The Chicago Work Uniform Company Pays Tribute to an Industry Icon: Donald W. Buik

The Chicago Work Uniform Company Pays Tribute to an Industry Icon: Donald W. Buik

Donald W. Buik had a remarkable career in the work uniforms & textile rental industry – just as his father, George C. Buik, he had a disproportional degree of influence because he rolled up his sleeves, got involved and shared what he learned with the industry.

My dad is 88 years old and has good days and bad days, but when my sister Christine brought him down to the uniform rental company plant and met my sister Nancy and I to tour the ever changing operation – he was beaming with pride!

A Tribute to an Industry Icon… My Dad!

My dad was an operations guy and he really knew his stuff. In fact, through his involvement in our industry trade association, he pioneered the transition from 100% Cotton products that required labor intensive pressing to the new 65/35 Polyester Cotton fabric that was finished in a device then referred to as a “steam tunnel.”

His crowning industry achievement came with another technically innovative project in concert with the newly formed Environmental Protections Agency, Chicago Sanitary District and two industry trade associations – installing and operating the first wastewater pre-treatment system in the textile rental industry. While that system was replaced with a modern equivalent about 25 years after its installation – the uniform services can boast the longest record of environmental sustainability of any company in the nation; if not the world!

In 1974, my dad made a presentation on wastewater pre-treatment in Venice, Italy to the 6th World Linen Congress. Dad received the Gus Eggerling Award in 1985 and was inducted into the Plant Operations Hall of Fame in 2003 as a result of his contributions to the association and the industry. As one of many association presidents from the Chicago uniform company, my dad served in 1973 to 1974 and was named an Honorary Lifetime Member in 2001

My dad was a demanding leader who expected the best from the people who worked for him. When he was upset with someone – he would tell them they were on “thin ice,” which could not have been very comforting.

When he finished his bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University after a two year stint in the Navy V-5 program just as World War II was ending,he convinced his dad to start the 20 Year Club at Roscoe. The club recognized tenured members of the laundry services company after 20 years of service and welcomed active and retired team members back each year for dinner, recognition and fond remembrances of Roscoe. Don was pleased to see the Chicago uniform’s longest tenured team member, Johnny Sturdivant, on his tour.

My dad’s community involvement was incredible from; President of Bethel Church, Trustee of Elmhurst College, Board Chairman of the Sears Roebuck YMCA, Founder of Lawndale Business and Local Development Corporation, Board Member of Rotary One, Board of Governors Illinois Saint Andrew Society, and Scoutmaster and District Chair. Two awards from the Lawndale Community are named after him for his community spirit and the opportunities he provided to the neighborhood.

How he ever had time to run the business and make it home for dinner, I will never know, but he did. I am sure he emulated his father who was also very involved in improving his community and I have done the same. My dad has touched a lot of lives in a positive way and I would like him to know how much I appreciate the opportunities he provided me and so many other people – and most importantly, how much I love him. I would like to take this opportunity to salute my dad, Donald W. Buik, an industry icon!

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