Schwake Stone, Des Plaines Linked by History
Byline: Jean Murphy Contributing Writer
When Carole Schwake Hodgson looks back on it, she cannot believe how hard her father, Robert, worked to set up their family business, Schwake Stone, in the 1940s and 1950s.
"He was a sand and gravel deliveryman for Meyer Materials when he came out of the Army, delivering to all of the new houses that were being built," she recalled. "One day he ran into someone who was delivering big pieces of stone and he asked him where it came from and started picking his brain.
"Before long Dad began driving up to Wisconsin on Saturdays to check out various quarries and soon after that he was taking orders from builders here and making several trips up there and back each Saturday to pick up and deliver stone for use in home construction, while still working Monday through Friday for Meyer," Hodgson said.
Eventually, he purchased about seven acres along a railroad spur at Western and Harding in Des Plaines and set up a stone yard, showroom and fabrication plant where he could store, display, sell and cut stone.
"My cousin helped him, but he did so much of it himself, with my mother, Harriet, doing the books," Hodgson said.
"For instance, now we have a scale that we can pull over to weigh the stone," she continued. "But he didn't have one of those for many years. Instead, if there was an order for a ton of stone, he would lay it all out on the ground to measure it because he knew that a ton of stone would cover 40 square feet.
"He put in very long days, doing everything to run his business from getting insurance and medical benefits for his employees to selling to his customers," Hodgson said.
Hodgson recalls that even family vacations revolved around the stone business, with stops at quarries being incorporated into every trip they took. And when the whole family didn't go, Harriet always accompanied Robert. So she knew all of the same people and quarry families that he knew. …