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.