Fourth generation of Fullers carry on

Family's influence on Hinsdale evident in history books and central business district

Series: Quintessential Hinsdale | Story 4

It's practically impossible to spend time in Hinsdale without seeing the impact of the Fuller family, whose influence on the community began with the platting of Fullersburg Woods in the mid-1800s and continues today with a host of businesses.

Doug Fuller Jr. is the oldest son of Doug Fuller Sr., whose father, Lloyd Fuller, started the family business with a service station and car wash at the corner of York Road and Ogden Avenue in 1946. Today, the heirs of the company's founder own and manage 26 car wash locations throughout the Chicago area. Six of those, including the one in Hinsdale, fall under the leadership of Hinsdale resident Doug Fuller Jr.

"Hinsdale is the mother ship," Fuller said.

It's the place where it all began, and which much of the Fuller family still calls home.

Along with the car wash on Chicago Avenue, the Fullers own the repair shop across the street and Fuller's Home and Hardware at the corner of First Street and Garfield Avenue. Fuller House, the restaurant and bar that occupies a portion of the hardware store building, bears the Fuller name but is leased to the restaurant's owners.

"The hardware store was a grand idea by my mom," Fuller said. When Soukup's Hardware announced plans to close after more than 60 years in Hinsdale, Fuller's parents stepped in to save the business - and the 1929 building. "My dad put millions into rehabbing the building," Fuller said.

For a time, Fuller's Hardware occupied the entire building, with cooking classes upstairs and home decor, along with the hardware essentials that Hinsdaleans had long relied on the location to provide.

Providing Hinsdaleans with the things and services they need has long been the goal of the Fuller enterprise. So when hardware store didn't live up to expectations, the family decreased the size of the store and opened Fuller House in 2015.

"Hinsdale needed a bar," Fuller said.

Fuller House is now run by Sam and Patricia Vlahos, but Fuller said he's proud to have the business bear his family's name.

"It's an excellent restaurant," he said.

Meanwhile, Fuller Home and Hardware lives on, not only as a Hinsdale storefront, but as a busy handyman business.

"We do all home repairs for people," Fuller said.

From building decks to changing lightbulbs, 10 crews are busy every day doing whatever Hinsdale homeowners need to have done.

The family business has been part of life for his older sister, Paula Fuller, since she started as a cashier at age 12 and now works at the hardware store. She too still lives in the town she grew up in.

"I was very blessed that my family did have a business in town and all you had to do was walk to work or ride your bike. It was expected of you," she said.

Growing up with six siblings (Sara, Susie, Doug, Adam, Ethan and Colin), Paula said she learned a strong work ethic at home, too.

"I was the oldest, so when my (youngest) brother Colin was born, I was 12 years old, so I took care of him, too," she said.

Paula, now mom of five and grandmother of eight, said since her early days in the business, she has grown to love her job and the customers she serves.

"Here product is changing, people are changing. Their needs are different, so there's always something new every single day," she said.

All seven of Doug Sr.'s kids are still involved in the business. Doug Jr., now a grandfather of five, started working for the family business when he was 10.

Today, a fourth generation of Fullers are involved in the family business, which is growing right along with the family itself. Fuller's Landscaping was added this year to the family's list of service-centered businesses. Started by Doug's son, Aaron, and nephew, Roy, Fuller said the business is off to a good start.

"We have a lot of stuff going on," he said, including snow plowing in winter.

As president of the enterprise, Doug said he and his family still follow the business philosophy taught by their father and grandfather.

"You always have work if you serve people correctly," he said.

Paula said the family truly appreciates being able to help families take care of their homes and their cars.

"It's two major things in their life and we are very privileged to help people in those departments," she said.

Decades after he started working at the family's car wash, Doug said Saturday mornings are still a special time to be in Hinsdale. For many, the car wash is a part of their Saturday morning routine.

Over the years, he's seen Hinsdale change, and he's seen the cars grow more and more valuable. He said it's not unusual to see cars collectively worth more than $2 million in the wait line. Some of those cars belong to well-known people, said Doug, who remembers serving customers like restaurateur Dick Portillo and Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus.

Regardless of a person's notoriety or the value of their car, Doug said he and his family are dedicated to treating every person, every car and every job with the same level of care.

"These are your neighbors," he said. "You have to take care of your people."

- Pamela Lannom

contributed to this story.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean