Day 10: Remember Kohl’s Food Store?

posted in: 30 Buildings in 30 Days | 50

Whatever happened to Kohl’s Food Stores: a question that strangely has arisen several times in the last few weeks. Kohl’s Food Stores are a distant memory of my early childhood on 67th and Villard. I’m not sure which one was closest, but I remember shopping there. However, by the time I returned to Milwaukee in 2003, they were gone.

Yesterday my question was answered, sort of. I visited the Pick N Save on Oakland Avenue in Shorewood. While perusing the aisles, the uncharacteristic and oddly arched ceiling struck me. This used to be a Kohl’s; that iconic arched roof became an architectural branding of the Kohl’s Food Stores.

So, what did happened to Kohl’s Food Stores? From the top, Maxwell Kohl immigrated to the States in the 1920s from Poland and for a period of time operated smaller, at the time, traditional grocery stores. It was in 1946, that Maxwell Kohl built his first “supermarket” at 4623 West Burleigh Street. However, it would appear that the first Kohl’s arch did not appear until 1950.

Kohl’s led the charge on the “modern” supermarket trend, including a deli and bakery under one roof; a practice that, now commonplace, was at the time unusual. By 1972, there were 50 Kohl’s Food Stores in southeastern Wisconsin; Kohl’s had become the largest supermarket chain in Milwaukee… until Pick N Save beat it at it’s own game in the 1980s. The family branded grocery store was sold to The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company in 1983, but continued to operate under the Kohl’s Food Store name. It wasn’t until 2003 that A & P decided to sell off Kohl’s Food Stores in response to needed debt reduction, and by the end of that year, Kohl’s Food Stores were closed.

What is more interesting to me than the fate of Kohl’s Food company, is what happened to the actual Kohl’s Food Stores; the buildings. To answer this question, I have to turn you over to the Andrew-Turnbull Network, who has done an impressive job documenting the origins and fate of Kohl’s Food Stores. The Kohl’s Food Store Flickr page,  likewise does a phenomenal job of visually documenting the Kohl’s Food Stores and how others have rebranded that iconic arch.

50 Responses

  1. Robert Kant

    I remember them well. We had a few in the Chicago land area. They were known for there rounded roof . They closed in Chicago Dominick’s Finer Foods purchased a few of there stores.

  2. Tom Bier

    Where did the veal loaf sandwich meat come from, yummy yummy, could not get enough of it.

  3. Al Schumaker
    My name is Clint Tuttle. I worked at the same store 1961 thru 1962 where I rose from night stocker to 3rd assistant at Capital Court for a short time then 2nd assistant trainee at Port Washington. I became a friendly tursted acquaintance to Herb. He said there would be always be a job with no time limit waiting for me when I returned after joining the USAF in 1963. I did not, I marred a western gal and the midwest didn’t appeal to her. Shame, that was about the best working conditions and pay back then.
    Much later, as a lark, I contacted him when he was Senator. He remembered me and reminded me just how much he respected his rising star employees. He always took an interest in how I was doing at my job and paid attention.
    He was responsible, I suspect, for my successful ascent in his company. I knew him to be gracious, compassionate and a straight shooter. He paid attention to the needs of his employees. and rewarded them for their service.. I still think of the period and my job at Kohl’s.
    I didn’t follow his political career, however I image he was a good man there also.
    Al Thank you for yor Blog

  4. marilyn caster

    I worked the summer of 1947 at Kohls on 4623 W Burleigh was a very nice supermarket

  5. Kohl’s was first purchased then by the Brown & Williams Tobacco Company in 1979, then known as Batus. That company refused to be competitive with Pick & Saver and Kohl’s. When things went from bad to worse, Batus sold the Kohl food Stores to the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A& P). They cut the staff and the wages of the employees, drained the profits from the stores and just like Batus, refused to be competitive with Pick & Save.. You are wrong…Pick & Save didn’t beat Kohl’s at it own game…it was the Batus and A&P that brought Kohl’s down

  6. I practically grew up at the Kohl’s on KK in Bay View. My mom started there after I was born in ‘93 when a stroke left her unable to return to her previous career and worked there until the store closed when I was 9 or 10. I think she started out cashiering and worked her way up to assistant front end manager. I have no doubt she would have risen further had they not closed. Some of my earliest memories are of that store. I always loved going grocery shopping with my mom! The ladies at the bakery would give me cookies and everyone was so nice. There’s no doubt that my early experiences there sparked my interest in food products since I’m now a food scientist! Kohl’s really was a huge part of my life – they gave my mom a great job and left a lasting impression on my life.

