The Kenosha Area: A Tradition of Family Legacies

3/24/2017 - Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

Foodie, Shopping
owners Chris and Ralph Tenuta, Tenuta's Delicatessen and Liquors
Tyson, family owned business, Mars Cheese Castle
Scott and Annie at Andrea's, family business since 1911
The Spot Drive-In owners
owners toasting at House of Gerhard

For a place that’s full of family-friendly attractions, perhaps it’s fitting that the Kenosha Area is also home to many businesses that have stood the test of time, while keeping it all in the family. Let’s take a look at just a few of the family owned establishments in the Kenosha Area.

Setting up shop in 1890, Henry W. DeBerge began a legacy lasting well over 100 years. Today, DeBerge’s Framing and Gallery is a fourth generation owned business that has become Kenosha’s premiere art and frame shop. Granddaughters Barb DeBerge-Henken and Kim DeBerge run the show and have over two decades of experience. Together they expertly handle all your framing needs, from your fine art and cherished heirlooms to your child’s latest masterpiece.

Jack Andrea is also a unique fourth generation shop featuring gifts, home décor, fashion accessories, bath and body, cards, gourmet foods and candy. It has an award-winning cigar and tobacco shop and an historic soda fountain. The story of Andrea’s begins in 1911 when a young Giacomo “Jack” Andrea, recently arrived from Italy, started selling tobacco and candies from a piano crate on a Kenosha street corner. His customers were local factory workers. Today, locals and tourists alike visit Andrea’s. Jack built a store in 1915, and as the business grew he moved the store to its current location, 2401 60th Street. Through the years, the store has been remodeled and its offerings have expanded. Known for its old-fashioned sodas, sundaes, and thick malts, Kenosha souvenirs, and tobacco shop, the store remains in the Andrea family. Its cafe, Jack’s Cafe, sold homemade ice cream until the late 1960’s. The rippling process (fudge-ripple ice cream) was actually invented at Andrea’s. The store Jack built remains, as does Jack’s Cafe with the original Italian marble soda fountain counter.

The Spot Drive-In has been serving the Kenosha Area since July 4, 1945 and is best known for their homemade root beer and their hamburger.  Located at 2117 75th Street, the year-round car hop service was started by Harold and Janet Dubois and is now owned by their son Chuck and his wife Nancy. Chuck started in the kitchen when he was 12 years old, and it has been a part of his life ever since. Their menu includes cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chili, chicken and fish sandwiches, and more. When The Spot opened, there were only Chuck’s parents and one other employee. Today, there are 35 employees, some of which have been working there for over 30 years! The business used to be only seasonal, until 1962. Since then, only a few other changes have been made. The menu is now a lot bigger, leaving only 5 or 6 original items, the original building has been torn down once and then expanded a few times, and the gravel parking lot is now asphalt. As for the future, Chuck and Nancy plan to continue the business, perhaps with the next generation taking over one day.

House of Gerhard, at 3927 75th Street, has been a family owned business since it opened in 1964. Continuing the tradition begun by Gerhard and Ruth Dillner are their daughter and son-in-law Angie and Dick Rudin and their children Sabine and Kyle. Gerhard came to this country from his native Germany in 1954. Authentic German cuisine and American favorites are served in an atmosphere filled with old world charm. If it's a taste of Deutschland you seek, you needn't fly to Bavaria! The restaurant has been awarded the Wisconsin Restaurateur of the Year honor many times.

Founded in October of 1947, Mars’ Cheese Castle is “quintessentially the stop for everybody that comes to Wisconsin,” says Tyson Wehrmesiter, the general manager and buyer. Tyson’s grandparents Martha and Mario Ventura started the business, which has been family owned and operated all of these years. The first cheese shop was in a renovated schoolhouse on a corner at the intersection of highways 41 and 43 in Kenosha County, but after being destroyed by a fire in 1957 and forced to move in 2011 due to a highway expansion, Mars’ Cheese Castle resides at 2800 West Frontage Road and has become an iconic business that has maintained the highest quality and service. One of the longest products the business has carried is the world famous Usinger bratwurst, which is a family recipe developed by Tyson’s grandfather with Usinger’s. Tyson’s grandfather and father also had the idea to add a bakery to the store. His father took baking classes and created the cheesebread which is the #1 seller in the bakery. More than a million loaves have been sold! This one-stop shop also offers Wisconsin cheese, sausage, wine, beer, novelty souvenirs and gift baskets. Tyson’s grandfather’s philosophy, then his father’s, and now his is this: “You support the local people around you, and your community, and they’ll support you back.”

John N. Tenuta left his native Italy in 1926 to seek his fortune in the United States. In 1950, John and Lydia Tenuta opened Tenuta’s Delicatessen and Liquors. Today, Tenuta’s is run by the third generation, John’s grandson and Ralph’s son, Chris. Tenuta’s is located at 3203 52nd Street. Chris has described Tenuta’s as an old-style deli and wine store. The authentic Italian food grocery - in an “old world setting” - is very popular with motorcoach tours and out-of-town visitors. It offers a wide variety of items, including appetizers, salads, prepared foods, deli trays, cold and hot sandwiches, cheese, sausage and salami and desserts (including cannoli) - and that is just the deli part of the store. The outdoor grill, with Italian sausage and more, is popular with the lunch crowd when the weather permits. The grocery section offers spices, peppers, oils, vinegars, tomatoes, pasta, rice, extracts, imported and domestic candies, kitchen tools and more. There is also a liquor section. Tenuta’s offers cheeses, vinegars and oils not found in every community, as well as over 200 types of cigars.

And then there’s Jelly Belly Candy Company. While its roots didn’t originate in the Kenosha Area, Jelly Belly is a family owned and operated business now in its fifth generation of candy making. Jelly Belly Visitor Center opened at 10100 Jelly Belly Lane in Pleasant Prairie in July 2001. Enjoyed by visitors of all ages from near and far, the center offers free indoor train tours through its warehouse, a candy store, snack bar, and sample bar. Nearly five years to the day it opened, Jelly Belly Center hosted its one millionth tour guest on July 26, 2006. The lucky visitor received his weight in Belly Flops, which amounted to 12 cases, or 288 pounds. The family’s first candy maker was Gustav Goelitz who emmigrated from Germany in 1867. He learned candy making in America, and by 1869 was in business for himself in Illinois. He was joined by his brother Albert, and they sold handmade candies from a horse drawn cart. Fast forward to more than a century later, in which over 150 year-round and seasonal confections are made at plants in California and Illinois. Their great grandsons manage the business today, with great-great-grandchildren involved as well. The company is most known for its Candy Corn and Jelly Belly jelly beans. The family began making Candy Corn around 1900, according to company records. The invention of the first gourmet jelly bean in 1976, and Ronald Reagan’s subsequent fondness for the beans, brought the company international attention. And so, billions and billions of beans later (more than 14 billion Jelly Belly beans are eaten worldwide each year alone, enough to circle the earth around five times), the family legacy continues.

As time marches on and new specialty stores and restaurants open in the Kenosha Area, it may be the beginning of even more family legacies.

Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

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