Virag Jewelers, Evanston’s family jeweler since 1936, is marking its 75th anniversary with a special celebration and sale on Dec. 10 and 11. Food and refreshments will be served and entertainment provided by 97-year-old humorist Carl Hatfield, a long-time customer.
A third generation of the Virag family owns the 703 Main St. store, an unusual feat in a time when only Wal-Mart, Macy’s and other retail giants seem to dominate. In an economy where so many stores have failed, this store continues to flourish, thanks, they say, to its many loyal Evanston and North Shore customers. They regard the 75th anniversary as a celebration of family, hard work and customer loyalty.
Virag Jewelers’ History
1900s – Peter Virag (grandfather of the current owners) works as a second-generation watchmaker in his father’s jewelry store in a predominantly German community in Eastern Europe.
1921 – Peter and his family immigrate to the U.S. and settle in Chicago.
1921-35 – Peter spends 14 years working as a bench jeweler in the Jeweler’s District at Madison and Wabash in Chicago and then at a store in Evanston. When the Great Depression hits and his employer can no longer afford full-time employees, some of Peter’s loyal customers encourage him to open his own jewelry store.
1936 – Peter Virag Jewelers is founded on Chicago Avenue just north of Main Street in Evanston.
Late 1930s – Son Adam follows in Peter’s footsteps after high school graduation; son-in-law Frank Schneider also joins the business. The name is changed to Peter Virag and Sons Jewelers.
1942-Adam is drafted into the Army. Utilizing his watchmaking skills, he repairs essential timepieces and range-finding equipment in the U.S. and, eventually, in England before returning home in 1945.
1960s – The store relocates to its present site at 703 Main St.
1970s – Two of Adam’s sons, Tony and Pete, begin working full-time in the store.
1986 – Frank retires; Adam continues to work part-time. Tony and Pete become owners and change the name to Virag Jewelers Ltd.
Late 1980s – Adam’s youngest son, Joe, joins the business full-time.
Late 1990s – Adam retires after 60 years in the jewelry business.
2003 – Adam’s daughter, Terri, begins working behind the scenes as jewelry buyer and office manager. Her line of handcrafted jewelry, Sky Blue Jewelry Design, can be purchased online or in the store.
2007 – Tony leaves Evanston to own and operate a jewelry store closer to his home in the south suburbs.
Today – Pete, Joe, Terri and the staff at Virag Jewelers carry on their grandfather’s legacy of sales and service.