December 30, 2009

Sadly, another landmark turns into an 'opportunity'

Gerald Karwowski of Oak Clearing Farm sent us the photo above, reminding us of the time when two unique Racine landmarks stood side by side on the 500 block of Main Street. The picture, taken where the Johnson Building stands today, dates from about 1922 (at least, that's the year Bachelor Daddy and The Paleface were released).

Porter Furniture -- we were interested to note that the store's name at the time didn't sport the final "s" it currently has -- later moved to Sixth Street. And now, sadly, like the Rialto, it's going to disappear forever. After 152 years as a Racine landmark and destination shop for (we're guessing now) wealthy Chicagoans with good taste.

Historian Karwowski wasn't surprised to hear that Porters will be closing. "The economy and the rebuilding of Sixth Street at the worst possible time has taken its toll. The handwriting has been on the walls for years now. Business can't survive without customers. If the residents of Racine would follow the Golden Rule of Trade many businesses would still be doing well.

"That rule is simple: Spend your money locally! Invest in your community! Every dollar spent outside Racine is gone!"

It's hard to argue with Karwowski, although clearly there's more to it in an environment where so much commerce takes place locally, but in chain stores whose profits -- Wal-Mart, anyone? -- go out-of-state.

Karwowski suggests that city leaders will put as bright a face on this as possible. "No problem... look at the advantages: More parking for the Court House! Do you realize how valuable that property is for redevelopment!"

Forty years ago it was a million dollar property (well, in 2008 its assessed value was $560,000), but soon the city will be able to get it for pennies on the dollar. Sadly, we've got far more "redevelopment opportunities" available than actual redevelopment.


  1. This is very sad. The problem with most people in Racine is that they do not support local business. They are always looking for a deal. They spend their money on big box stores and send the profits outside of Racine. As long as the majority of Racine people take this approach, it will be diffcult for locally owned business to survive. Does anyone remember "Shop Racine First?" This was not intended for big box stores.

  2. As the story said, "The economy and the rebuilding of Sixth Street at the worst possible time has taken its toll."

    Porters is one of those businesses which has become an institution in Racine. This company has brought in dollars from outside Racine for a very long time not to mention keeping dollars here from local clients as well.

    Don't you suppose Racine might want to step up to the plate and help them out? Racine Government, local charity and citizens should all consider this.

    We should not be cold to the idea. They certainly helped us economically over the years. Their term of occupancy certainly deserves some consideration. It wasn't their doing that the sixth street project did them in. Otherwise, all we end up with is a nice new street but with a very long term business gone.

    We have to learn to think locally and help each other. Racine Aldermen, please consider this as a serious consideration. We can't watch them disappear. If we do, we are merely signing on to our own doom. Think about it please.

  3. ...Wal-Mart, anyone? -- go out-of-state...

    I get a pretty good return on my 401(k).
    I want all Racinians to shop at Wal-mart. And the more $800 tvs you buy at Best Buy I can retire that much earlier.

  4. Ever since J-Wax moved downtown, everyone there has been ignoring something called reality. I was amazed when Sam talked Schwartz Books into ignoring reality. Many others have followed, and failed. I know that when you have a lot of money, reality can be ignored, but Racine simply isn't rich enough to support a private downtown playground for the wealthy, especially when the wealthy expect City Hall to keep providing their toys for them.

  5. This is obviously Porters own fault. They didn't try hard enough to "make something happen."

  6. Btw, this would be a great spot for Tousis' development. There's no gas station or grocery store downtown, and only limited video poker. He could even re-open Andrea's, and the judges and lawyers could try cases there again.

  7. Yes Tom You should bring your idea Downtown. No Gas Station need any type of Food Store your not Korean, great fit. Can't forget the Slots machines!


  8. Porter's was a specialty business - high end furniture - that drew customers from as far away as Chicago. Blaming us, and saying we should all spend money locally is like saying that we should all buy cars from the local Mercedes Benz or Rolls Royce dealer, rather than from a Chevy dealer.

  9. No shit. How can you expect a city where the median income is $40k to spend $20k on a dining room set?

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. Orbs would you want Tom to re establish the sign with monkey man looking waiter ? LoL some good comments here.
    I think a dining room chair at Porters cost as much as my whole living room set. I live down the way from Porters and will be sad to see a good business go.

  12. Don't worry - grant coordinator and corridor expert will be looking into turning the building into low rent housing in order to stimulate economic development.

  13. At least the city tore down those horrible buildings in that old picture. Porters will be next. Racine LOVES empty lots....

  14. Why would anyone make bad comments about a business that has been around for over 150 years and has been bringing in revenue from around the state and elsewhere? They have paid plenty of property taxes into the coffers which has also been a benefit to the city also while providing jobs. Get a life you losers. We need a Porter's more than we need you.

  15. Hey 2:03 - I'd rather give Porter's cash than any of the other dips***s - real or living only in the minds of the economic development geniuses - who have been in line around here. Turning the building into low rent housing would make much more sense to our highly-paid "professional thinkers".

