When Vi at the Glen resident Bill Brown says he’s “retired,” what he means is, he works every Monday through Thursday. “He went down from seven days a week,” his wife of 67 years, Norma, said with a smile, “so now he’s retired.”
But while Norma has embraced the benefits of full retirement, Bill still commutes 10 minutes each way four days of the week to A.L.P., the global lighting components business he and Norma officially founded just over 45 years ago. The couple’s new home at Vi at The Glen has afforded them the opportunity to stay near and dear to what matters most: their family.
A.L.P. started as a true homegrown, family business, with the first company headquarters located in the couple’s two-bedroom apartment in Skokie. Over the years it grew into a successful global company, one that the Browns were able to hand over to their children, the second generation.
The Browns’ two sons got their start in the business early, listening in on their mom’s service calls, often picking up the phone to tell her (and their customers), “Mommy, I have something to tell you.” Thankfully, according to Norma, “Bill heard later from the customers that they loved it.”
Today, the Browns’ sons run A.L.P with their dad still doing the job he loves most. “The technology of running a business today requires an understanding of computers and electronic systems, and my sons are really great with that. I like marketing and sales, so that’s what I do!” Bill explained.
And he does it very well. In 2016, Bill was awarded the Louis B. Marks Award by the Illuminating Engineering Society in recognition of his “lifetime of exceptional service.” The award is the highest honor the society gives to a non-engineer, and the family was there to cheer him on.
2016 was a big year for the Browns in another way too. It was the year they decided to make the move to a Life Plan Community. Naturally, they wanted to choose a senior living community that kept them near family, and the business that keeps their family close. Norma had heard about Vi at the Glen through her daughter-in-law, whose mother was considering her own move there. “I came to visit and was looking at the activities board, which had so many activities for me and my husband, and then I considered that our office is just ten minutes away, it all made me think, ‘Gee, this place makes sense,’” Norma explained.
The Browns brought their children to visit next. “Our girls live ten minutes away in different directions. The boys live in Highland Park. They’re all close by,” she added. After visiting, the family all agreed, “Done deal.”
The Browns selected a finished apartment at Vi at The Glen, and it came as no surprise to their family when they decided to add their own touches prior to moving in. The Browns redid all the lighting, though even after a lifetime in the business, Bill looked to an expert for help. “I didn’t want to be like a lawyer who represents himself, and has a fool for a client,” Bill laughed. “I hired a lighting consultant.”
Today, after two years in their new home, the Browns rave about the Vi at The Glen staff, and they’ve found plenty of new friends and activities to keep them busy. Norma is a great fan of the community-sponsored lectures and said she looks forward every week to the “Great Decisions” discussion group that meets to consider and debate world affairs. And on the mornings he’s not leaving for work, Bill is a part of a regular group that meets for breakfast.
In all, the Browns talk about living at Vi at The Glen in the same terms Bill uses to describe his passion for working at the business he and Norma created for their family. “You do what you love,” Bill said, “and you love what you do.”