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The Way I See It!

I am an Ultra-Conservative, Alpha-Male, True Authentic Leader, Type "C" Personality, who is very active in my community; whether it is donating time, clothes or money for Project Concern or going to Common Council meetings and voicing my opinions. As a blogger, I intend to provide a different viewpoint "The way I see it!" on various world, national and local issues with a few helpful tips & tidbits sprinkled in.

Cudahy Kohl's Parking Lot Site History

Cudahy, Development, Email, Retail

We all know that there was once a Texaco Gas station on the Kohl’s property and the gas tank is still there, but what about the history of the Kohl’s parking lot property?  I would like to thank Toni Belleranti formally of Cudahy now residing in Albuquerque for reading my blog and sharing her history with us.  I have received confirmation to use her name and she has a wonderful perspective of the land.

 

Thank you so very much of this little history on the land.  I did as a follow-up question in blue, but all the rest are in the words of Toni Belleranti.  I did leave her thoughts on the mayoral race, as I wasn’t going to edit her work.

 

 

Before it was Kohl's the area of the parking lot was the home of my grandparents.  They lived in rooms behind their store, Economy Electric, for many, many years and grew a wonderful summer garden on the lot next door.  After Grandpa retired, the store was remodeled into offices for a podiatrist and beauty parlor.  Eventually Grandma sold the property to Kohl's for little $ compared to today's worth, and the building was torn down.  Grandma moved to an upper flat on Packard Ave, eventually moved to assisted living, and finally to a nursing home, passing away at age 92 1/2 (in 1995).

 

At one time, I had many family members living in Cudahy.  My father was born there and lived there for most of his life, and Grandpa's large Sicilian immigrant family, including eight sisters, lived in Cudahy.  Grandpa loved Cudahy, served on the volunteer fire department and was alderman in the 2nd ward in the 1960's.  Grandpa's generation is gone and most of my father's generation have retired or passed away also.  As for my generation, the third one in my family, we have mostly scattered across the country.

 

And that brings me to the other main topic I have found interesting on your blog, the Cudahy Mayoral race.  I do not know Mayor McCue as he is far too young for my memories of Cudahy.  The mayoral candidate, Tony Day, however, is of my third generation, so I know his "family roots" well and can attest that he is, and always has been, a "good guy.”  If I lived in Cudahy today, I would vote for him, not because he is a cousin but because I know his commitment to Cudahy runs deep and is sincere.

 

Do you know why Kohl’s built there?  It seems so off the beaten path.

 

Randy,

What I heard was that Herb Kohl himself (who was then president of the family company) talked to my grandmother about purchasing her building/land.  To my knowledge, she did not advertise it for sale.

 

The location at Plankinton and KK was not really off the beaten path years ago.  There was originally the street car, later bus stop, in front of my grandparents' store, the dentist office to the east of their vegetable garden lot, another "inn" next door (where the actual Kohl's building is now), and a bus stop a little farther north on KK.  The train depot was across KK, there were many homes and some small businesses nearby on Layton that have since been torn down for street widening projects, etc. (such as my great-grandparents' and aunts and uncles' houses). 

 

My mother and others who lived nearby walked to Kohl's after it was built, although I remember the parking lot full also.  Also people came on the bus to do their grocery shopping.  It was a busy store.  At the time Kohl's Cudahy store was built I do not remember Kohl's department stores, except for one in Brookfield.  Years later I guess that A&P (are they still around?) bought out the grocery stores.  And now the department stores are everywhere with the third one in Albuquerque opening this summer

 

The other supermarkets that I remember in the area were the Kroger at Packard Plaza and a family owned market in St. Francis whose name escapes me (but I worked there part-time as a cashier while in high school, making $1.65/hr).  There was also an A&P further west on Layton, next to a True Value Hardware store.  For the Italian foods, we went to Groppi's in Bay View, which I understand is still there.

 

Let me get a little more detailed and let me try to sort out dates so that the history is more accurate.  Many old timers in the area probably remember the events of Kohl's history.

 

The inn/tavern on the corner of KK and Plankinton, next door to my grandparents' place, was torn down years before my grandmother sold her place.  I do not remember who the owner of that building was but I remember playing and running between the buildings often in the 1950's and into the early 1960's.  I do have a b/w photo taken at a large family picnic at my grandparent's house in 1965 and the "new" Kohl's grocery store sign is visible in the background. 

 

At this time, I think that Max Kohl had quite a few grocery stores.  My grandfather, who was a Cudahy alderman at this time (and Lawrence P. Kelley was Mayor) died in November, 1968 when I was a senior in high school.  Before this time, my grandparents had remodeled and leased out the front part of their building to the beauty parlor and podiatrist.  They continued to live in the rooms in back.  Kohl's needed a much bigger parking lot because it was a thriving store so a few years later my widowed grandmother sold her property to Herb Kohl and the building and garages out back were torn down.  I don't remember that date but it must have been the early 1970's.  

 

As for the streetcar on Plankinton, my grandmother, who all her life was an early riser, often talked about the days when she rose very early to open the waiting room at the front of their store so that people could wait in relative comfort for the streetcar.  Many people rode to 1st shift work in factories in Milwaukee in bitter cold, I am sure!  I only remember riding on a streetcar a few times as a young child; it was buses in the 1960's and 1970's.  (Perhaps my first cousin, Bob Washa, who is my age and has lived on Plankinton just a few blocks from Kohl's for many years, remembers these dates better than I do.)

 

Anyhow, for your own information as it fits into your understanding of Cudahy, my grandparents were Sam and Ethel Belleranti and Grandpa Sam lived in Cudahy with his family from at least 1917.  He was born in a village in Sicily, came to America with his parents, one little sister, his mother's sister, her two brothers and all of their families in (I think) 1905, later ended up in the third ward in Milwaukee with many other Italian immigrants, and later yet moved to Cudahy.  He had eight younger sisters (and another who died); two of the younger ones who were born and grew up in Cudahy moved to Chicago as adults but came back for all the family functions.  The rest stayed- five of the six of them close by in Cudahy - where they raised their families.

 

My dad's (Anthony) younger sister told me that when she was at Washington School, there were 28 of her cousins who were students there!  Mayoral candidate Tony Day's grandmother, Anna Belleranti Cifaldi, was the first of Grandpa Sam's sisters to be born in America.  Tony and his 85-year-old mother were born in Cudahy.  That is what I meant when I mentioned in an earlier e-mail Tony's sincere commitment to the town.

 

Best wishes to you and to Cudahy, of which I have many good memories.  Perhaps by the time I come to my high school 41 year reunion (we didn't have a 40th, or any reunion since the 20th) in September, the old Kohl's store will have sold and have a new chapter of life!

 

Sincerely,

 

Toni Belleranti

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