Published June 25, 2009
Much in Hinsdale has remained
retailers in town's three shopping areas have been
around for two decades or more
By Pamela Lannom
Hinsdale’s downtown has changed over the past 20 years.
But change is a fact of life — and Hinsdale hasn’t seen as much as
some other towns, said Tim Scott, the village’s
community development strategist.
Trends in the retail business mean certain stores become very
popular for a period of time, Scott said. For a while,
cigar stores and cigar bars were everywhere. Then the
market becomes over-saturated and some of those
specialty shops die out.
“Certain things are fashionable and they have a life expectancy,”
Scott said. “I don’t think Hinsdale has been as
susceptible to that as some other towns. We’re fortunate
to have multi-generational business owners and property
“I don’t know if we can expect every business to have those types
of roots,” he added. “We’re blessed, I think, to have
Many of the retailers who have been in Hinsdale for 20 years or
more (see sidebar) have handed the business down from
one generation of the family to the next. A member of
the Phillip family has owned the flower shop on
Washington Street for almost 40 years.
“Some older residents may remember the name was Miss Lee Flowers,”
said Baxter Phillip, vice president of Phillip’s Flowers
Lee along with Baxter’s father, J.R., and a younger brother, Russ,
grew up living upstairs from the florist their parents
started in 1923 in Cicero. As the kids got older and
more involved in the business, they began opening new
stores in places like LaGrange Park and Oakbrook Center.
The Hinsdale location opened in 1972.
“It’s not that we were brilliant,” Baxter said. “It was just a
natural outgrowth. We were living in the community and
there was a small flower shop available and we’re
florists, so it was kind of a natural thing for us.”
A florist has operated in the building at 47 S. Washington St.
since the 1920s. This is a great town for a flower shop,
said J.R., who is chairman emeritus of the company.
“Hinsdale is an affluent community and people of that nature enjoy
and use flowers more than those who can’t afford them,”
he said. “Hinsdale has been wonderful in that respect
and it continues that way. It really hasn’t changed too
much as far as the character of the community.”
Baxter’s sister-in-law Gwen managed the shop for years and his
wife, Martha, works there part-time today.
“It’s still very much a family enterprise,” Baxter said.
Although the Internet has changed the way many clients place their
orders, it hasn’t eliminated the need for a shop where
fresh flowers can be designed and from where
arrangements can be delivered. Nor has it changed the
type of customers Phillip’s sees or their needs.
“The purpose of flowers is to express caring between human beings,”
J.R. said. “They do it so well. Any young man who wants
to test that can locate his favorite young lady and
present her with some flowers and see how she’ll react
to that. That’s been going on for centuries and that
will never change.”
Father and son say the secrets to the company’s longevity are fairy
J.R.’s father, who had to drop out of school to get a job when he
was 13, offered many words of wisdom to his children.
“He would always say, ‘Stick with quality. You will never go
wrong,’ ” J.R. said.
“We kid about it, but we do attribute it to hard work, family
togetherness and a love of what we do,” Baxter said.
All in the family
Family-owned businesses made
up most of the businesses in town when Dan Spinazola’s
father purchased the Hinsdale News Agency in 1953.
“My father was in the newspaper business and had an opportunity to
buy the agency in Hinsdale,” Spinazola said. “Most of
the businesses here in town back in ’53 were all
Spinazola retired in 2006 and now his daughter, Danette, runs the
business. The inventory hasn’t changed much over the
years, Spinazola said, although candy sales are up and
tobacco sales are down. Like many members of the
Phillip’s family, the Spinazolas found Hinsdale to be a
wonderful place to live and work.
“Hinsdale is just a great town, period,” Spinazola said. “We’ve had
our ups and downs like any town, but it’s just a great
town to live in.”
“My life has been here,” he added. “We’ve gotten to know all the
people. There’s still a lot of people that were here
when we first came here. It’s been a very friendly town
for us. My family has been raised in that little store.”
Susan Tanner, owner of the Yankee Peddler, also found herself
working with her daughter years after she first opened
the shop in 1972.
“That does make a difference,” Tanner said. “She sees things
differently and buys differently than I do so we’ve
meshed our ideas together.”
At first Yankee Peddler carried mainly antiques.
“My business has evolved because antiques have become less
available, plus there are so many reproductions,” she
Now her store carries more gift and decorative items and seasonal
“I’ve been fortunate because I’ve been here for so long and I have
a very loyal following,” she said.
She believes the mix of merchandise she carries and “super
user-friendly” customer service have made the store a
success all these years.
“I think all of these things are something they can’t get at a big
box and I think that has been one of my secrets,” she
Richard Crews, owner of Char Crews in Grant Square, agrees that
individual attention makes a difference.
“We probably have more brides today than ever before because we
give really good service and special attention to our
brides. We find that if we satisfy the bride, we have
their business for life,” Crews said. “We really do have
a very loyal following from our customers who have been
with us for 25 of 30 years.”
Crews’ mother, Char, opened the store in 1976 and established many
of the relationships with customers that continue today.
Her decision to open a store in Hinsdale was a good one,
said her son, who has been involved in the business
since 1982 and just recently took over.
“I think the Hinsdale shopping area is very unique to the
Chicagoland suburbs,” he said. “We feel like we’re one
of the specialty stores that makes Hinsdale a great
“I think that a lot of local people like to shop local and they’ve
been very loyal over the years,” he added. “We owe them
a debt of gratitude.”
Hinsdale has seen many new
shops come into town over the years, but there also are
a host of retailers who have been here for at least 20
Audio Consultants, 1983
Browning & Sons, 1987
Caffray Jewellers, 1984
Char Crews, 1976
Drapery Connection, 1988
Hartley’s Cycle Shop, 1958
Hinsdale Flower Shop, 1950
Hinsdale Fruit Store, 1982
Hinsdale Furriers, 1952
Hinsdale Gallery, 1980
Hinsdale News Agency, 1953
Holland Hardware, 1933
King-Keyser Sporting Goods, 1952
Luv It!, 1985
Phillip’s Flowers and Gifts, 1972
Sass ’n’ Class*
Sweet William, 1989
The Watch Shop*
Yankee Peddler, 1972
start date of business could not be determined.