Tom Cruise’s character in the 1983 movie Risky Business, Joel Goodsen, ate fries in a scene shot at Shelton’s Ravinia Grill in Highland Park. The diner closed in 1993.
An 86-year-old mother and her daughter opened a business at the location on November 7, selling considerably healthier fare at 481 Roger Williams Avenue.
A risky venture, in these uncertain times?
Not if you’re spritely octogenarian Sally Schoch and her industrious daughter, Kari Guhl, along with Schoch’s legions of nuts fans, who had been urging the mother of four and grandmother of six to peddle pecans and almonds and cashews for years. Schoch (pronounced “shock”), of Wilmette, and Guhl, of Highland Park, co-own Sally’s Nuts & Snack Shop.
If you’re in awe of Schoch, you’re not alone.
A lifelong abstract painter, Schoch generated her first batch of nuts for her first “customers”—family and friends—at her home about 25 years ago and started gifting them aplenty after opting to rent a commercial kitchen in 2017.
“It’s a messy and labor-intensive process,” admits Schoch, who spends three to four days a week at her shop. “You’d have to use your entire kitchen space in order to make the nuts, and it takes about three hours to make one batch.
“My recipes happened to click and have been well-received. We’re seeing a steady stream of customers. It’s been amazing, every day, since we opened. Delightful. People walk in, smiling, and say, ‘What’s going on in here?’ I love the shop because it keeps me busy and I’m surrounded by good people. I laugh my head off at work each day. You know what’s funny? One of our shop’s landlords is also named Sally. I’m five times older than she is.
“I don’t think there’s another shop in the country like ours. We’re more than just nuts.”
Schoch’s shop also sells baked goods, salads, simple sandwiches, and cheese boards. Patrons are going nuts over those items, too. The shop plans to vend macadamia nuts in 2021.
Start forming a line today.
The location also features a row of empty nut jars, alluding to what Schoch’s hungry-for-more gift recipients—usually between holidays in November and December—presented to the accommodating Schoch before the Sally’s Nuts & Snack Shop launch.
“Our No. 1 cheerleader, without a doubt, is Sal, who’s an Energizer Bunny and a dynamo,” gushes Guhl, whose brother Brandon intends to help in the shop’s kitchen at least through the end of the year. “It’s a very happy place, our shop, with a lot of that having to do with the presence of Sal. I can’t tell you how many people had said to my mother over the years, ‘These nuts are fantastic, Sally! You’ve got to start a business.’ Well, look what she’s doing now. “The message she’s sending to all of us is, ‘You’re never too old to chase your dreams.’ ”
Schoch grew up as Sally Davis in Joliet, the hometown of her future husband, Dick. But their courtship didn’t start until Dick took a night drawing class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where Sally, a University of Miami graduate, had been studying for her Master of Fine Arts degree after collecting her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the school on Wabash Avenue. They connected in the institute’s cafeteria one afternoon.
The couple got married in 1962. Their other two sons are Bret and Brad. Dick Schoch joined the Jack Daniel Distiller y, serving as an executive salesman and becoming vice president of the Midwest Region. He died in 2010. Sally Schoch has lived in Wilmette since 1964, and she might very well hold the record for number of walks to and from Gillson Park.
“What do I think about on my walks?” Schoch says with a brief chuckle. “Oh, I pay attention to the gardens more than anything else I do when I’m outside. So fortunate … we’re all so fortunate to live in a beautiful area like this. I’ve been blessed. And now, I get to work with my family members in my shop in Highland Park, which is such an open and free and welcoming community.
“I fell into a pile of fun.”
Gardening is one of Schoch’s many cherished pastimes, along with painting, baking, and knitting. She does not remain attached to any of her paintings for an extended period of time; her favorite painting every year is the one she’s creating in her mind.
“My mother is the most creative person I know, and I was in the field of art (as a wholesaler) for more than 30 years,” Guhl says. “Creativity—it’s one of her strongest traits.”
Schoch was a Wilmette Arts Guild featured artist in 2016. Vivid paintings of her subjects, particularly of the floral variety, don’t just pop; they explode. Exhibits A and B: Schoch’s “Flower Tower” and “A Study in Yellow” paintings.
“The core of my work is abstract expressionism,” she shares on the Wilmette Arts Guild website. “I enjoy the challenge of realism in subjects but choose to focus on capturing their identity in abstract. There is something exciting about breaking the rules of tradition to create a scene or still-life in blocks of color not true to reality.
“Abstract to me,” she continues, “is the marriage of imagination, spontaneity, and color.”
Formerly an avid tennis player, Schoch is coming up aces in another realm. It has been quite a match, the can-do Schoch and her appealing shop.
“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful life. Period,” the ebullient business owner says. “Keep moving; that’s what I do. That’s also what keeps me happy.”
Sally’s Nuts & Snack Shop is located at 481 Roger Williams Avenue in Highland Park’s Ravinia district. Winter hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Call 847-748-8947 or visit sallysnuts.com for more information.