A Centennial Celebration has been underway this year (2011) at Andrea’s, a Kenosha landmark. New outdoor signage, a new outdoor patio, and special events have been marking the momentous year. 100 years of history were part of the store’s annual Tent Sale in September. With the third generation now running the store, the fourth generation has also begun working in the family business.
The year was 1905 when Giacomo “Jack” Andrea arrived from the Italian province of Calabria to Kenosha. Family legend has it that Jack Andrea’s first “store” in 1911 was actually a piano crate from which he sold tobacco, candies and newspapers to the factory workers that traveled by at the start of their shifts. It was successful enough to enable Jack and his brothers to have a real storefront by 1912.
Many Andrea’s antiques were unearthed for the store’s annual Tent Sale, including dishware used in Jack’s Café in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Jack’s granddaughter Mary Pat explains they spent a couple months going through boxes found in the back and upstairs storage rooms and discovered “100 years of stuff”. They kept one of everything, and offered many of the duplicates at the sale.
Many special moments and mementoes stand out across a century. Jack couldn’t read or write English, and needed someone to write for him. His family has found various letters that he had written for him over the years. One was a complaint letter written in 1938, addressed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In it, Jack explained how big box stores were ruining downtowns and small cities.
For Andrea’s first fifty years, Andrea’s was known for its candy selection and sundries and legendary homemade ice cream at the marble Soda Fountain. In the 1930s a sanitary area was built in the store to create the ice cream. By accident, Fudge Ripple ice cream was created here.
As Mary Pat explains it, Jack’s sidekick Antonio “Tony” Giantonio was making chocolate ice cream, but it wasn’t mixing in right. There were big globs of chocolate. Jack asked what happened, and Tony said he didn’t know. Jack pointed out he had used fudge and not syrup. Jack decided they would call it fudge ripple. He would go on to patent it and sell the patent to a Milwaukee company.
Mary Pat shares how after her dad Al earned a college degree he joined the family business. Her grandfather wanted Al to be a doctor, or something else, anything but be in the business. Her dad would reply he was something, that he wanted to help the family business, and he had ideas to contribute.
Mary Pat says she has always felt “an incredible connection to the family business.” She had many “wonderful life experiences” across a couple decades in her early life at the shop. As a member of the family, she would be awakened early in the morning to cover someone’s shift if there was an unexpected absence. After leaving the business to run her own shops out east, she returned after 40 years away. She now serves as the merchandise manager. She doesn’t want to let go of the family legacy, and believes there is still an opportunity for independent businesses to be successful.
This summer, a patio was added outside the south door of Andrea’s. Customers order and pay for their meal inside Jack’s Café, and it will be brought to them on the patio. The reaction has been positive from customers, Mary Pat says. A new awning was created over the patio, and new signage with a new paint job highlights the outside of the entire building. Mary Pat says she smiles when she arrives at work each day and sees the patio, as it’s something they’ve wanted to do for a long time.
Inside, the marble Soda Fountain remains in Jack’s Café. It is the only original soda fountain in continuous operation in southeast Wisconsin. The café features homemade soups, salads and sandwiches, home-baked desserts and old-fashioned ice cream treats.
Andrea’s features classic gifts, jewelry, a candy and gourmet department, nostalgic toys and books for children of all ages, and a Hometown corner for exclusive Kenosha souvenirs. The work of local artists and writers is showcased. Also noteworthy, onsite engraving is available and new centennial merchandise is available, including an anniversary mug.
Andrea’s also features an award-winning cigar shop with premium cigars from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras housed in the shop’s Spanish Cedar-lined mahogany Humidor Room. Among the special events this year have been Cigar Nights for Aficionados. The largest of those events, according to Mary Pat, was the August night when Cynthia Fuente visited.
Considered cigar royalty, Cynthia Fuente is part of the fourth generation of the family that started Arturo Fuente Cigars, which is internationally recognized as the world's finest cigar maker. The family-run company celebrates its own 100th anniversary next year. Andrea’s was able to book Cynthia on WGTD for an interview the morning of her store appearance.
Be sure to stop in and wish the Andrea family a Happy 100th Anniversary!
Learn more about Andrea’s here.