A Family Business, Four Generations Strong - Celebrating our 125th Anniversary
About Louis Glunz Wines
Louis Glunz Jr. on Wells St.
The Louis Glunz story begins in 1879, when Louis Glunz I arrived in Chicago from his native Wesphalia, Germany. Louis found that Chicago was a bustling port city struggling to recover from the Great Chicago Fire.
With little more than the clothes he was wearing and dream of starting his own business, Louis took a job as a deliveryman with Wacker & Birk, a Chicago brewery owned by prominent civic leader and businessman Charles H. Wacker. He worked hard, learned all he could about the brewery business and saved his wages to begin his own company.
Louis became a favorite of the Wackers. They showed their gratitude in the form of a business loan. In 1888, Louis set up shop as a wine, beer and spirits merchant at Wells and Division streets where his grandchildren and great grandchildren continue to do business today.
Shortly after Louis I opened his beer and wine business, he acquired a tavern next door and sold beer and sandwiches. Meanwhile, his retail business was growing. He was bottling his own beer, wines, cordials and spirits and becoming a supplier to the wealthy leaders of Chicago industry on the Gold Coast.
Each day he delivered kegs of beer and baskets of wines and spirits to the German taverns along Lincoln Avenue. In the basement of the two stores, he bottled beer for the next day's orders, and bottled, corked and labeled wines to be laid down in his cellars.
In 1893, his friend, Charlie Wacker, who was then a director of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, was instrumental in making Louis a bottler of Schlitz beer for the Exposition.
Married Elizabeth Mitterbacher, Louis and Elizabeth had three boys and three girls who would all play roles in the Glunz story: Louis II, Bertha, Joe, Edwin, Cecelia, and Anna. A tradition was established in the Louis Glunz family that was united each succeeding generation - by the age of 5 or 6; each of Louis' children was learning the business as he had - from the bottom up.
Armed with the Schlitz distributorship, and its reputation for fine beer, wines and spirits, the business expanded and the family continued to prosper. But then came Prohibition. Sacramental wines and medicinal products had become the mainstay of the business when Louis Glunz I died in 1931. He had guided the family and business most of the way through the less prosperous days of Prohibition. Now Louis II was in charge.
Louis II and his wife, Clare Stubing, raised five children: Louis III, Patricia, John, Barbara and Joseph. At midnight on the day of the repeal of prohibition in 1933, Clare and Louis II went to the railway yard for the first delivery of beer barrels. It was bedlam at the station and chaos later on Wells Street as the sidewalk was stacked high with new barrels ready to be lowered into the long empty cellars under the Glunz store.
The bottling business began again. The business began focusing on wholesaling and, in particular, on beer distribution. The company continued to bottle non-pasteurized draft Schlitz in half gallon bottles at a new facility at Hill and Franklin streets until World War II beer rationing began in 1942.
In 1942 the business continued to do well, despite the rationing of beer during World War II. After the War, Schlitz capitalized on its popularity with troops overseas and led the way into mass marketing of beer. Louis Glunz Inc., with its long relationship with Schlitz, became a prominent distributor of Schlitz on the North Side of Chicago.
Meanwhile, the third generation of the Glunz family pursued their educations while continuing to work with the business with their parents. The fourth generation family members who worked in the business to subsidize their college tuitions have carried on this tradition.
Louis III started a chemical business Regis Chemical Co. in a warehouse the family owned across the street from the Wells St. store. Regis Chemical Co. continues to operate in Morton Grove, Illinois. In 1960, Louis III married Jean Madden and they became the parents of six children. And today Louis and several of his family run the business.
After the second brother, John graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1957; he married Patricia Haskins and began their family of seven children. John concentrated on the beer business; today John is president of Louis Glunz Beer Inc.'s.
Meanwhile, the third brother, Joseph, after attending John Carroll University in Cleveland, transformed his father's wine collection into one of the finest wine distributorships in the United States. Today, president of Glunz Wines, Joseph married Helen Touhy and they had 10 children.
In 1992 the three brothers who had 23 children decided to split the company into three separate companies with each brother heading up their individual company.
Under the second and third generation, Louis Glunz Wines has evolved into a midsized importer and distributer of some of the finest wines from around the world. With the fourth generations involvment, the business has expanded with representation throughout the state of Illinois.