  7. Dan Buss

    Worked 10 years at Kohl’s on 27th and Grange from age 16-26 which funded my high school and college at UWM. Great memories of the fine coworkers! Met Herb Kohl my first hour at work about 4:30 on a crazy busy Friday! Short handed, he asked me how long I worked there without introduction. I told him about an hour and he then talked to my manager looking over at me at times. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing as a bagger but he came back and said I was doing a good job! I had 10 checkouts to bag for and learned to Hussle early on. Herb or brothers would stop in almost every Friday and look the store over. Herb would usually find a child and would give them a candy bar. Great place to work.

  8. Jimmy Sobek

    That was a 1972 Chevrolet, and the main store I worked at was Point Loomis- Sacker, Bottleboy and Produce.

  9. Jimmy Sobek

    i worked for Kohl’s from 1968 until 1976. Their employment got me a new car( 1922 Nova), and a fine education-(UWM 1976). I went on to the Milwaukee Police Dept.-Thanx Kohl’s family!

  10. I worked for Kohl’s from 1966 until I retired in 2001. Once the Kohl family left the business everything went downhill quickly. Being acquired by the Batus Tobacco Company and then by the A&P food chain resulted in the end of good paying full time jobs, the end of quality groceries and customer service at Kohl’s

  11. I used to shp at the kohl’s on 27th st at Point Loomis shopping center best deli and bakery ever they used to sell a cheese called polish delight would like to find out where I can find it now

  12. Carol Richardson

    I was wondering if anyone knows the recipe that Kohl’s bakery used to make their delicious cheesecakes. It was not a graham cracker crust; it was some sort of pastry but not the typical pie crust. I would be SO happy if anyone could provide that to me :) Thank you~~

  13. Kaye Ruelle

    I worked at Kohl’s food store in Green Bay, the west side and the east side. I am looking to get in contact of any one that worked there. I was the bakery mgr. for 6 yrs and left in 1980. Is there any one out there that can give me information on how to ck to see if there is any pension available.
    Thanks, Kaye Ruelle

  14. This was my first job, Kohl’s 124th and North Ave. I loved working there, great memories. Herb Kohl walking through and checking on the stores, when he had red hair. He actually hired me. I made great friends there and and they inspired a good work ethic, but it is Milwaukee!!

  15. Back in the 60’s 1960… Kohls was my biggest customer. They and Sentry foods purchased all the lettuce I could grow.
    Had a small 11 acre lettuce farm in Glendale, Wisconsin. Went out of business in 1970.

  16. Caryl McCain

    Hello, I remember watching the fire in the Kohl’a on Oakland Ave in Shorewood. Apparently it was in 1969, according to one of these posts. I remember the second floor in the store that was so much fun to go to. I heard bad wiring in the second floor office, started the fire. Anyone know anything about this? I was 6 in 1969 and was traumatised by watching the fire.

  17. The Kohls food store on 35th st. and Juneau has become a parking lot. The building is no longer there.

  18. OK. From an “Old Timer”. I worked at the 124th Street and North Avenue store at the ripe old age of 16 years and about 8 hours! The Manager was Bill, but I do not recall his last name. As a teenager, they were good to work for. But at that age, who knows better? The Kohl’s Brothers would come in. Max was really aloof. The others would go to their responsible departments. Since I had the honor of handling the outside grocery loading, I also brought the grocery carts in. Once, I had a whole string of carts and had just swung them professionally through the pneumatic doors and was ready to again swing them into the cart area right inside the entrance. There was Max! In the middle of where the carts were heading. He did not move a muscle. I lunged for the lead cart and grabbed it, pulling the whole train of carts to a halt before it hist him. I was so close I recall smelling his cologne. As soon as I got the carts stopped, he turned and walked away, without even a glance in my direction. On cold winter days, we would go to the deli and get a roasted chicken, get the butcher to cut it in half, buy buns, and have chicken sandwiches.
    The bakery was Schneiderman’s and they contracted Kohl’s to have their bakery inside. Then the Union became upset that they were non-union and waged a Holy war against them.Of course, the bakery lost. There is no winning against the Union. In fact, the meeting I attended, the demanded a signed vote. They wanted to know who might have been against their wishes. It set my mind against Unions from then on.
    I was a “sacker”. When things were slow up front, we often were helping produce, by cleaning and bagging lettuce etcetera.Also they had an adjacent liquor store (Jack Kohl’s realm I believe). Many glass bottles would be drought in and we would have to sort and box them for delivery back to the manufacturer. I believe the recycling was $.05/bottle them. Quite a bit. We would also handle the huge amount of cardboard the stockers went through each night. We would rip all of them so more would fit in the dumpsters out back.
    There was the loading dock out back. We would race our cars back there for fun? I blew the clutch on our 1949 Mercury doing that. My Dad was Not happy.
    I once in a while had to go to Burleigh which I understood was the first store. I would have to deliver something for the Manager. We had a Kohl’s softball league. It was great. I made many friends there. The pay was $.65/hr. I was promoted to night stocker. The pay almost doubled to $1.49. The camaraderie was great throughout. Then I left in 1961 to go to UWM. Glad to have found this site. I now know there are no more Kohl’s food stores. But I can say I knew the founders, and that there were only food stores then! Memory Lane.

