the people” when asked what keeps him going. | CAROL DORSETT ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
While some people might retire after 50 years in business, Hampshire resident Bob Kudlicki is continuing on with his 53rd year.
“I never figured it would last this long,” Kudlicki said. “I just enjoy working with people.”
Kudlicki is a franchise owner of the Marberry Cleaners and Launderers at 153 South State St. in Hampshire. He is also the owner of Village Toggery at the same address.
“It’s good to stay busy,” said Kudlicki, when asked why someone would want to work past the traditional age of retirement.
“It keeps you healthy. Sitting home and watching television is not good for anybody. I recently had a check-up with my doctor. He told me that whatever I’m doing, just keep it up.”
Kudlicki works from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday and a half day on Saturday. His 20-mile territory serves the western Fox Valley area and spans from Huntley to Elburn. His largest commercial customer alone produces over 500 pounds of laundry a week. He picks up and delivers laundry and dry cleaning to the Marberry Illinois Cleaners plant in St. Charles.
The roads that Kudlicki travels have certainly changed over the years. In the early days of his business, there were still many unpaved country roads. If his truck became stuck on a gravel road, a local farm tractor would help to pull it out of the mud. Kudlicki remembers when Randall Road — now a major commercial and traffic corridor through Kane County — only had two lanes.
Kudlicki has to deal with considerably more traffic these days. Today, the Randall corridor typically experiences more than 50,000 vehicles a day.
Just like many other people, the career path that Kudlicki has followed has changed over the years.
Kudlicki’s first job was working as a paper boy selling The Chicago Sun-Times at Belmont and Western/Clybourn in Chicago. Kudlicki recalled that the newpaper at that time cost 2 cents for a daily and 5 cents for the Sunday edition.
“I was out in all kinds of weather,” he said. “There was a 55-gallon drum that was filled with wood and paper, and set on fire to keep me warm. I also remember selling newspapers on Saturday night at Riverview Park.”
Kudlick’s fascination with newspapers and the printed word continued as he grew older. He first learned about printing when he was a student pressman at Lane Tech High School in Chicago and printed the “Lane Tech Daily.”
After high school graduation, Kudlicki joined the U.S. Marines, serving from 1946 to 1948, with a call-back to serve during the Korean War from 1950 to 1952. Kudlicki credits much of his hard work ethic to what he learned while in the Marines.
“We were taught leadership, discipline and motivation,” he said. “Serving in the U.S. Marines is the greatest experience anyone can ever have. I don’t regret that I served. I would do it again.”
He earned the rank of sergeant and received top secret clearance as a printer at Marine headquarters in Washington D.C. He later worked for printers in Chicago at State and Madison, Clark and Lake streets, and at the Fort Dearborn Lithograph Printing Company.
Kudlicki married Theresa Struke in 1953 and moved with their sons, Robert Jr. and Michael, to Hampshire in 1956. He ran a letterpress and Linotype machine for the weekly Hampshire Register and later opened a lithography department for the Hampshire Register’s printing operations. He worked with lead type and a hand-fed press.
When a deal to buy his own print shop fell through in 1959, Kudlicki heard that Jim Tegtman was selling Illinois Cleaners, which had served Hampshire for 30 years. Kudlicki acquired the business and called it Bob’s Illinois Cleaner’s Service. The business is now known as Marberry Illinois Cleaners. In 1969, Kudlicki purchased Village Toggery and ran it out of the same location as his cleaning business.
All of Kudlicki’s bookkeeping today takes place inside a corner of the Hampshire Area Chamber of Commerce office. Kudlicki is a long-standing member of the chamber.
He is also a well-known person in the Fox Valley area. In addition to running his business in Hampshire, he served two terms as Hampshire village president and eight years at Kane County board member representing District 25.
Sam Azizi and his son, Tony, have been the owners and operators of Rose Garden Family Restaurant, 199 South State St. in Hampshire, since 2003. Azizi has known Kudlicki for a long time.
“Bob Kudlicki is always a gentleman,” Azizi said. “You can’t ask for a better person. We get along well as neighbors who are both in business.”
Hampshire Village President Jeffrey Magnussen, owner of Harvest Graphics, 124 North State St. in Hampshire, knows what it is like to run a business and serve as village president at the same time.
“It’s a difficult job juggling work with the demands of the village,” Magnussen said. “It’s quite an endeavor. Bob did a fine job, and there was no village administrator when he was the village president.”
Kudlicki served on the Hampshire plan commission before he ran for the position of village president.
“I felt it was my civic duty,” he said. “It was a challenge. I had been on the plan commission and decided to step up.”
Since County Board members are also forest preserve commissioners, Kudlicki was in on the expansion of forest preserves that followed voter approval of a $75 million bond issue in 2005. Today, the Kane County Forest Preserve District owns and operates 82 forest preserves of 17,358-plus acres.
“One of my greatest desires was to see more green space in Kane County,” Kudlicki said. “I wanted to keep some space wide open for future generations.”
In addition to holding a job, Kudlicki believes that volunteer work and hobbies keep a person happy and healthy.
Kudlicki has been a member of American Legion Post 680 for 50 years and served as its treasurer for eight years. He has been a member of the Hampshire-Burlington Lions Club for 50 years. He has also served as commandant of the Marine Corps League.
“It’s good to stay busy even if it’s just volunteer work,” he said.