Wolf Lewis. The modern merchant is the man who knows what the people want and supplies the best facilities for meeting those wants. He acts on that solid commercial principle that real success is only a return for an adequate service rendered. Of Champaign merchants of this class there is no more conspicuous example than Wolf Lewis, whose department store in the large Illinois Building means to Champaign County about what the Marshall Field store means to the shopping public of Chicago. Mr. Lewis is a merchant almost by birthright, but has profited by a long and thorough experience and has been tested by the fire of adversity as well as by the stimulus of prosperity. Along with success in his private business ventures, he has combined a public spirit which has made him a factor in civic improvement and municipal betterment. He is looked upon as a man of the finest character and useful influence.
Mr. Lewis is a native of Poland, where he was born May 15, 1858, a son of Reuben and Eva (Lewis) Lewis, both natives of Poland. The mother died in Poland when her son Wolf was a very small child. Reuben Lewis then immigrated to the United States, located at Troy, New York, and engaged in the wholesale dry goods business. He had left his six children behind him in Poland, and did not send for them until he was well located in the New World. He spent the rest of his life as a successful business man at Troy, New York, where he died. His children were: George, now a resident of Chicago; Himan, deceased; Dora, widow of I. Schiller of Troy, New York; Wolf; Rosa, wife of Mr. Rosenthal of New York City; Samuel, a resident of Chicago.
Brought to this country when a small boy, Wolf Lewis grew up in Troy, New York, and acquired his early educational advantages there. The first thing to attract him away from home surroundings was the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, in the year 1876. He spent a time at the exposition, and also came to know something of New York City during that year. He then returned to Troy, acquired some additional business training, and in 1879 went West to Chicago. Subsequently he and his brother George established a merchandise business at Marinette, Wisconsin, and he soon took over the store himself, while George returned to Chicago.
In 1897 Mr. Lewis sold his holdings in northern Wisconsin and removed to Champaign. Here he opened a stock of general merchandise in the old Odd Fellows Building, but subsequently removed to a new building, which was later destroyed by fire, and he and its other occupants suffered complete loss of their business. Not at all disheartened, Mr. Lewis opened another store in temporary quarters, and when the Illinois Building was completed he took a lease on the basement, first and second floors and a part of the third floor. The Illinois Building is in the heart of the shopping district of Champaign, and its tenants are all high class business concerns. Mr. Lewis has rapidly built up a department store enterprise that is one of the largest and most successful in Illinois.
Mr. Lewis is a Republican in politics. He is affiliated with the lodge of Masons and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, is a member of the Jewish Synagogue of Champaign and a member of the Champaign Country Club.
Mr. Lewis married for his first wife Lena Ruler. At her death she left one son, Leonard D., who is now treasurer of his father’s company. Mr. Lewis married for his second wife Eay Ruler, sister of his first wife. They have two sons, Herman, secretary of the W. Lewis Company, and Roy, who is now located in Chicago.