contentsDBR IL Chamberads

Historical Businesses

The existence of long-term, established and still-thriving businesses and nonprofits gives any community an air of stability and legacy.

Rich Harris and his Deerfield Auto and Tire Clinic have played an integral part in Deerfield’s business community since 1962. That is when the then-19-year-old Harris took over the Deerfield Commons Mobil Service station where he had been working part-time for several years while attending Highland Park High School.

“The district manager for Mobil lived in Deerfield and one day he asked me how I would like to take over that station. I told him that I was definitely interested. So then I had to get a loan to do it,” Harris recalled.

“Deerfield’s First National Bank was just getting started then and one of the founders was a Mobil customer. So I started showing up at the bank every day for several weeks, asking for a loan,” he said. “Finally he got tired of saying no and told me that if I could get a couple of co-signers, they would give me the loan. So I got my dad to sign for a load of gas and my uncle to sign for a load of oil and they gave me the loan.”

In 1977 Harris moved to his current location at 663 Waukegan Rd., which features five bays and five lifts, but no gas pumps. A little over a year later, he gave up the Mobil station and moved all of his operations into Deerfield Auto and Tire Clinic.

Today Harris and his two sons, Ted and Robert, along with a long-time Deerfield resident, Dana Turner, run a full-service, six day a week auto mechanics and tire facility which handles both domestic and foreign cars. They even offer a comfortable waiting room with trains running along the ceiling and toys for the children.

“It is great to have a business in the same town for all of these years. We have seen three generations of customers and that is just amazing,” Harris said.

Italian Kitchen, a 120-seat restaurant with an outdoor seating area, located at 648 Deerfield Rd., has also been a fixture in Deerfield since 1962. Italian Kitchen specializes in family recipes and unique gastronomical delights. In addition to traditional favorites like chicken lemone, tortelacci and homemade tiramisu, maple-glazed pork belly over truffle mushroom stone-ground grits and pan-seared Alaskan halibut topped with grilled peaches often make a feature presentation, said John Sciarretta, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Emerald.

The Sciarretta family purchased the restaurant in 1972 from founder and family member Gregory Salvi. It has been evolving ever since.

“You could say that we offer a blended Italian cuisine that includes elements of northern and southern Italian dishes, as well as Sicilian dishes. Many of our recipes originate from family members, such as our Zia Lucia (house-made fettuccine in a light mushroom puree, topped with seasoned olive oil bread crumbs). It is my favorite aunt’s recipe and it is delicious,” Sciarretta said.

“Emerald and I go to the Chicago market multiple times a week and pick up the freshest ingredients. We love to experiment with creating new dishes. Emerald and I like to create things in the kitchen and put our own little touch on our signature dishes,” he said. “Creating food is a beautiful thing. I tell my customers that I am not a chef, but more of an artist.”

Sciarretta grew up in the restaurant business with his parents, John Sr. and Maria. His mother remains the backbone of the kitchen, and his sisters, Angela and Lisa, also help out when possible. But Sciarretta emphasized that his wife, Emerald, “is the magic that keeps me going. She is my friend, business partner, wife and spiritual companion.”

Orphans of the Storm has been placing abandoned dogs and cats with loving families since its founding on 10 acres in Riverwoods in 1928. Movie star and dancer Irene Castle founded the shelter because of her love of animals. It was taken over by Thelma Zwirner and then her son, Richard.

The private nonprofit accepts stray and abandoned dogs and cats from all over Lake County and survives exclusively on donations and fundraising.

“We only charge a nominal fee for each adoption,” said Gail Donahue, shelter administrator.

Orphans of the Storm never euthanizes an animal unless they are vicious and aggressive.

The shelter can accommodate up to 150 dogs and about 300 cats of all ages and breeds. Four full-time caretakers are consistently on the property.

“We are always upgrading our facilities. Two years ago we renovated our cat area and last October we opened trails through our woodland preserves so that our staff and volunteers can enjoy them while walking our dogs,” Donahue said. “We also own our own full-service animal hospital and clinic, located in Libertyville. The Ruth Helen Wolf Animal Hospital and Clinic offers exceptional, affordable care for animals, seven days a week.

“We need to clear up the misconception that there is something wrong with shelter animals,” Donahue said. “Most pets are given up because of allergies, financial difficulties or a family move.”

Orphans of the Storm has recently opened a storefront in downtown Highland Park. The shelter also runs weekend pet adoption centers in Gurnee and at Northbrook Court.

The main facility is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is also open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.

previous topic
next topic
Town Square Publications