by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—When Richwrap owners Dick and Beth Brubaker held their annual Christmas wrapping paper sale last December and said it was the last, they heard about it. The sale had become a tradition in which Beth would get rid of left-over stock, held at the Richwrap building on the Thursday and Friday after Thanksgiving. The event drew crowds year after year. When Beth decided 2010 was her last year, what she didn’t know at the time was that her daughter Liz planned to keep it going.
“Once people found out (that the sale would no longer be held), they were begging me to keep it going,” said Liz Ruh, the Brubaker’s daughter and current owner. “I was shocked. I had no idea it meant so much.”
Ruh bought out her father’s business in March 2011. Dick had decided that it was time to slow down and started walking her through how things were done.
“It was a natural progression. I didn’t have the intention of staying. I was never groomed for it, but here I am. I stayed,” she said.
Ruh began her career as a municipal bonds broker for Smith Barney in Chicago. She, along with her five other brothers and sisters, worked in the family business from time to time. When Ruh married farmer Steve Ruh from Big Rock, she started working on a seasonal basis.
“I was doing it to help my dad out. I was helping the family out. Then when I had my daughter, I went part-time (year-round). When my dad said, ‘OK. I’m ready to be done,’ we thought about. We didn’t take the decision lightly,” Ruh said. “We knew we wanted to keep it in Elburn. We knew we wanted to keep it in the family.”
Dick started the business in 1970 out of his basement in Park Ridge, Ill. The family moved to Elburn in 1976, and continued to grow it out of the basement and then the garage. The building was constructed in the new business park on North Street in 1985. Beth has been holding the annual sale of left-over stock of wrapping paper every year in those locations.
The business rolls all its own wrapping paper and makes all its own bows. Starting in April each year, it turns out 80,000-100,000 units. Between 80 and 90 percent of that stock is sent out the week before, the week of, and the week after Thanksgiving. The week after coincides with the annual sale.
Ruh is continuing to learn the business from her father and has come to really enjoy it.
“Dad is still around (the building) here and there. He’s been doing this for 45 years. He has a wealth of knowledge. I’m glad to have him walk me through things,” she said. “I love it. I love the business. I love the job. I love the product. I get a lot out of it.”
Her belief in the product, the general concept and gift wrap ensembles developed by her father, is based on the fact that it has worked for all these years. The business has a high number of repeat customers, many from the first days of the company. One thing that will change, however, is how the product will be marketed.
“We’ve never had an online presence. We had a website, but it was not interactive. Soon, you can go online and order from all over the world,” Ruh said.
As for the sale this year, Ruh has to figure out how to make that happen.
“I’m going to keep it going. I don’t know how exactly,” she said. “I appreciate all the people who said to keep it going. I will.”