All in the Family

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For years, many local businesses have been successful thanks to the hard work and commitment shown by generations of loved ones who make up the family business. Here are just a few examples right here in our own backyard.

Alpine Bank

The original founders planted the seeds of Alpine Bank at the corner of State and Logan in Belvidere in 1908. Originally established as Farmers State Bank, the Funderburg family began its involvement with the bank in 1923 when Hugh K. Funderburg was elected to its board.

While banks were failing across the country, Hugh met with the bank examiners and pledged all of his and his family’s personal assets in an attempt to keep Farmers State Bank from closing. His efforts were successful and in 1931, Hugh was elected bank president. After Hugh’s death in 1961, his son, R. Robert Funderburg (Bob) was elected chairman. In 1990, Bob became ill and, in 1992, passed leadership on to his son, R. Robert Funderburg Jr. (Rob). During his tenure as chairman, Rob has greatly expanded Alpine Bank’s branch network with building an additional nine branches, plus two in-school branches at Belvidere and Belvidere North High Schools. Alpine Bank has grown into the largest local bank serving Winnebago, Boone and DeKalb counties in Northern Illinois.

“My family founded this bank on the premise of helping people, businesses and communities succeed,” said Rob Funderburg. “It’s an honor to continue to serve generation after generation with these ideals.”

Barr’s Flowers

Flowers are forever. At least they are in Belvidere. One floral shop has been around for 130 years. In 1988, the Barr family bought Winkelman’s Flowers, a longtime staple in Belvidere. Now known as Barr’s Flowers, the business is located on State Street.

Mother Pat Barr bought the business, and her son Tracy also came to work for the store. These days, daughter Debbie, who joined the family business after college, runs the family company, which sells flowers and gift items.

“This business has a hometown feel,” Debbie said. “We know at least 80 percent of people who walk in. We see them through births, weddings and other special occasions. It’s a nice feeling.”

Belvidere Funeral Home, Inc.

At a young age, Brandon and Colin Jensen started working for their father, Lance, around the family business, Belvidere Funeral Home. The younger Jensens helped wherever they could – mowing, painting or cleaning up around the longtime funeral home.

In 2013, Colin Jensen earned his license to become a funeral director. Three months later, tragedy struck, when Lance suddenly passed away. “It was difficult,” Colin said. “But working in the funeral business helped my family deal with our loss.”

Today, the business that Lance ran for 30 years is in good hands. His widow, Susan, is the owner. Colin is the funeral director and Brandon is working on obtaining his license as well.

“We enjoy helping people in their time of need,” Colin said. “This business isn’t for everyone. But when we work with a family, we understand what they’re going through. We’ve been there ourselves.”

Boone County Auto Body

Ed and Kathy Fitch never planned on running a successful auto body shop. Ed was a service manager at a local dealership and Kathy worked as a hairdresser. But when a local body shop became for sale, the couple jumped at the chance. Boone County Auto Body Shop has been in business for 40 years.

“This was something Ed wanted to do,” said Kathy, who became the bookkeeper. “We took a chance and so far it has worked out.” While the couple is semiretired, their nephew, Shane, runs the day-to-day operations. He started working as a painter during high school, and has been there ever since.

“We’re very thankful that our business has done well through the years due to the support of our community,” Kathy said. “We’ve survived the ups and downs of owning your own business and look forward to many more years under Shane’s management.”

Boone County Shopper

The Boone County Shopper is a weekly publication that has been in business since 1947. Bill Branom bought into the business in 1965 and it’s been part of the Branom family ever since. Son Ed came on board in 1997 and his brother, Matt, joined along 10 years later. Bill passed away five years ago, but his wife, Yvonne, remains the majority owner.

Ed was selling insurance at the time. “I was trying to build my own business when my dad said, ‘I’ve already done that for you. Advertising is easier to sell than insurance.’ He was right,” says Ed.

The Shopper, which has circulation of 20,500 and is available to 99 percent of Boone County, has always been an all-advertising publication. “The best part of our business is getting to know other businesses,” says Ed. “We enjoy helping them promote their products and services.”

Brereton, Inc.

In 1950, Brereton Inc. started out as a general insurance and real estate agency in Belvidere. Now, 67 years later, the company specializes in health insurance for individuals. Jack Brereton, who was joined by his son, Fred, in 1974, founded the business. Jack has since passed away; these days Fred is active in the business along with his son, Ric.

“To join your dad in business is a real pleasure,” Fred says. “You get to know him personally and professionally. It is extremely satisfying and very rewarding to know my son has adopted the same philosophy. I have been truly blessed.”

