Shop, 1755 Grand Avenue, 1974 to 1982
dad, Alan, started selling bicycles out of our front room at our
house at 1405 College Avenue in the summer of 1973 while he was
teaching English at Parkside. My mom, Mary Anne, remembers how we
got the fourplex at 1753-1755 Grand:
Alan heard about Walter Smolenski having Mr. Zelewski's building
for sale, and that Mr. Z would take $7,500 for it, which seemed
like a buy for two store fronts and two apartments and garages big
enough for five cars. Walter said the price was $8000, Alan said
that he had heard that Zelewski would take $7,500, Walter said that
Zelewski should keep his mouth shut - they took the $7,500, and
we got a loan for part of it from Bank of Elmwood at $200 per month.
That was probably 1973."
My brother and
I loved to run around in the back rooms of this big fourplex because
it used to be several separate buildings that had been joined together
with a common roof and back and side walls. For instance, the back
of the 1753 building still had basement windows set into the floor
of the garage that joined the backs of 1753 and 1755. You could
crawl down through these windows into the basement of 1753. 1753
had been a grocery store, and still had a room with a big, thick,
wooden door on it that had been the walk-in refrigerator.
remember the first few days after we opened the bike store and the
neighborhood kids had just started to discover it. My dad was trying
to answer all their questions, fix bikes, and show potential tenants
the two apartments on the top floor.
had enough business to hire bike mechanics, Kevin Parco and later,
Danny Werwe. I believe that Danny Werwe raced his bike in the Kenosha
Bicycle Bowl. I turned ten while I was hanging out there after school
and I remember the mechanics teasing me, saying that now I was in
the "double digits" that it was all over.
dad would work at Parkside during the day, and then spend the rest
of his time at the bike shop, putting together new bikes and fixing
old bikes. He also taught a class at Parkside on bike repair, and
would sometimes bring his students to Wheels for a class.
it took so much time to run the bike store and to be landlords that
my mom and dad closed up the store and converted it to an apartment.
My mom thinks that we spent less time working and got more profit
out of renting an apartment. Still, Wheels Bicycle Shop was a great
place for a Racine kid to grow up.
After being sold, this building was torn down in the Spring of 2003.
History of this Building
the 1753 storefront to the Village Smithy, which sold handmade
jewelry. They used the walk-in refrigerator as a kind of safe.
The Village Smith later moved to S. Main Street, downtown.
had wonderful pressed tin ceilings.
the listing for the grocery store that used to be in the
1753 store front, owned by Walter Zalewski, from the June
1940 Racine Telephone directory.
here's the listing for the drug store that was in the
1755 store front, where we had our bike shop. It says,
"Home Pharmacy, A. E. Dziekan R PH Proprietor, 1755
Grand Ave., Jackson-6197."
imagine that Walter Zalewski and A E Dziekan lived in
the apartments above their stores and had a very short
commute to work, just down the back or front stairs. When
we bought this building, one of the garages on the side
was filled with heavy posters from the 1940s advertising
toothpaste and so forth. Most of the posters had had mustaches
drawn on them, and my brother and I thought they were
very funny. In the attic above the garages, someone had
built a very well-equipped club house for kids. It looked
like a lot of kids had had a lot of fun there. Maybe they
were Zalewski and Dziekan kids.
I was in Racine recently, I was going through the newspaper
microfilms for 1908 and accidentally came across this
Ave. Meat Market
Grand Ave. and 18th St., has a choice lot of poultry
and fine home made mince meat. Everyone surely will
be duly thankful if they have some of our poultry and
mince pie for their Thanksgiving dinner. We cordially
invite you to call or telephone your order and the same
will be delivered promptly.
Phone 1472-y Wis. 726