Pieritz calls it quits

After 125 years, office supply shop Pieritz Bros. is closing

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

After 125 years selling office supplies, the beloved family-run Pieritz Bros., 401 South Blvd., is closing up shop at the end of June.

"It was a really difficult decision. I had been thinking about it for the last decade just because of the climate for small, independent office supply retailors. It just wasn't real viable anymore as a business," said co-manager Deborah Pieritz "We kept it going just purely out of love and sentiment."

A true family business, Pieritz's grandfather, Robert Pieritz founded Pieritz Bros. in 1895 with his two brothers, Henry and Arthur. The original location was on the corner of Laramie Avenue and Lake Street.

 Growing up, Pieritz and her sister played together there. They also helped keep the shop tidy, earning a nickel for every cabinet they cleaned out. "It was kind of a mysterious place with all this cool stuff," she said.

After 75 years at the first location, Pieritz Bros. moved to the corner of South Boulevard and Ridgeland Avenue in Oak Park. 

 Her father Alvin Pieritz ran the shop for many years. Her mother turned the shop over to Pieritz and her sister in 2005.

Pieritz has manned the helm ever since alongside her brother-in-law and co-manager, John Roberts, who started working at the family business in the 1980s.

While Pieritz Bros. sells standard supplies, it is far more than just a peddler of pens and file folders – It's an Oak Park institution.

The store also doubles as something of a quirky, walk-in time capsule filled with antique manual typewriters and vintage pens; Pieritz Bros. even sells bits of history, including typewriter ribbons and china markers.

As it currently exists, Pieritz Bros. is an earnest homage to yesteryears, completely devoid of the cheesiness that permeates nostalgia shops. And that makes it truly special.

With the rise of big box chains, business steadily decreased for Pieritz Bros. Now, most of the store's profits come from walk-in customers.

"It was a cool, funky place but in terms of an actual business that was supposed to support us, that was kind of waning," Pieritz said. "I've known that was happening for a long time. It was inevitable – and then the pandemic, that made it very clear."

The memory of Pieritz Bros. will be preserved through the Oak Park River Forest Museum. Executive Director Frank Lipo has already collected some Pieritz signage and one of the store's counters.

"He's taking a few key things, which I'm really happy about, so I think we're going to have a bit of a presence," Pieritz said.

The museum will also house many of the typewriters displayed in Pieritz Bros., as well as an antique pen case originally from the Oak Park Marshall Field's.

Pieritz finds saying goodbye to the store bittersweet.

 "Making the decision was really, really difficult," she said.

However, once decided, Pieritz said it felt like a "weight just lifted off of" her.

"Part of me is sad," she said. "And this is going to sound weird, but I want to kind of enjoy it – giving out pieces, expanding the store on a different level."

The store has been a monumental part of Pieritz's life; the aftermath of its closure will, she said, "be sort of interesting," but exciting.

Pieritz herself is an artist and her brother-in-law is an inventor. Both will now have more time to dedicate to their individual creative pursuits.

"I always have all these outside projects, and so does John," she said. "It'll be different. I'm excited to work on other ideas, see how it's going to affect my art."

Roberts and Pieritz are working to develop an online platform to still involve Pieritz Bros. in local art, music, poetry and  politics.

 Many customers have expressed their sadness over the store's impending closure to Pieritz.

"People are sad, but for the most part people are very understanding of why it's happening," she said.

"I was worried that we were letting them all down, and we are, I'm sure, but it just doesn't make sense anymore."

Throughout its many years in business, Pieritz Bros. served many of Oak Park's most beloved residents, including Barbara Mullarkey, Wednesday Journal founding member and former columnist, and housing integration pioneer Bobbie Raymond.

Saying goodbye to its customers has made closing Pieritz Bros. even more difficult.

"We will miss them terribly. They were just very good to us," she said. "That's why it's been really hard to move on."

 

This story has been updated to correct a misspelling and to include plans from Roberts for a new, online iteration of Pieritz Bros.

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Reader Comments

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Jumi Lee from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: June 6th, 2020 10:37 PM

I live on South Blvd a few blocks away from Pieritz Bros. I walked by many times and also shopped occasionally. I could feel history in the space, and it is a very special local stationary store that I hate letting it go.... I hope the very best for the owner, and I may stop by and collect memorandums at last time...

Patricia Brauner from Oak Park  

Posted: May 26th, 2020 5:56 PM

We bought our children's school supplies there, and our grandson's (who is now in high school. We will miss you, but we think you will love retirement, too!

Les Golden  

Posted: May 24th, 2020 9:49 AM

I understand, but this is sad. When you didn't think there was hope to find what you needed, Pieritz would have it. It was like Frank's 5 and 10 at OP Ave. and North Ave. Very sad. By the way, the name of the shopper referred to is spelled Barbara Mullarkey.