  19. My Grandma used to buy a Milwaukee cheesecake from Kohl’s., the store must have been near 58th and Center Street I think. That was the best cheesecake ever. Sure wish I knew the recipe for that!

  20. Michelle

    I worked at Kohl’s staring in 1983 and became full time within a couple of years. They were great to their employees. I went to part time in 1995 to finish school and got a full time job, I stayed on until they closed .

  21. luluthebeast

    I really miss their white cake with raspberry filling and white icing. We always got it with dark red roses.

  22. I worked at a number of the Kohl’s stores in Milwaukee but was mainly based out of the Northridge “heaven on the hill” store. I left when A&P was buying the chain but came back a couple years later and worked in West Bend, Fond du Lac, Shorewood and then became store manager in Janesville. From there I managed the Middleton and the University Ave and Junction Rd stores in Madison. Most of these stores had the traditional arch except for the ones purchased from Eagle and the new store on Junction Rd. I really enjoyed working for Kohl’s and was one of the last associates Herb Kohl personally hired before he left. It’s a shame a chain that at one time had over 70% if the Milwaukee market could decline and vanish.

  23. Terry M. Warner

    I remember the one on 124th St. It had a big Barn and Farmhouse, behind. Their slogan was: “When Quality-Counts, Count on KOHLS”!

  24. i remember the Kohls grocery store in Menomonee Falls. I bought my first 45 record at the department store in 1973 which was attached to the grocery store. My mom would grocery shop while my siblings and I would wander around the department store. I fondly remember the “pick up” slip with a # on it. the bagger would give my mom. She would pull up to the door, show her # and the bag boy woul load her groceries for her

  25. Mike Sternig

    I began working for Kohl’s at the 46th and Burleigh store in 1968. The store manager was Bill Pichura and he was great! On Saturday mornings he would give me a ride to work where I helped open the store for the day. I recall being on the Tuesday evening scrub crew…we had to scrub and wax the entire store each week.

    From there I went to the 92nd and Lisbon store where I was the marker (we marked prices on each item back then) and later became the frozen food mgr. It was a great paying job to get through college.

    Next, I spent a few months at the Mequon store as a marker/stocker.

    Finally, I found myself at the West Bend store where I was a marker/stocker, asst. mgr., and frozen food mgr. until I hung it up in 1986.

    The Kohl’s brothers were always dropping in at the Burleigh store after synagogue. Herb was always gracious; Sydney didn’t say much; and Allen usually had something that he didn’t like.

    Overall, it was a great job with wonderful people and terrific wages (I was making over $12/hr in the 1970s) and benefits.

  26. It was located at 111th and W Burleigh Street.

  27. I once worked at Kohl’s Bakery but Herb Kohl was no longer there and it was not a clean place. After working there, I no longer bought any bakery goods from Kohl’s Foods. Ever.

  28. Steve Mundschau

    I worked at the Kohl’s store on Burleigh in 1962. I later went to work for Food Fair in Elm Grove, Wisconsin. Does any one remember Food Fair or what happened to them. Walter Pachera was one of the owners.

  29. peter nowicki

    I started my baking career at Kohl’s bakery in 1966. Kohl’s bakery in my opinion made the finest bakery in the country and had a facility second to none. Herb Kohl was a hand’s on owner (as well as his father). Got bought and sold to the wrong people. God Bless all the quality employees who worked there.

  30. Joyce Kark

    I worked part time at Kohl’s for a few years. It was the best grocery store, in my opinion, back in the 60’s. I now live in Palm Beach, Florida. We have a clothing store called Kohl’s. I have often wondered if there was any connection. Kohl’s in Milwaukee was just opening clothing stores when we moved. Just saying a great job good pay and no hassle.

