When Denis Ribordy had the opportunity to buy a drug store in Gary in 1955, he took it and began what would become the retail chain of Ribordy Drugs Inc., which is a conduit for the community giving that is the mark of the man who had his beginnings in Griffith.
From the sunny confines of his Naples, Fla., home, where he and his wife, Carolyn, spend winters, Ribordy, 78, said he considers his induction into the Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame to be a "huge honor."
Retired after selling his 26-store chain of drug stores, which stretched as far south as Noblesville, to Walgreens in 1985, Ribordy also is former president and CEO of Ribordy Enterprises. That business operated eight Hallmark shops until they were sold in 1992.
"My father was a wonderful guy who worked in the steel mills. He sent me to Butler (University) even though it cost a bit more than Purdue," Ribordy said. He graduated from the university's College of Pharmacy in 1952.
Carolyn Ribordy. who also graduated from Butler as a registered pharmacist, class of 1954, said her husband spent most of his college summers in Northwest Indiana, working in the steel mills.
As Ribordy advanced toward his degree, he began working at Hooks Drugs in Indianapolis, as well as smaller, independent pharmacies in the Indianapolis area. Those experiences helped him to shape the stores that would carry his name, he said.
From the beginning, Ribordy was a ready volunteer. "I think everybody owes something to their community," he said.
Carolyn Ribordy echoed that sentiment and said, "I don't think there's an organization he wasn't involved in."
After opening his Gary location, Ribordy quickly established himself as an involved businessman, earning the Gary Jaycees Chairman of the Year Award for 1958-1959, the Gary Jaycees Key Man Award in 1961 and the Gary Jaycees Outstanding Young Man Award in 1962.
By 1966, Ribordy was named the Pharmacist of the Year by the Lake County Pharmacist Association as well as Boss of the Year by the American Business Women's Association.
One of the more creative moves Ribordy made as a business owner was to give the pharmacists who worked for him a sense of ownership before "ownership" became a business management buzzword.
"I asked the pharmacists/managers whether, if they had any money, they would like to invest in the company," Ribordy said.
Ribordy's community involvement has earned him numerous honors, including a Tradewinds Man of the Year Service Award in 1993.
Ribordy is the former chairman of the Chicago Motor Club, where he continues as a director. He is a member of the board of directors for the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce, the Lake County, Indiana, Easter Seal Society for Crippled Children and Adults Inc., and TradeWinds Rehabilitation Center Inc., as well as a trustee emeritus of the Butler University Board of Trustees.
Ribordy has donated countless hours to the Boy Scouts of America, Better Business Bureau of Northwest Indiana and Gary Chapter of the American Red Cross, as well as serving in various capacities with the The Methodist Hospitals and the Northwest Indiana Forum. He is a member of the Chancellors Council for Indiana University Northwest, Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central.
Looking back on his years of volunteerism, Ribordy said his philosophy remains simple.
"I think you owe the community something. You can't just take from it," Ribordy said.