Day 10: Remember Kohl’s Food Store?

posted in: 30 Buildings in 30 Days | 25

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.

25 Responses

  1. 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.



  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.


  11. 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?

  12. This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something
    which helped me. Kudos!

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  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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!

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

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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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