Bratschi Plumbing celebrates 75 years
Bratschi Plumbing started 75 years ago with Walter Bratschi. | Contributed photo
Location: 801 Oak St., Winnetka
Specializing in: Residential and commercial plumbing, sewer cleaning and repairs, water heat installation, emergency service
Updated: May 26, 2012 9:18AM
For the past 75 years, Bratschi Plumbing has remained a steady presence in the North Shore community.
The mom-and-pop business—which celebrated its big anniversary last month—has remained almost entirely family-owned and operated since it first opened in 1937.
The Bratschi family—now the Hoza family though marriage—has continued working and living in Winnetka since founder Walter Bratschi moved to the community in the 1930’s to open the business.
Over the years, Bratschi Plumbing, located at 801 Oak Street—has been passed down through four family generations and is today operated by Bratschi’s grandsons Phil Hoza III and Al Hoza and his great granddaughter Carrie Hoza.
Bratschi’s daughter Norma, now 93-years-old, had worked in the family business since the age of 18 immediately following her graduation from New Trier High School and she retired just three years ago after 72 years with the company when she turned 90.
“She enjoys her free time now, filling it with activities and time with family,” while still residing in Wilmette, said her granddaughter Carrie Hoza. “She is a blessing to her family and friends.”
The roots of Bratschi Plumbing stem from 1903, when future owner Walter Bratschi migrated to the U.S. from his native Switzerland and moved to Chicago.
Bratschi moved in with his uncle, a plumber, and together the two would hop on a train to the North Shore each day to find plumbing work. The area was quickly developing back then so there was plenty of work to be found.
Work was so prosperous, in fact, that eventually Bratschi moved to Winnetka and opened his own plumbing business.
Bratschi selected a property on Cherry Street—across from what is now the Winnetka Police and Fire Department—to build his family home. The house would also be the original location of Bratschi Plumbing.
The property was being sold at a discount because it was the site where former village president James L. Wilson and his wife were mysteriously murdered in 1884. The murder was never solved and although the house was torn down, the location was rumored to be haunted, Carrie Hoza said.
After later relocating the business to a garage on Ash Street, Bratschi moved the business to its current spot on Oak Street after Happ & Brady Blacksmith Shop closed down in 1947.
Bratschi bought the property from the widow of former shop owner John Brady, and Bratschi Plumbing has remained in the location ever since.
Over the past seven decades, the business has had its ups and downs, but a loyal customer following has kept the business going strong through the years.
“We have amazing customers all over the North Shore,” Hoza said. “The loyalty of our customers has helped keep us in business—without them we wouldn’t exist.”
But loyalty doesn’t end with Bratschi’s customers. The majority of employees and plumbers—60 percent—have been with the company for more than 20 years.