  31. MARY ANN


  32. pumpkin pie

    I worked part time at the Kohls bakery in Wauwatosa 1975-1976. It was Teamsters, the pay was great. Lots of Nazis worked there. During breaks most of the younger workers ran outside to smoke weed.

  33. I worked for them from ’71 to ’83. At first the one on North Ave and 124th (I think), later in Shorewood, but helped out in at least a dozen of them. Great job while going to UWM. Found this thread while recalling Kohl’s creme filled coffee cake…anyone know the recipe?

  34. Al Shumaker

    Back in the early 60’s I worked at North Oakland store. I often wondered what members of the Kohl family were involved in that store.
    I recall therevthere was a younger Kohl family member about my age who would stop in (I was circa 22 and a student at UWM). Does anyone know who that was and who managed that store back then?
    Thanks for any info.


  35. Lynne Baker

    My husband and I fondly remember the streausel topped coffee cake at Kohl’s Food Store in Mequon. Does anyone have the recipe for it?

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  38. I worked at the Oakland Ave. store, back then there was a union, we made a decent wage and via the grapevine I heard that this store was number one in efficiency.
    I had worked there prior to the fire that consumed most of the building and again after it was rebuilt. I think it was in 1969.
    Pretty sure we earned $8.00 as retail clerks, I was a “stocker” and or part of the marking crew. This was before the UPC codes and laser scanners.
    It was not uncommon for six to nine young men, to cut and mark and stock over 1000 cases in one eight hour shift. This was just grocery and the equivalent of a full semi trailer (or more) load. This was common as the Oakland Kohl’s was always extremely busy.

    In the early 70’s Kohl’s sold 80% to British American Tobacco’s Brown & Williamson Industries division (later called BATUS)
    Overnight the familiar Kohls tractor trucks that hauled the trailer loads were now SIVA leased tractors (AVIS truck lease) owned by BATUS.
    If memory serves I believe that was the end of the union for Kohls or perhaps it was when A&P bought it from BATUS.

    In contrast to today’s wages and COL (cost of living) Working at Kohl’s was a good paying job.

  39. David Johnston

    I worked at the Kohl’s Store on 35th and Garfield from 1963 to 1966. Started bagging groceries (at 85 cents/hour) and finished as a senior stocker ($2.32/hour). Think the building is used as a church now.

  40. I’m also missing/craving the Mocha Torte cake that Kohl’s used to sell in the bakery. It was delicious and I have not been able to find anything like it anywhere!! If anyone knows where I can find it or the recipe please let me know!

  41. Megan Daniels

    The building appears to be there and is perhaps a family dollar…,-87.957627&spn=0.000906,0.001784&sll=43.045883,-87.957626&layer=c&cbp=13,230.04,,0,-5.28&cbll=43.045882,-87.957826&gl=us&hnear=N+35th+St+%26+W+Juneau+Ave,+Milwaukee,+Wisconsin+53208&t=m&z=19&panoid=VB7qeeS4y9aiOiiUuHVplw

  42. I remember the Kohls food store on 35th and Juneau I’m no longer in WI so I don’t know what the building has become

  43. Tracew

    I left Milwaukee in 1968 as an 8 year old. but I still long for Kohl’s bakery items. While I’ve found equivalent Chicago hard rolls and the elephant ear pastries now at Publix stores here in the Southeast, I have never found anyone who can match the Kohl’s creme filled coffee cake!!! …Fond memories of delicious bakery goods!

  44. Can anyone find the Cruller (Kruller) recipe for Kohl’s Bakery? Those were my favorite!

  45. John Kay

    I worked at the Kohl’s located at 124th and
    North in the 1960’s. After my duty in the Navy I returned to Milwaukee to return to work. It came as a be shock in the eighty’s when the stores were closed and a great number of people became unemployed. The days of loyalty to workers has ended with the earning the all mighty dollar as the basis for
    deciding the fate of the workers.

  46. I was wondering if any one reads these requests for lost products from the Kohl’s food store? I really would like to find these product’s. Thank You!

  47. I miss the Kohl’s food store’s. I have beenlooking for a product that I use to buy at the store, I’t is called Spring Rain, its a Laundry whitener,booster.Also, I miss the Mocha Cake. Yummmmmmmmmmmmm.

  48. Megan Daniels

    The Lena’s closed at some point, and then the building was, I believe, the Riverwest Community Food Store. However, I think that may have closed as well.

    I also discovered another Kohl’s on Howell across from the airport just the other day.

  49. Dylan Schleicher

    The Lena’s Food Market on North Holton (which may have closed?) in Riverwest is/was another former Kohl’s. I thought it was really cool when they opened up that another food store was going to occupy the space.

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