Concordia Lanes

Concordia Lanes and Lounge is a 12-lane bowling center and full bar and grill that’s been around since 1958. Concordia offers leagues, open bowling, birthday parties, and fundraisers, while serving up drinks and some of the best food in town.

Bud Gallano and his father, Fred, were part-owners of the business in 1972. Twenty years later, Bud’s children assumed control of the family business. These days, daughter Mary runs the day to day operations, overseeing a staff of 15.

“The best part of owning a bowling alley is getting to know the people,” says Mary. “We’ve had grandparents and parents spend their free time here. Some of their children were practically raised here. Many of our employees are high school students. There’s a real sense of family here at Concordia. It’s a staple of our community.”

CCSI International Inc.

CCSI International Inc. is a conglomeration of many businesses. The Garden Prairie-based company has been a leader in pool enclosure and roof systems for 50 years. In addition, it’s the parent company for New Horizons Carwash Structures, a distillery, a print shop and All Paws Pet Wash, a business that started here and now has 350 locations in 46 states and five countries.

The company was started by Charles Caldwell in 1964. Today, the business is operated by his son, Russell. The family-owned company also includes Russell’s children, Keith and Heather, and his brother Thomas.

CCSI’s latest project is a restaurant named Iron and Coal, that is scheduled to open in downtown Belvidere in 2018. The restaurant will feature a coffee shop, bakery, and banquet hall and will feature lunch, dinner, and craft beers. “It’s going to have a relaxing feel where people can come for a beer or ice cream,” says Keith. “It will be family friendly.”

The Caldwells feel good about the impact their family business is making on their hometown. “It’s very rewarding to see how receptive the community has been,” Keith says. “Belvidere gave us a chance to grow our business. We’re always adding jobs. It feels good to give back.”

Central Grain

When you think about Boone County, you think about farming. Central Grain does too. The Belvidere-based company is a grain elevator that markets to area farmers within a 15-mile radius, offering services for buying and storing corn, soybeans and wheat. Central Grain can ship products across the country by rail or truck, whether it’s to an ethanol plant in Illinois or Wisconsin or a chicken processing company in the southeast.

Central Grain was started from scratch by Bob Mickey in 1957. Eventually his sons Bob and Dan joined the company. Bob Sr. died in 2013, but his sons have carried on the family business. Central Grain now has 12 fulltime employees. “I’ve lived here most my life,” says Dan. “Farmers are great people to work with at Central Grain. They are competitive and independent. The resourcefulness of the American farmer staggers my imagination. This is a great place to be.”

Edwards Apple Orchard

Since 1990, Ken and Barb Hall have operated the farm that was owned by her parents and grandparents. In 1963, Robert Jr. and Betty Edwards bought the farm from his parents and began transforming it from dairy and row crops to apples and a retail market. The property offers something for everyone, including the Apple Barn, which has a gift shop, bakery, fudge kitchen, coffee shop, cider mill, packing facility and cold storage. Other buildings include a farm museum and a farm animal barn. The Apple Orchard is open from late August to Thanksgiving.

Franklin Display Group

For close to 40 years, Franklin Display Group (FDG) has served the point of purchase display industry. The company designs, engineers, manufactures, and distributes retail point of purchase displays and fixtures. Their work can be found in a number of industries including, newspaper, beverages, sports, food, tools and hardware and many others.

Founded in 1978 by Don Mutert Sr., this family-owned company began operations in Franklin Park, Illinois with 13 pieces of used equipment and 5 employees. In 1985, their operations were moved to a larger facility, strategically placed in the heart of the Midwest. Today the company has over 200,000 square feet of space in our two, modern facilities and over 100 employees.

Children Don Jr., George, Terri and Rob all work for the family business. George’s daughter, Katie Kerr, is the only third generation family member to work there. “We fell in love with Boone County as soon as we got here,” says George. “We could live in Chicago but at a much higher cost. We have found a good, solid workforce here in Boone County. It’s a great area to raise a family.”

Jack Wolf Auto Mall

Amy Wilcox is a third generation auto dealer, preceded by grandfather CJ ‘Doc’ Wolf and father Jack Wolf, in Belvidere. She owns and operates both Jack Wolf Cadillac-GMC and Jack Wolf Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-RAM-Fiat on North State Street in Belvidere. She employs on a part time office staff basis both of her fourth generation daughters who are both currently attending college.

A CPA, Wilcox also serves on several local boards of directors including Swedish American Health System, Children’s Home and Aid, Alpine Bank and the Boone County Community Foundation.

