Metro-East News

Drexel House of Drapes founder built business on his name

The man behind the blinds and window treatments hanging throughout the many office buildings in the metro-east and beyond has died.

Jack McAllister Sr., who founded Drexel House of Drapes in 1954, died Sunday after battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 92.

Until a few months ago, Jack McAllister Jr. worked alongside his father and runs the family business today as the second-generation owner. McAllister, who last year said he has no plans of quitting while his father is still coming to work at the family business, said he will continue on with the business. But it won’t be the same.

“I’ve seen him every day since 1985 coming out of that shop, except on weekends when I was home,” McAllister said. “We just had a great relationship.”

Jack S. McAllister Sr. was born on Jan. 15, 1923, in Duenweg, Mo. His biological mother, who was a Chautauqua Indian, and his father later gave him up for adoption.

“He got picked up by a family named McAllister. Dad didn’t talk about that as much.”

McAllister was an Army veteran who served in World War II. He earned a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars for his service in the Southwest Pacific Theatre. He and fellow soldiers helped liberate the Filipino people. McAllister believes the military helped shape his father into the business man that he became.

“He was a true patriot,” McAllister said. “He loved his country.”

McAllister and his wife, Delores, 85, were married for 67 years.

McAllister opened the family business 61 years ago. The business initially manufactured and laundered window blinds from a cinder block building in East St. Louis. The business evolved into fabricating blinds and shades as well as fabricating window shades and included commercial customers such as the housing authority in East St. Louis and St. Louis as well as other office buildings throughout the metro-east.

He named his company Drexel, after the former telephone exchange in East St. Louis. McAllister said his father realized that the repetitiveness of a name that people were already familiar with could help build his business.

“I get called Mr. Drexel to this day,” the younger McAllister said. “It’s kind of comical. It’s how our company name was established.”

He also remembers how his father would like to barter, if a customer was unable to pay. Once that led to a riding lawnmower as payment, and another time, a new set of teeth.

“He bartered with a dentist for a set of choppers,” McAllister said. “He made him a set of teeth. I always giggle about that.”

Today, the family business exists at 3721 Lebanon Ave. in Shiloh. McAllister said the business has evolved as people’s tastes in window dressing have changed. What remained constant was the reputation his father had built from fair, honest, hard work.

“He just made his life the best with what they could,” McAllister said. “Today, all of the stuff that my father taught me, I just expanded on it. My reputation is just as good as his was.”

“I think the biggest thing about dad was his kindness,” McAllister added. “He cared for others and he was not selfish at all. He was always straight-forward with customers and made an honest living.”

Visitaiton for Jack McAllister Sr. will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at Kassly Mortuary in Fairview Heights. A chapel service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the funeral home with burial following in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

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