Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Elmwood Plaza Racine WI.
Opened in October of 1957, the new Elmwood plaza shopping Center was one of Wisconsin's largest. The plaza as locals call it was a true regional center at it's beginning and it had over 30 stores including two department stores . The anchors were the Goldblatts department store which was a chain from Chicago and the J C Penney Co. It was Penney's second store in Racine and the chain would operate 2 Racine stores until both were merged into one in the 1980s. The plaza also had a Kroger food store and a S.S. Kresge Co . variety store and even housed a local drug store chain called the Red
cross Drug Co. The plaza had a strong mix of local and national stores that were big at the time. They included three sister stores: Kinney shoes, Richmans men's store, well known locals including Feiges, The Leader Store , and Lepp & Co. There were other stores as well that many would come and go as the years passed but because of the great location and the centers popularity, it never had a vacancy problem. Elmwood Plaza enjoyed market dominance until the opening of Regency Mall in 1981. The first big changes happened with the closing of Kroger which would be replaced by a Goodwill store that would eventually become a Whitlock auto supply. The next change at the plaza would be Kresge which survived the opening of the local Kmart and would get re branded Jupiter, a store I would say would compare to a Family Dollar store of today. Jupiter wasn't the only change at Elmwood Plaza as Red Cross would close the plaza store and it would later become a Jamb Discount beauty supply store. The biggest changes came with the opening of Regency Mall in 1981. Most of the stores including J C Penney would move to the mall at the same time. Goldblatts would go into bankruptcy and would close the Racine store leaving the plaza what today we call a dead mall by the year 2000. However, things looked much better after 20 years of nothing and Goldblatts would finally be replaced by Racine Produce giving the center a new anchor. As the small stores filled in quickly, the new owners of the center remodeled it with a new canopy and store fronts as well as a new sign and landscaping. With the exception of today's economy causing some problems, the plaza is again alive and well even though it is known more as a neighborhood center than the regional power it once was.