Westgate Square Shopping Center (Racine, Wisconsin)

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Coordinates: 42°42′59″N 87°50′16″W / 42.7165°N 87.8378°W / 42.7165; -87.8378

Westgate Square Shopping Center
Westgate Mall Shopko, 2011.JPG
General information
TypeShopping center
Location4801-4915 Washington Avenue
Racine, Wisconsin
Construction started1979
OpeningNovember 5, 1979
OwnerMid-America Real Estate
Design and construction
DeveloperShopko

Westgate Square Shopping Center is a shopping center located between 4801-4915 Washington Avenue in Racine, Wisconsin. It sits on the block bounded by Washington Avenue on the north, Ohio Street on the east, Wright Avenue on the south, and Perry Avenue on the west. Opened in 1979, the shopping center was formerly known as Westgate Mall Shopping Center until 2005, and is built on the former site of the Westgate Outdoor Theatre. The center's primary anchor was Shopko #27 from its opening until the chain's bankruptcy in 2019. The secondary anchor space was occupied by a Randall's County Market supermarket from 1981 to 2001, and was split into smaller retail spaces after the store closed. Between the two anchor spaces, dozens of small store spaces were located in an indoor enclosed mall, which was converted into Careers Industries, a local organization employing people with developmental disabilities, in 2011.

History[edit | edit source]

Opening[edit | edit source]

Westgate Outdoor Theatre and Turn Style Family Center that once occupied the site of Westgate Mall Shopping Center, shown in 1966.

The site of Westgate Mall Shopping Center was first commercially developed in 1948, when construction on the Racine Outdoor Theatre, later renamed the Westgate Outdoor Theatre, began. The theater's owner, Spiro J. Papas, moved into the retail business in 1961 when he announced plans to build a discount department store north of the theater and facing Washington Avenue. The store building became home to Jewel Tea Company's first Turn Style Family Center outside of Massachusetts, which opened in 1962. After Westgate Cinema opened across the street in 1968, the outdoor theater's popularity declined.

Westgate Outdoor Theater ended the 1978 season without fanfare on September 18. After Jewel shut down all Turn Style stores that year, the Racine store was one of three that was not subleased to The May Department Stores Company to become a Venture store. Instead, ShopKo became interested in the location. In November, ShopKo announced that it was planning to renovate and expand the Turn Style building.[1] However, by February 1979, the company instead proposed tearing down both the store and the theater to build a new shopping center.[2] The theater was demolished in May 1979, shortly after the thirtieth anniversary of its opening.[3]

The general contractor on the shopping center's construction was Tonn & Blank of Michigan City, Indiana.[4] On September 8, 1979, a flatbed truck owned by James Cape and Sons stolen from the construction site was found being driven by a 15-year-old with no driver's license. [5] The center's primary anchor and first tenant, Shopko store #27, opened on November 5, 1979, before the rest of the L-shaped building had been constructed.[6] On January 30, 1980, Randall's Foods announced plans to build a 40,000-square-foot Randall's County Market supermarket at the mall, which would become Racine's largest grocery store.[7] On May 29, around the time that construction on the addition began, surveying equipment owned by Tonn & Blank valued at $1,600 was reported stolen from the construction site.[4][8]

The first store to open in the new addition was Fashion Plus, a women's specialty store which opened on July 28, 1980.[9] Racine's third Radio Shack store opened at the center on September 5.[10] The center's parking lot hosted the "$7 million car sale" during the weekend of September 25-27, 1980, in which seven local car dealers[note 1] joined together to sell over 500 cars.[11][12]The dealers successfully sold the majority of their collective inventory during the three-day sale.[13]

Shari's Card Shop, part of the Cherkinian's Card Shops chain, opened at the center in late October 1980.[14] The Gamut, a variety store selling sporting goods, school and office supplies, and arts and crafts, opened November 10.[15][16][17] Sound & Video Warehouse, an audiovisual equipment store, opened November 28.[18] Lamberton's, a local women's apparel chain, moved one of its locations from the Western Village Shopping Center to Westgate Mall after the Western Village lease ended on February 28, 1981.[17] The store opened at Westgate on March 3.[19] The first Sweet Temptations candy and ice cream store also opened at the center in March.[20] Pants Towne, a jeans store located at 424 Main Street in downtown Racine, moved at the end of March 1981 to Westgate Mall, doubling the store's floor space. [21]

The Randall's County Market supermarket had been hoped to open as early as December 12, 1980, but changes in the construction plans delayed the store's opening until the following spring. The store opened on March 25, 1981.[22] In addition to being Racine's largest supermarket, it was the city's first grocery store to introduce UPC barcode scanners.[23]

1980s[edit | edit source]

Business owners at the shopping center formed the Westgate Mall Merchants' Association in July 1981.[24] That month, Scene II moved to the center from 520 Monument Square in downtown Racine.[25] A Gloria Marshall Figure Salon opened in September.[26] In October, Billings Pianos and Organs moved to Westgate from Badger Plaza.[27] The Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles moved its Racine office to the center from 2027 Lathrop Avenue, opening at Westgate on December 14, 1981.[28] Jalensky's Sports Headquarters held a grand opening and "Mini Sports Show" on the weekend of March 26 and 27, 1982.[29] West Wind Book Store moved to Westgate from Western Village Shopping Center in July 1982.[30]

