Neither Mike nor Chuck Schelkopf knew they wanted to follow in the footsteps of their father, former Sycamore veterinarian Russ Schelkopf, until they got to college.
“After I had been there briefly I found I liked science a lot,” said Mike Schelkopf, who co-owns Bethany Animal Hospital with his ex-wife Deborah and his brother. “We had worked on the farm, so we liked farm animals, and it just seemed like a natural path.”
“I think there’s that extra bit of pride in that we’re proud of what we do and our business, but we’re also proud of being one of the longer-standing veterinary structures,” Mike Schelkopf said.
Bethany Animal Hospital is one of several multi-generational, family-owned small businesses in the county that have survived recessions and competition from chain businesses, and even thrived.
“Locally-owned and -operated family businesses are always a strong foundation for the community,” said Matt Duffy, executive director of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce. “When they are multi-generational, they provide a lot of ties to the community.”
Lehan Drugs was founded by Emory and James Lehan Sr. in 1946. James Lehan Sr.’s grandson Tim Lehan now owns the business, which has retail stores in DeKalb, Sycamore and Rockford.
“It was a dream I had as a kid was to be a pharmacist with my dad,” Tim Lehan said. “You always start off cleaning bathrooms and stocking shelves, and then as you get older you can start working in the pharmacy and helping out there.”
About a dozen members of the Lehan family now work for the business. Some family members, like Tim’s brother Patrick, have returned to the family business after pursuing other careers.
“They have gone out on their own and done their thing, and if they have a skill set that we can use and if they are amicable to coming back to the business, that’s how it works out,” Tim Lehan said.
When Morgan Sheedy married her chiropractor husband, Zac, last year, she became the 36th doctor of chiropractic in the extended Sheedy family.
“I graduated as 33rd, then two cousins snuck in there, then Morgan became 36th,” said Zac Sheedy, who co-owns Sheedy Family Chiropractic in Sycamore with his wife. He took over the practice from his great-uncle Michael Sheedy, who by chance established the practice as a second career shortly after graduating from chiropractic school in his home state of Iowa in 1957.
“He had just finished chiropractic college and he was on his way to Chicago, coming down Route 64,” Sheedy said. “He stopped at a chiropractic office here in town and the guy was actually just packing up, getting ready to close the office.”
Sheedy’s mother became a doctor of chiropractic, also as a second career, and with six young children she often took them to the office with her in pairs.
“I loved going to work with her,” said Zac Sheedy, who is now treating fourth- and fifth-generation members of the same families that his great-uncle treated. “It was a lot of fun. My brother became a chiropractor and then I followed him.”
Mike and Deborah Schelkopf have a son, Chris, who is a veterinarian in Princeton, and a daughter who attends veterinary school in London. Chuck Schelkopf also has a son, Adam, who is a veterinarian in Minnesota.
“He was exposed to it growing up, just the same way Mike and I were,” Chuck Schelkopf said. “Our dad would take us on veterinary calls and we’d get that exposure. At the time maybe you didn’t think it was the greatest thing in the world, but in the back of your mind it was something that you found appealing as you got older.”
The Lehan family already has at least one fifth-generation candidate to work in the pharmacy.
“I have a granddaughter who is almost 4 years old who says she is going to be a pharmacist and work at Lehan Drugs,” Ann Lehan said.