Roscoe Blog

Celebrating 98 Years of Helping Chicago-Area Businesses Get to Work in Uniform

Mark Stedman - Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Celebrating 98 Years of Helping Chicago-Area Businesses Get to Work

On August 13th, 1921 Roscoe founders George C. Buik and John P. O’Connell set out with a mission. They wanted to fill a gap in what they recognized as a fast-growing, niche market in an increasingly industrialized Chicago. Not only were they determined to improve the lives and businesses of their customers, they sought to build a company culture of excellence.

Today, 98 years later, we are celebrating the team members and customers who have helped keep their vision going for nearly a century, even as the industry has undergone a dramatic consolidation.

Generations of Pride

“When I started in the business full time in 1982, there were 80 operators in the (linen and industrial laundry) market,” says Roscoe’s third-generation owner and President, Jim Buik. “Now there are about 10. We are the last industrial independent supplier in Chicago.”

In addition to many customers' preference for the more personal service of a locally-owned uniform supplier, Roscoe’s longevity can be attributed to the commitment and care shown to both customers and team members, as well as a focus on continuous improvement. That focus has driven efforts like ISO certification, environmental initiatives and state-of-the-art sorting system technology. Buik notes that both he and his father Don shared a predisposition toward the early-adoption of technology. His father installed one of the first-generation of “mini” computers to automate the company’s billing system. “It filled a 20 by 20 room,” Buik recalls.

While much has changed over the years, we’re just as proud of the things that have stayed the same.

Operations Team Leader Miriam Avila, who celebrated her 25th year with the company this year, says a family-like atmosphere and a culture of support is the reason Roscoe’s “20-Year Club” has so many members.

“The one thing I can tell you that I really love about this place is that - even with the better technology and the way society itself has changed - the culture here at Roscoe is just the same as it was 25 years ago,” says Avila.

Reflecting on Roscoe: 98th Edition

This last year has been full of achievements both inside and out. Our team members continue to be an enormous source of pride as our sales growth continues to reinforce a focus on high-quality service and responsiveness, cutting-edge technology and responsible practices.

“I really love the people that I work with, the values that they have, the values that we share,” says Buik. “The work is good and important, as is the economic value we bring to so many families even beyond the realm of Roscoe. We really make a profound impact.”

Approaching a Century of Success

But even as we celebrate our 98th anniversary, we’re beginning to make plans for an even bigger milestone in 2021.

Our 100th anniversary celebration will feature a grand event downtown, where Roscoe team members, customers, vendors and guests of honor will gather to celebrate a remarkable history that began when O’Connell and Buik purchased the Very Best Laundry at Roscoe and Southport 98 years ago.

As we look forward to celebrating a century of achievement, we can’t help but feel that George and John would be proud of the team members who have made this possible and possibly a little bit amazed at how far their company has come. And of course, we couldn't have done it without the loyalty of our customers, who are some of the hardest working people in Chicago.

“We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us,” says Buik. “Those great people are allowing us to achieve this milestone.” To our team members and clients, we thank you for joining us along this journey. Happy 98th Anniversary!

Roscoe Milestones: 98 Years and Growing

Here are a few of the milestones we're celebrating today:

  • 1921: John P. O’Connell and George C. Buik purchase Very Best Laundry, washing customer-owned uniforms
  • 1924: Uniform rental service added
  • 1926: Moved to current location on Harrison Street
  • 1933: Supplied rental uniforms to the General Motors & Ford assembly plants and fair crew at the World’s Fair
  • 1969: Donald Buik promoted to president
  • 1991: Jim Buik promoted to president
  • 1993: Added barcoding and automatic sorting
  • 2001: Earned ISO certification
  • 2016: Converted RFID chips to Ultra-high RFID chips so thousands of garments could be scanned at once
  • 2017: Installed state-of-the-art Kannegiesser sorting system
  • 2019: Celebrating 98 years in business!

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