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.

14 comments:

Dave said...

John- These are great pictures! The Penneys, Kresge's and especially the Goldblatt's are fantastic. The Goldblatt's reminds me of the one at Mt. Prospect Plaza (near Randhurst) that opened in 1962, a few years after the Elmwood store. Thanks for the great post!

N. Ann said...

John,

Thank you, thank you, thank you for these pictures and commentary about Elmwood Plaza. I grew up in Racine during the 1950's and '60's and now have a website http://retroracine.tripod.com
Your pictures made my memories real, and I am going to recommend this page to my readers who will also appreciate it very much. BTW, do you happen to have any pics of a children's clothing store, Tots and Teens that was located near the bowling alley? I think the "S" of the Teens sign appears next to Jamb discount on one of the pictures.
Fabulous picture of the terrible fire and great info on Turn-style!
Many thanks,
Nancy Habermas DeVries

Mary Lynn said...

Correction: The grocery store that opened in 1956 was Krmabo not Kroger. It didn't become a Kroger store until the early 60's.

Mary Lynn said...

Correction of Correction
I meant to say Krambo

Mary Buck said...

I still have a jean jacket I bought at Goldblatt's in 1967. I was fourteen then. Everytime I wear it (yes it still fits!) I think about how great Goldblatt's was.

N. Ann said...

That's so cool to have a jacket from Goldblatt's..thanks for affirming my memories that it was a great store!

Dimestore Lipstick said...

Racine Produce is gone now...very disappointing, as this was a great produce store.

Sharisue47 said...

THIS WAS A GREAT SURPRISE TO DISCOVER THIS SIGHT....THE PICS ARE SUPER !!!BRINGING BACK SO MANY MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD. I WATCHED AS THE MALL AREA WAS BEING BUILT...WORKED AT PENNY'S DOWNTOWN AND TRANSFERRED TO THE MALL WHEN IT MOVED. ALSO WORKED AT GOLDBLATT'S AND THE POPCORN WAGON OUTSIDE THE WEST DOOR OF GOLDBLATT'S.ANYONE REMEMBER THAT GREAT RED WAGON ??? ELMWOOD PLAZA WAS MY TEEN STOMPING GROUND FROM THOMPSON'S ICE CREAM SHOP ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO PLAZA BOWLING LANES AND THE LOWER LEVEL SHOE REPAIR AND TOWN & COUNTRY EXERCISE SALON...AH YES MANY GREAT MEMORIES..THOSE WERE TRULY THE GOOD OLD DAYS. HAD FAMILY MEMBERS WORKING AT SEVERAL STORES IN THE MALL AREA AS WELL. SURE DO MISS
IT !! FATHER WAS A CARPENTAR AT THE TIME AND HELPED IN BUILDING THE PLAZA...HEY, ANYONE REMEMBER THE GOLDBLATT'S EVENT OF DROPPING GOLF BALLS FROM THE HELICOPTER FOR A MAJOR SALE????

Unknown said...

Enjoyed your comments, Sharisue47 - if you use Facebook, please join us in the Retro Racine Group. We would love to share memories about Elmwood Plaza.

I also enjoyed the pictures on this site.

I think they dropped ping-pong balls from the helicopter with prize winning numbers, etc. golf balls might be dangerous!

karenhermann said...

I just stumbled onto this site, being born in Racine and spending my childhood there until about the late 60s Great to see these old photos!!!

gfeiges said...

Still remember those summer sidewalk days working for my grandpa Ralph and uncle Richard at Feiges'

Greg Feiges

TenX said...

Hi Everyone! It is for sale right now! With an auction, you can really get a deal. Spread the word as this place has so much history: https://www.auction.com/details/3701-durand-avenue-racine-wi-53405-193045549-tt_999 at www.auction.com

Randy co said...

I used to live in Racine in the 60's up until 1974. Racine never had a so-called mall as it were, but we always enjoyed Elmwood Plaza. We always shopped at Goldblatts where we bought a our two parakeets. My mother enjoyed shopping at the nearby Montgomery wards store. I don't know and if that chain is still around. When we weren't at Elmwood, we hung out on Washington ave. Shopping at Jorgensons, the Piggly Wiggly and Larson's Bakery where we could find the best Kringle in town. I saw a few movies at the Capital Theater (later called The Park) Our family shopped at the Turn-Style store and watched a few movies behind it called Westgate drive-in theater. We caught Dirty Mary & Crazy Larry. Racine will always be my first home town with millions of memories

Laurie Keophiphath said...

LOVE THESE PHOTOS!!!! I lived in Racine from 1972-1979 we were always at Elmwood Plaza and my mother also worked there!!! So miss those old days!!!