Father-son pair make work a family affair
Ken Sitkowski and son Tom Sitkowski at Bannerville USA in Burr Ridge. The father-son pair work together at the company, which Emil Harley, Tom’s grandfather and Ken’s father-in-law, started nearly 40 years ago. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: July 15, 2012 6:11AM
Tom Sitkowski spends nearly every day with his dad. But that doesn’t mean he’s any less eager to spend Father’s Day with him, too.
Ken and Tom Sitkowski work side-by-side at Bannerville USA, which Emil Harley, Tom’s grandfather and Ken’s father-in-law, started nearly 40 years ago. The company provides signs of all sorts for companies, non-profits, schools and municipalities.
“He was a one-man shop,” Ken said, until he brought Ken into the business in 1983. It was just a few years later that Ken’s own children — sons Dave, Steve and Tom — began to pitch in at what was now the family business.
Ken said his sons always knew they were welcome to work with him, but only after they spent some time in what he calls “the real world.”
Working for corporate America isn’t the same as working for your dad, said Ken, a Western Springs resident. While two of his three sons have chosen to work outside the family business, Tom has found his niche there.
“It wasn’t for me,” he said of his stint with a large corporation. “I was behind my desk most of my day.”
He would much rather be out talking to customers, finding new ones, and working with his dad.
“You are not going to find someone better to work for,” Tom said.
But that’s not to suggest that he’s treated any differently than the rest of the employees. Ken, who bought the business in 2005 and moved it to Burr Ridge from Western Springs in 2007, hired his son only when an opening became available. Then, he started at the bottom, just like everyone else.
“I think that’s really important,” Ken said.
While many people use Saturday and Sunday to take a break from their bosses and co-workers, these two spend most weekends together, and not just on Father’s Day.
“We’re always together,” Tom said.
Tom said he knew when he started working for his dad that the days were long, but his dad showed him long ago how to balance work and family.
“It meant the world to me that my parents were always there,” said Tom, who played several sports in youth leagues and at LT. His dad, who often was his coach, never missed a game.
And while many people in their 50s are looking forward to retirement, Ken is savoring the years he gets to work side-by-side with his son.
“I enjoy working now more than ever,” he said.