Murray Carroll turns 75 on Nov. 30. “Three-quarters of a century!” he says openly and without hesitation. “To tell you the truth, it kind of scares me.” But one thing Carroll is not afraid of is work. Though his 20-year career as a salesman in the men’s department at Spauldings is coming to a close, he isn’t sad. “It was time,” he said objectively about the landmark men’s and women’s fine clothing store located on the Marion Street mall.

For over two decades, Carroll has worked one-on-one with many customers in Oak Park, River Forest, Riverside, Chicago and Forest Park.

“The kid who I helped pick out a graduation suit,” he said, “I help pick out an interview suit after college and then a wedding suit. I’ve watched generations of men in the same family grow up at Spauldings.”

With just a sister in the area and another sister in Ohio, Carroll considers many of his loyal customers as well as his associates and employers at Spauldings his friends as well as his family. “They’re just great people,” he says.

Carroll has been an area resident for all but a few decades of his 75 years. “My family moved to River Forest from Columbus, Ohio in 1949,” he recalled. “I finished my senior year at Oak Park and River Forest High School.”

After graduation, Carroll worked for longtime Chicago retailer Carson Pirie Scott in the men’s department at the famed State Street location. “It’s a beautiful store and great location back then,” he says of the Louis Sullivan-designed, ornate architectural landmark. Carroll also worked part-time for Lytton’s-at the Oak Park location, one of 13 in the Chicago chain.

He began working for Spauldings around 1986. “No one offers the quality of clothing, the personal service that Spauldings does-no one,” he says. “Customers know when they come in, we will have items pulled aside for them, and we assist them every step of the way.”

Despite his love for the area, about 10 years ago Carroll decided to try something new.

“I quit my job, sold my place and moved to San Diego,” he says. “The weather is terrific there-a lot of sun, great scenery.” Carroll tried it for five years but it just wasn’t home. “I missed the change of seasons.”

“The Michelis welcomed me back with open arms, and so did my old customers. I was lucky.”

Carroll will continue working part-time at Spauldings until it closes. “But I won’t retire, oh no!” he says. “I want to work somewhere one or two days a week.” Carroll believes his good mental and physical health is work-related. “Working and keeping busy is the key,” he says. “No, I don’t want to sit still.”

“I roll out of bed and am over there all the time.” In the summer, Carroll is a frequent traveler about town on his bicycle. If the weather is right, he wears only a pair of shorts and his sandals.

“People tell me, ‘Hey I saw you riding around naked!'” he says with a laugh. But he does have clothes. Nice ones, most with the famous Spauldings tag. “I buy 90 percent of my clothing at Spauldings,” Carroll says, and many of his customers also buy most of their clothing at Spauldings.

“I have customers who never look at a price tag,” he notes. “Many trust my recommendation completely.”

Carroll says the main culprit in the closing of Spauldings is time. “Fashion has changed. We used to have regular trunk shows where men would come in and see the latest styles and fabric-it wasn’t unusual to have a client order 30 suits for the year,” he recalls. Citing the casual work dress codes and the popularity of working from home, he adds, lamenting, “Men don’t wear suits anymore. There is nothing better looking than a man in a suit.”

Fashion isn’t the only thing that has changed. “Oak Park’s retail business is totally different,” says Carroll. “Lake Street used to have many, many upscale shops.” He also points to the popularity of shopping malls, which cut into the business of privately-owned, neighborhood stores.

Carroll promises to find another position in Oak Park.

“I’ll still be around,” he promises. “I enjoy working with people and I’ll keep it up as long as I can.”

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