  16. This is certainly a sad day for Racine. I applaud the person who called to help Porters. And I am so ashamed of those who feel they can just shout out their condemnations to a company who did Racine so much good over the years.

    Sure, many could not afford their products but for those who could guess who benefited? Racine did. With a building the size Porters inhabited for such a long time they really paid much in property tax. I bet they didn't get any deals like a certain other company has over the years. I bet they never asked for any deals either. But yet there are those who want to kick em when they are down. How totally sad. There will be a day when they will be sorry they said those words. You know what they say, what goes around comes around.

    I apologize to the members of Porters who had to read this. Someone has to. Seems like there is nothing sacred any more. Just how far do you people feel you can take this stuff?

    I hope Racine can work something out for Porters.

  17. When do the bail outs end? I pay property taxes too. Will I get a bail out? I think not.
    In a free market some companies do well others do not. Bad things happen I feel bad for the staff that will lose jobs but it is NOT up to Racine Government to bail them out.
    However if member of the public want to go and give Porters there own money feel free.

  18. Sad that all our furniture is MDF and those silly circular nuts holding them together. They end up at the curb every time someone moves. Yeah IKEA. Porter's will make a come back when we need furniture that lasts a lifetime because our landfills are full.

  19. What I think is funny in the picture is the amount of crazy signage and different awning styles that line the street along with the swarms of customers walking the store fronts. Seems to me that when you let business people control their environments they do well, when government dictates what kind of sign you can have, what time you can be open and what colors your awnings can be, businesses close after 150+ years.

    Note: leave business alone and do your job of making sure the police cars and fire engines are shiny and running well.

  20. I agree with 11:33. If the Washington government can take over GM I guess you socialist's feel the Racine government should help out Porters. NO. I am a business owner in Racine and NOBODY helps me but me. I have been to Porters looking for a couch with the thought of buying local. I bought the same couch for $1800.00 less and had it shipped from Kansas. Porters was way over priced.
    As far as picking on Tony, why do you say in one sentence "help out Porters" and in another say things that hinder free enterprise. I tell ya I'm still in business because I'm a little cheaper than some but my service and quality of work exceeds all. If your to expensive and have a entitlement mentality YOU WILL FAIL. The socialist mentality always has and always will fail. So long Porters.

  21. In this economy local government is lucky we don't rise up and demand they take a cut in pay much less tax us more to bail out a failing business. Then again maybe that is a good idea. If local government would like to bail out private business they should lay off cops and firemen, stop plowing the roads and take a 50% cut in pay then maybe they could afford it without raising taxes.
    Or even better yet, cut heating assistants, rent assistants, food stamps and the rest of the "Lazy Maker" programs that keep people comfortable in poverity then they can do it with out a pay cut. Some cops and firemen would still have to go.

  22. Even though it happened without his actions, this is going to be Dickert's white elephant next election.

  23. I didn't say the taxpayers should be forced to help Porter's, only that I would rather give them money than a shady tire recycling "company" and the others with their hands out. I wish I knew what business anon 9:16 owned because I would try to buy from him/her.

    In 152 years, Porter's had to endure one big depression, many smaller depressions, recessions and changes in consumer spending. Is this economic downturn really the worst thing the company has faced in all that time?

  24. If you need a list of local businesses, visit - Their tag line is "Think Local First". The home page on that site says it all. If you know a business in Racine that is not listed... get them listed. it's FREE!

    These "Big Box" stores support the local community in many ways. They keep our costs down and they hire local people. But more importantly, Companies like BestBuy, OfficeDepot, Pick-in-save donate thousands of dollars to our local schools and non-profit events and groups. If the "Big Box Store" you are purchasing from does not actively support the community... PLEASE TELLL THEM you will go leswhere if they don't.

    The idea is to spend your money in Racine when possible to keep folks employed and money recirculating.

    "Think Local First"

  25. You have to pay for quality. You can have a chair that will break the first time Uncle Eddie leans back in it or you can have a chair that will be passed down to your children. Garbage day is lined with garbage furniture.

  26. There is the whole buy local food program too. However looks like to me that Tom T be killing the Farmer's Market in West Racine, but you will be able to play the slots.

  27. What is up with all you west Racine idiots always having to bring up your farmers market? If you like fresh produce so much grow your own! When did people with bow trucks and 1/2 acre gardens become farmers anyway? Seems to me farmers markets are no better than homeless beggers, get rid of the tax draining losers!!!!!

  28. With such a well established brand Name and association with quality, why not sell the "Porter's" name and allow the buyer a establish a smaller furniture store downtown? Then create a web site with all the other high end furniture so folks still have access to it? There are plenty of people willing to pay higher prices for good quality furniture. I for one would rather pay 2 to 3 times more for high quality than have to buy junk furniture that has to be replaced every few years.

    Seems nuts to just let go of something so valuable.

    As my kids would say... "Just saying..."

  29. 2:18

    Farmers are losers? What planet are you from that you do not eat?
    Farmers are the very backbone of this country. Even folks in Vegas eat.
    But like so many in Racine Government every lot must have a building on it. Prevent Gardens there evil. Organic food is evil. Right 2:18

  30. Nice find on the photo, Pete. Great to know there was a time when there actually was a REASON to come to downtown Racine and apparently people came in droves.

