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Shop Downtown Kenosha: A Place Where Entrepreneurs Set Up Shop

3/24/2017 - Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

Downtown, Shopping
The Coffee Pot owners
owner and head brewer Matt Geary, brewing equipment, PUBLIC Craft Brewing Co.
owner Kelly Deem baking at Elsie Mae’s Bakery & Cannery
popcorn, Sandy's Popper, owner Sandy Hawes, Downtown Kenosha

Within blocks of the Lake Michigan shore lies Downtown Kenosha. As strong as the nearby lighthouse beacon draws boaters into port, the downtown business district has been pulling in entrepreneurs. Here are a few examples of the entrepreneurial spirit.

Janis Barnhill and Julie Zorn became owners of The Coffee Pot, at 4914 Seventh Avenue, in 2004. The diner is rumored to have the first neon sign in Kenosha - it still shines above the entrance. Many people have shared the rumor with them, “and we're running with it,” Janis says. In the summer you can eat outdoors on the patio, known as 'The Garden of Eatin'. Janis and Julie, both from Kenosha, have been friends since high school. They have had eight jobs together and raised their sons together (Janis has two, Julie has one). This line of work is not new to them, as they had worked in the industry. They had talked of opening a restaurant together at some point, but nothing was planned when this opportunity presented itself. Formerly known as Bubba's Breakfast Club, the diner was called Keno Coffee Pot back in the fifties or sixties. Thus, they reverted to that, but call it just The Coffee Pot. The diner originally opened in the early 1930's. Janis and Julie use words such as eclectic, casual, and fun to describe the atmosphere. Janis says it's a “classic American diner with a modern and healthier spin on older recipes.”

Here is more proof of the entrepreneurial downtown spirit: They first met while working for the same florist. They named their daughter Lilli. Without a doubt, this couple knows the floral industry. And now downtown Kenosha knows them. Lyna and Kevin Postuchow have owned A Summer's Garden Florist, at 5617 Sixth Avenue, since July 1, 2008. Lyna and Kevin have many years of floral experience in Kenosha under their belts. While Lyna has had a soap making business, neither had a storefront until now. It was now time and all the elements fell into place, Lyna says. A Summer's Garden Florist offers fresh flowers for weddings, parties, funerals, dances, holidays, corporate events, and every day needs. Most of the flowers come directly from the growers, so they are very fresh. Also offered are blooming plants; gourmet items like soups, crackers, and sausages; candies; gifts; bee catchers and hummingbird feeders; greeting cards; balloons; stuffed animals; jewelry; and garden décor.

PUBLIC Craft Brewing Co. offers “Beer For The People” in Downtown Kenosha. The taproom – it’s not called a bar – is a welcoming place for long-time beer drinkers and new ones alike. Head brewer Mat Geary came to Kenosha to attend Carthage College in the late 1990’s, and he hasn’t left! A consistent part of his life since college was making beer, so he decided to become an entrepreneur and open his own craft brewery. The craft brewery is located at 716 58th Street in Downtown Kenosha. Why Downtown? Since living in Kenosha, Matt started visiting Downtown establishments, and he knew Downtown is where he wanted his business to be. He wanted to be among the honest and hardworking mom and pop shop owners who really care about the community. PUBLIC Craft offers just beer but you can bring your own food from home or restaurants, or have food delivered.

“Our nostalgia is in our childhood,” according to Steven Kahn, owner of Inner Child Comics & Collectibles, located at 5921 Sixth Avenue A. At the time when he opened shop in late 2011, Steven was a leading oral surgeon by day. Now retired, he is committed fully to Inner Child and dispersing his 25 years worth of collected comics. Growing up nearby, on the south side of Chicago, Steven always knew of Kenosha. Yet, it wasn’t until he started looking for a storefront that he truly discovered it when he and his wife came up here and looked around. “Kenosha’s a hidden gem. One day it’s going to get re-discovered; it’s going to blossom,” Steven says. And he intends to be here when that happens. His product is intended to stimulate something from the childhood of customers of all ages – whether 6 years old or 90. Tens of thousands of vintage comics, thousands of toys, action figures, statues, memorabilia, sci-fi, monster and Nintendo games fill up the shop.

Kelly Deem’s grandma always had a pie on the table – and as Kelly was growing up, she was always helping her grandma with the gardening and canning. Today, Kelly is still canning – and baking pies. She’s using family recipes, local ingredients, and traditional style baking at the shop she named after her “granny” - Elsie Mae’s Bakery & Cannery located at 5819 Sixth Avenue. Formerly a fishery scientist, Kelly is now a shopkeeper who is sharing her family traditions, her family recipes, and a piece of herself with her customers. Visit the shop at any given time, and you can see Kelly and her staff at work making a variety of seasonal pies and jams. Everything is done on site, with the kitchen workspace visible for all to see. In 2017, she opened the adjuacent Myrtle Mae's Sugar Emporium. Both shops are named after her grandmothers.

“Pop'n Downtown Kenosha” is an accurate phrase used by Sandy's Popper, opened by David and Sandy Hawes at 5503 Sixth Avenue in May 2008. They got their start as a vendor at Kenosha HarborMarket in 2006, as Sandy’s Popper Express. Their business started out as a hobby. “We never thought we'd be doing this,” Sandy says. In 2015 the shop expanded into adjacent space. It’s a cheery, family-oriented shop with sidewalk seating. They sell fresh gourmet popcorn, which is popped on site, ice cream, gift baskets, gourmet candies and nuts, and more. 

If there isn't enough reason to visit Downtown Kenosha, visit the second Saturday of each month for Second Saturdays. On these days (and evenings), Downtown merchants roll out the welcome mats with extended hours, special promotions and sales, live entertainment and family activities. You’ll meet these shop owners and more when you visit Downtown Kenosha.

Learn more about Downtown Kenosha at DowntownKenosha.org. For more information about visiting the Kenosha Area, contact the Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 654-7309 or visit the Bureau's web site at www.VisitKenosha.com.

Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

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