Kaye Mason: Leaving a Legacy on LaSalle Street
Kaye Mason is a self-made woman. At 90, Mason still comes into her office every day of the week and runs the business that she has grown since 1968. This month brings an end to Chek-Lab at 84 S. LaSalle St. in downtown Aurora.
Due to health reasons and the changing world of the industry, Mason is closing up shop. She leaves behind a legacy on the street that she helped to mold.
“We saw it coming,” Mason said. “Business was fading.” She added that she went from 20 employees to seven a handful of years ago.
A good run
Mason first entered into the blood labeling business when she started working for Professional Packaging; she owned stocks and Chek-Lab fell into her lap eventually. Mason remembers being paid $2/hour labeling pharmaceutical aerosol cans for “Pro Pack” in 1968.
Chek-Lab is the first printer in the country for Blood Bank Labeling Systems, and Mason acquired stock in the early 1970s. Chek-Lab, along with divisions of FM Graphic Impressions, a commercial printing company established in 1903, and Professional Packaging, a distributor of pharmaceutical aerosol products established in 1947, functioned on the third floor of the current building that Mason purchased in 1977.
Chek-Lab, which closes at the end of December, is the only business left standing. Chek-Lab is a national and international company serving the health care industry since 1947. They make labels for blood banks, hospitals, and clinical laboratories. In 1947, Chek-Lab patented temperature indicators for blood bags that are still used today.
30 year board member
Aside from running her businesses, Mason has served on the Aurora Downtown board since its inception. She recalls working with the Bookman and Capraro team, who got the Aurora Downtown organization on its feet. Initial meetings were often held at the old Merchant’s Bank building and other locations around downtown.
Mason said that over the years she is most proud of the cleaning up of downtown Aurora. Mason, who grew up in Aurora, recalls a LaSalle Street filled with offices and shops. There was a doctor’s office and a dentist office across the street, and a candy shop down below.
Then many businesses left for a variety of reasons, and Mason’s company is the last standing from the golden era on LaSalle Street, the historic “Auto Row.”
Friends of LaSalle Street
In the last 5 years, Mason and others have been dutifully bringing back the historic Auto Row with successful annual car shows. Mason will continue to serve on the Friends of LaSalle Street organization that has met in the backroom of her building since its inception and the first days of planning the Historic Auto Row Car Show in 2010.
“It’ll come back,” she said of the historic street.
Editor’s note: Although Mason will no longer serve on the Aurora Downtown board, she will continue to be involved in committees through Aurora Downtown that help to beautify and improve downtown Aurora, something that Mason is passionate about.