  31. And I see some African-Americans too!

  32. With Porters closing, is DP Wigley the oldest business still operating in Racine?

  33. Classy store, classy merchandise, classy owner. Definitely the end of an era. God save Racine.

  34. CU -

    Get your head out of the Caledonia sand and come downtown. There are plenty of reasons to be there, food, shopping, fun. People do come downtown. There are people walking around almost any time you go. The events like the parades and party on the pavement pack em in like crazy.

    True, it is not the Roaring 20's like in the photo, but don't pretend no one goes downtown anymore.

  35. Porter's could very well be the oldest surviving furniture store in continuous operation in Wisconsin ?

    Allen Porter founded his first cabinet shop in 1842. Later his son William A. Porter relocated the business and expanded it by adding a furniture showroom to the store in 1857.

    For some reason Porter's has been using that 1857 date. Maybe because the business made more coffins in the 1840s than cabinets?

    More research could show that it could be the oldest surviving store of its kind in the State of Wisconsin?

    This is a little different than a K-Mart or Walgreen's closing!!!

  36. D.P. Wigley -- Don't think your old enough yet.

    I'd place my bet on ---> W.H. Pugh --> Fuel, marinas, food, whatever, their still in continuous business since 1850.

  37. 8:05

    Most people go downtown to do one thing DRINK. If thats what they want go for it, to say that Downtown Racine is the place to go for retail shopping is far from the truth.
    One thing is true you will not find many Blacks or Hispanics going downtown, must be their money is no good.
    The rest of Racine is getting tired of the idea of paying for a Downtown that exist for the rich white to party in.
    You going to see more and more of what is left of retail close up and move away.

  38. I don't care what you think, there is no longer any reason to visit downtown Racine or the rest of Racine for a matter of fact. Hype it up any way that you would like but it has been dying and it is gasping for its last breathes. Porter's was one of the few reasons that anyone from anywhere else would come to our downtown and that reason is now gone.

  39. As for the rest of you hard working people running a non-tavern business, apparently you are no good according to 11:18. I can almost bet everything I own that she has not been downtown in quite a while.
    Do you hear that kids? No more ice cream, good toys or child oriented fun.
    No more great places for food.
    No more unique jewelry.
    Some people are just plain unhappy and miserable.

  40. One thing that downtown doesn't have is "customers".

  41. Predictions

    10% 0f the businesses in the downtown area will close about the same will leave or close at the Mall. More of the West Racine and Uptown business sections will disappear.

    WRJN will become radio history and the now struggling Journal –Times will become a local news weekly. Sunday Paper will Disappear.

    For about 10 years the “ Johnson Project Honor” will become Racine’s biggest tourist attraction.

    With in the next decade CNH (Case) will close all manufacturing here and the Main Offices will be moved to Illinois.

    Within 10 years Gould Street will be closed between Michigan blvd. and Main street and a new Public Museum will be built at Lakeview Park. The two will complement each other creating a new destination and tourist spots in south east Wisconsin.

    Dozens of assisted living complexes will be developed to create jobs. The affordable prices will draw elderly from Chicago and other major city’s in the mid-west.

    With in 20 years Racine and Kenosha will re-attach and all County expenses will be cut by one third.

  42. 11:27

    No we got it right. The non bar retail will be closing by the end of 2010, see you need customers with money to buy during the day.
    So nice that the bars are hopping.
    Want a range of retail got to go to Milwaukee. A little on Hwy 11/31.
    See we need folks with money that come from non minimum wage jobs. Something higher then 7.50 an hour.

  43. I do not live downtown but, I walk downtown, I shop downtown, I eat downtown, sometimes I drink downtown. I see a diverse (black, hispanic, asian, white) group of people and interesting shops. There is both old and new archetecture(sp) to enjoy and more. If you have not been downtown lately shutup!

  44. 11:37 Why don't you purchase the Porter's buildings for their "assessed" values and start a viable business there. For you obviously know something more than the man who has run a business there for +/- 50 years. I sure Mr. Waters would be happy to sell them to you. Maybe it could be a giant museum that highlights all the businesses that Racine has lost. The Porter's site is one of the only buildings with a parking lot in the downtown area.

  45. 11:37

    Do not drink and post.

  46. Who the heck is going to buy from the downtown art galleries if they don't have a job. I don't remember hearing that artwork was in high demand during the great depression. Wake up Racine socialites, there will be nobody to fund you fun anymore if we don't get them some jobs. Porter's furniture hung in there as long as they could I am sure, and probably dumped good money after bad to try and wait out the "recession". Good luck to them and their fine store will be sadly missed.

  47. nice post. thanks.

  48. Dear Porter's,

    We would like to offer you a spot for your store out here in Kansasville in our wonderful Dover Mall.

    It will be a refreshing change for you. Plenty of parking where customers can leave their keys in their cars if they like. Also they will be safe! Never a stray bullet from shot outs that are common on 6th street in Racine.

    You will love our clean, safe and low tax area. Where you won't worry about getting mugged.