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  • Kim Piekos

‘This Place Is in My Blood’: CVS Manager Mark Bialk Prepares to Retire

By Kim Piekos

After 22 years at the helm of the store on Western Avenue, CVS manager Mark Bialk will be retiring June 7. On his last day, friends will gather at Chief’s Pub to celebrate his contribution to Lake Forest. “I’m looking forward to that because a lot of people told me they are going to come,” he said. “That means so much.”

"I’m thinking about continuing to pick up my prescriptions here so I get to say hi to people," says Mark Bialk, who is retiring from the CVS store in Lake Forest after a long career.

Bialk considers the people of Lake Forest to be a second family.

“I’ve seen people grow up, get married, have kids of their own and pass away,” recalled Bialk, who has enjoyed getting to know people over the years. “This place is in my blood now.”

Lake Forest resident Maureen Clarke echoed Bialk’s comments about family.

“Mark has been an absolute pleasure,” she said. “He always went out of his way to help customers, and his product knowledge was exceptional. He was like family.”

Before joining CVS, Bialk worked in operations and customer service at Northern Trust Bank and Crown Books in Skokie, Lake Zurich and Gurnee, all while commuting from Kenosha, Wis. He credits being raised on the hardworking Northwest Side of Chicago, being of Irish descent and his love of people as the motivator for working as long (since age 14) and hard as he has.

Though he’s already had some job offers, Bialk looks forward to spending time with family and friends, traveling, reading, visiting museums and going to movies and theatre.

“I need time to refresh, and take care of myself and those I love,” he said. “I never traveled because I worked all the time. I didn’t get my passport until I was 55. Since then, I’ve been to Europe at least a dozen times and I’m considering going to Switzerland for Christmas this year.”  

Reading is high on Bialk’s bucket list.

“My goal is to read two or three books – biographies, history, mysteries and family saga books -- a week,” he said. “I used to be an avid reader.”

CVS chose Lake Forest as the location of its first store in the Chicago area, opening in November 2000.  Hired seven months after the store opened, Bialk has lived through many iterations.

“This store has changed its face probably more than any other CVS store in the area,” he said. “We’ve doubled in size and have been remodeled four times.”

Bialk has also witnessed CVS’s vision shift over time. Though still a convenience store, the MinuteClinic welcomes about 30 patients a day who have common healthcare issues, like ear infections and strep throat, and provides school physicals and Department of Transportation exams for truck drivers.

Bialk has worked long days while managing the store, often taking shifts for employees with childcare issues or working Mother’s Day so his employees who are moms have the day off.

“I have had the best team at the store – everyone from those at the front of the store to those in the pharmacy and all the nurses -- I’ll miss them a great deal,” he said. “They made my job so much easier.”

Bialk isn’t completely cutting ties with his friends in Lake Forest.

“I’ll still be around,” he said. “I get my hair cut and see doctors here, and I’m thinking about continuing to pick up my prescriptions here so I get to say hi to people.”

He says you can also catch him on Lake Forest Day in August. Noted Bialk, “I’ll be in the beer tent!”

He is grateful for the reception he has received over the years from the community.

“The people of Lake Forest took me in,” he said. “And when they did, they embraced me big-time.

“One Thanksgiving, when I was working, two customers brought me Thanksgiving dinner at the store because they were worried about me being alone. Incredible!”



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