Jenny Swan from Philadelphia   

Posted: May 23rd, 2020 10:07 PM

I echo others' sentiments here - Pieritz Brothers is a memorable and legendary establishment in Oak Park. When I was a young child I looked forward to stopping in, in large part because of the gentle, kindhearted, and passionate presence behind the counter, which, in my memory, was most often John Roberts. He knew his stuff and he liked sharing it with people of all ages. He made office supplies exciting, unique, and interesting - which is no small feat! I remember purchasing my best quality multi-colored gel pens there, with his advice, and of course learning about an old typewriter or something while I was there. :) While I will miss the storefront, I'm looking forward to seeing what is to come for this family run business.

Jessica Petertil from Chicago   

Posted: May 23rd, 2020 9:25 PM

I have such fond memories of my time spent in Pieritz Bros. dating back to elementary school (and just living a block or so away). It is an establishment with a unique and artistic take on the world and I'm excited to hear that there are ideas brewing for a new iteration of the store amidst this changing world Please keep us posted!

Jay Butler  

Posted: May 23rd, 2020 8:45 PM

I find this very sad. I have tried to give them as much business as i could. We cannot expect people to sacrifice their lives to maintain "quirky Oak Park businesses" when everyone shops online or at big box stores. Best Wishes, you will be missed!

Anna Dooley  

Posted: May 23rd, 2020 8:36 PM

I have been a dedicated customer for many, many years. What a monumental bummer this is! But totally understandable in this day. Such two fine, real people! One of THE last truly Oak Park stores that had ANY kind of character. I could go in there in a sad or bad mood, and as soon as I opened the heavy door, and heard WNIB playing and saw you perhaps sitting in the back room, my mood actually changed ! You will always rank with the great places that made Oak Park-- Logos, The Elm Shop, Val's, Foster's, Peterson's, The Villager, Marshal Field's Kroch's , etc.Thank you two so much! Onward and upward! --Jim Dooley PS NOW where do I get my black Pilot Pens, doggone it anyway!

Jamie Roberts from Washington DC  

Posted: May 23rd, 2020 6:48 PM

Although the physical store is closing it's door, the business is going to shift with the times as it has for its entire history, and live on! But rest assured, it will remain in the family and continue to have that great energy and artistic spirit... STAY TUNED! -John's daughter, who also grew up in this store.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: May 23rd, 2020 1:56 PM

I used to buy my Week-at-a-Glance calendar there every year, but now you have Microsoft Outlook. The work world has become paperless, which is good for the environment but sad for local stores. Always great people.

Sheryl Oder  

Posted: May 23rd, 2020 1:44 PM

It has always been a joy to enter Pieritz Bros. I have rarely bought much, but have always been treated well. When my daughter was little one of the employees loved to tell her jokes. It has been more than a store. Deborah and John, I wish you well.

Rachel Benoit from Oak Park  

Posted: May 23rd, 2020 9:02 AM

Best wishes to Deborah and John! You will be missed

RoseMary Gange  

Posted: May 23rd, 2020 7:30 AM

I walked by a few days ago thinking how great it was for a business to last this long. I tried to patronize as I could for my store. SHOP SMALL, SHOP LOCAL

Nancy Hess from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2020 9:59 PM

I will truly miss this store. I know you've been running on fumes for a long time. Thank you so much!

Doug Strubel  

Posted: May 22nd, 2020 9:15 PM

Fond memories assembling Beye School supplies each August at the store

Renee Pleshar from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2020 8:38 PM

Best wishes to all of you in your future artistic endeavors. Thanks for all those years of maintaining a wonderful family run, independent, local business with a small town feel. I will miss your excellent service.

Janet Haisman from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2020 7:53 PM

I''ve seen Alex Kotlowicz and other writers in Pieritz over the years as well as other citizens who valued good service and just loved the "real" feel of the place. Any chance I can still buy some photo note cards? Best wishes!

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: May 22nd, 2020 6:13 PM

There's the end of an era, and then there'd the end of an era. Bounce to happen, but sad nonetheless.

Lisa Nordstrom  

Posted: May 22nd, 2020 5:18 PM

It is sad to know Pieritz Bros. is closing. Until I moved to Arizona two years ago, I shopped there quite regularly (for 30 years). Thankful to Deborah and John for their creativity, helpfulness and for keeping the store going as long as they did. Wish I could stop by one last time to say goodbye and to wish them well.

Sam Sakellaris from Westchester  

Posted: May 22nd, 2020 1:31 PM

Worked at the Laramie location for over a year...almost 60 years ago...

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