Klees Golf Shop, a South Side institution for over a century, has closed its doors for business.
Located at 10436 S. Western Ave., for the last 20 years, the shop’s last day was Oct. 31.
Owner Charlie Klees, whose grandfather opened the store, said age and health issues led to the decision.
Running the shop, he said, was a family affair.
“I have five sisters who worked here,” Klees said. “It was just kind of what we did.”
Klees offered a wide variety of golf apparel, including clubs and shoes, as well as services in which customers could have their swing measured for club-head speed and launch angle.
Klees’ grandfather, Charles J. Klees, opened the business in April 1910 as Jackson Park Golf Shop at 64th Street and Stony Island Avenue, across the street from Jackson Park. He and co-owner C.C. Chattell offered custom-made clubs, with their names stamped on club heads.
Klees bought out Chattell in September 1915 and added “Charles J. Klees Golf Shop” to the doors and awnings. Custom clubs were branded with “Chas. J. Klees/Chicago,” and he expanded his inventory to include clubs from manufacturers such as Spalding, Wilson and Kroydon.
Charles J. Klees died of tuberculosis in 1927, and his wife, Louisa, asked the store manager, Walt Steinway, to be a working partner. The shop introduced a catalog featuring golf, baseball and tennis equipment and radios to listen to sporting events in 1936, and in 1939, Louisa Klees bought out Steinway.
Louisa and Charlie’s son, John, became a business partner in 1946, and John and his wife, Mary Rita, welcomed a son, the younger Charlie, in December 1946.
In March 1956, the shop burned down. Almost all the merchandise was destroyed—although a repair shop area in the basement was saved—and the shop moved across the street for one year.
In 1957, the family moved the shop to 87th Street and Bennett Avenue, in the South Shore neighborhood.
Louisa died in 1966, and John moved the shop to 87th and California Avenue, near Beverly Country Club, in 1968.
John’s son, Charlie, became a full working partner in 1990 and began overseeing most sales and merchandising duties, and his wife, Eileen, joined the business in 1997, utilizing the internet to boost sales.
The shop moved to its Western Avenue location in 1999.
John died in 2000.
The shop celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010, and Charlie Klees said the family had maintained a reputation for quality service.
“When we said we were closing, a lot of local people came in to say goodbye or thanks,” Klees said. “A lot of people from not so close came in, too. We had a pretty broad market.”
Golf megastores began popping up in the 1990s, Klees said, and even while the shop competed with them, many of those customers who came to say goodbye always remained loyal customers.
Klees, of Morgan Park, said he will continue to provide golf club services out of his home. The family is ready to move on, he said, but their love for the game remains strong.
His family took advantage of the chance to purchase equipment from Klees Golf Shop in its final weeks.
“Everybody wanted to get a new set of clubs,” Klees said, “before we disappeared.”