J & D Oil, Inc./J &D Countryside Marathon

When she was young, Lisa Vance would spend time riding with her father, RJ Daniels in a fuel truck. At the time she was just enjoying the ride, not realizing it was the start of becoming part of a family business. From her father’s initial business, with the addition of her brother Judd Daniels, a tank wagon business grew into a fuel delivery company, J & D Oil, Inc. and the addition of a convenience store in 2002, J & D Countryside Marathon which is located in Poplar Grove. Lisa joined the company in 1983. “I was looking for a job and the family business needed a bookkeeper.”

With the passing of Judd in 2010, it was a natural progression for Lisa to join her father in the running of the business. “The best part of owning a family business is working with my dad, having the ability to be hands on in decision making. Making our choices based on the customers we serve and the community that we have grown with over the years,“ said Vance. “I was hired to handle the bookkeeping and I’ve been here ever since.”

LaMarca’s North State Motors

Henry LaMarca sold life insurance for seven years. But when he bought a car, fixed it up and sold it LaMarca found a passion he turned into a career. He went on to sell new cars, before opening his own used car dealership in Rockford.

LaMarca’s moved to Belvidere in 1987 and has enjoyed a good ride ever since. These days, Henry owns LaMarca’s North State Motors and works with his son, Joe, who caught the car bug at a young age. “Joe’s a natural,” says his dad. “It’s a great opportunity to work together. A great deal of our time is devoted to seeking out the best pre-owned vehicles we can find. There’s a lot of competition in this business, but we believe our product is better and is priced competitively.”

Pacemaker

Pacemaker Countryside Markets has been in business for 65 years. The business was started by two sons of Italian immigrants. Anthony J. Dal Pra started the Dal Pra family grocery store in 1945 and was joined by his brother Ampellio Dal Pra, after World War II. They ran the businesses together until Anthony’s death in 1989 and Ampellio’s retirement in 1991. Since then, the businesses have been managed by other members of the Dal Pra family.

The store in Belvidere was opened in 1965 and has gone through several expansions. Following the Belvidere tornado in 1967, the store was rebuilt and reopened for business later that year. In 2008, Pacemaker Countryside Market opened in Poplar Grove, as the family began to advertise under “Countryside Markets” to reflect the simple family tradition of country hospitality and service. There is also a location in Durand, Ill. All three stores are full-service grocery stores with deli, bakery, meat, produce and grocery departments.

“Boone County has been good to us,” says co-owner Sheri Casey, who runs the business with brother Tony. “The people here are an extension of our family. We’ve tried to help the nonprofit organizations in our community and still conduct business. “We hope we’ve done some good for our community and that people will continue to shop with us.”

Poplar Grove State Bank

Poplar Grove State Bank was organized and chartered in Poplar Grove in 1946. In 1962, the Kniep family purchased controlling interest in the bank. Thomas Kniep, at age 86, is still the chairman of the bank. His son, Kent, joined the bank in 1980 and has been president since 1991. Three of the bank’s 14 employees are family and 4 of the 5 board of directors are family.

“Boone County has not only been a great place to operate a business but also a great place to raise a family,” says Kent. “We’ve seen many changes over the years. The biggest change has been in technology with internet banking, debit cards and ATMs. Another change has been with banking regulations. For instance in 1980 we would finance a home with the borrower signing a note and mortgage. Today, with regulations, that same financing would result in 13 or more forms totaling over 60 pages.”

RJ Daniels Fuel and Tire

RJ Daniels Fuel and Tire is a business that offers tires from as small as lawn mower tires to as large as farm tractor tires and everything in between. The business also offers automotive repair and lawn equipment sales and service. The business was started in 1969 by RJ Daniels, who now spends the majority of his time farming. The business is now managed by his daughter, Ang.

Ang started helping her dad while still in high school in 1978 and has at one time or another worked in each area of the business. “One of the best parts of the business is our employees. They are like family,” she says. “We also have great customers that are a joy to do business with. I’m one of the lucky few that can say I enjoy going to work.”

Stylehouse Furniture

Stylehouse Furniture was founded after the owner, Richard, worked as a manager of another furniture store for 11 years. In 1977, he and his wife, Gail, purchased its current building and changed the name of the store to Style House. After Richard died in 2009, their son Larry became more involved with the business.

Stylehouse has more than 45 different styles of products. “We enjoy working with the public,” says Gail. “It’s a nice feeling helping people furnish their home. We’ve been around so long, we’re now working with third generation family members. This is a pleasant business to be in.”