Stretch & Sew Fabric Center, formerly located at Pioneer Village, moved to Westgate on August 2, 1982.[31][32] On August 9, a Racine resident fell and suffered serious injuries at the entrance to the Sweet Temptations candy store. The victim filed a lawsuit against the center and the store in January 1985, alleging that the store's entrance was dangerously elevated.[33] Pants Towne closed in November 1982 after filing for bankruptcy.[34] Gems Galore, a store selling both jewelry and loose gemstones, opened on November 15.[35] Fashion Plus closed in January 1983 after a similar bankruptcy proceeding.[36] Lamberton's closed shortly after on January 29.[37] Around the same time, Fashionation opened in the center.[38]

Two Westgate stores, The Gamut and Scene II, closed in June 1983.[39] Wisconsin's second Fashion Bug location opened on March 29, 1984, in the space formerly occupied by Lamberton's.[40] West Wind Book Store closed in October 1985.[41] Billings Keyboard Center of Racine closed on September 30, 1992.[42]

An interior view of the mall in 1986, taken by Chuck D'Acquisto of the Racine Journal Times, shows Payless ShoeSource and Fashionation.

In 1986, 19 of Westgate's 24 retail spaces were occupied. The shopping center's tenants at that time were noticeably trending toward small specialty stores. That year saw the openings of Wicker Warehouse & Jewelry in May, Silky and Sassy Lingerie and Sweats 'n Socks Factory Outlet in September, Living Well Lady Fitness Center in October, and Old Country Buffet in December.[43][44] In February 1987, Sophisticated Lady Figure Salon replaced the former Gloria Marshall Figure Salon,[45] and Computer Paradise & Video opened.[46]

Rainfair, a Racine-based manufacturer of "outdoor wear and industrial clothing", operated a temporary factory outlet store in the shopping center for five days, from January 27 to January 31, 1988.[47] Sally Beauty Supply opened a store in the center in July 1988.[48] Fashion Bug moved out of Westgate and into the nearby Racine Centre development in 1989.[49][50]

1990s[edit | edit source]

The Westgate Mall Shopping Center logo, as seen in a 1995 advertisement.

A.B. Gifts and Jewelry opened in September 1991[51] and closed in January 1995.[52] The Carpet Clearance Center opened at Westgate in March 1992,[53] and One Price Clothing opened a location in the center on October 8 of that year.[54] Sunshine Sandwich & Sweet Shop opened at Westgate in November, the second location of a sweet shop originally based at 3115 Fifteenth Street.[55] Color Copy Cats went out of business at the end of 1994.[56] Jalensky's Sports Headquarters moved out of Westgate in February 1996 to Elmwood Plaza.[57] The Division of Motor Vehicles office moved to the state service center at 9531 Rayne Road in Sturtevant, closing at Westgate on September 26, 1997.[58]

2000s[edit | edit source]

Randall's County Market closed in March 2001, with the expiration of its twenty-year lease. A spokesperson for Supervalu said that the store closed primarily because there was too much competition in the Racine grocery market.[59] The closure of the supermarket was part of a larger trend that vacated most of the shopping center, leading Westgate's owners to initiate a redevelopment plan to revitalize the location.[60]

In May 2004, an Always 99 Cents store opened in most of the former Randall's County Market space, creating an unusually large 32,000-square-foot dollar store with an expansive selection of groceries.[61] The remainder of the Randall's space became home to a Perkins Restaurant and Bakery and Main Moon II facing Washington Avenue and a ShapeXpress women's exercise club to the south later in 2004.[62] The Always 99 Cents store was first announced in August 2002 and had originally been planned to open by the end of October 2002.[63] While the store was expected to present tough competition to the city's dollar store market, sales faltered after the first few months and the chain entered bankruptcy proceedings in December 2004.[64] While the chain tried to save the Westgate store above its other three locations, and revenues did increase during the holiday season, the store went out of business by the end of the year.[65]

Main Moon II opened on February 12, 2005,[66] and Perkins followed on March 7.[67] Westgate Mall Shopping Center was officially renamed Westgate Square Shopping Center in 2005.[68]

2010s[edit | edit source]

On the morning of August 16, 2010, a 24-year-old Perkins employee gave birth to an infant which she discarded in a dumpster behind the Old Country Buffet restaurant. After she experienced complications and denied having given birth, medical professionals and police officers realized she had abandoned the infant and searched the dumpster, where the infant's body was found.[69] The mother was sentenced to nine years in prison for reckless homicide.[70]

In March 2011, Careers Industries, a local organization employing people with developmental disabilities, announced that it would purchase the southwest corner of the building for $1.3 million and move its facilities there from 3502 Douglas Avenue.[71] The 55,000-square-foot segment of the shopping center had contained a small enclosed mall which by 2011 had been vacant for several years, and the owners of Westgate were reportedly "elated" to bring "momentum" to the suffering shopping center. The move was described by the Racine Journal Times as a "creative" form of adaptive reuse.[72] Careers Industries opened its new facility on December 19, 2011.[73] Greater Grain Gluten-Free Goods, a shop selling gluten-free foods, opened inside the facility on March 1, 2012 as a training ground for disabled employees learning career skills.[74]

The Old Country Buffet restaurant, alongside 45 other locations in the chain, closed abruptly and unexpectedly after a normal day of business on January 18, 2012. The closures were announced the following day as part of a bankruptcy action by the chain.[75] The Old Country Buffet space was extensively remodeled and Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet, a Chinese and Japanese buffet restaurant, opened there on July 27.[76] Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet ultimately closed a little over a year later at the end of September 2013, after poor business that led the restaurant's original owner to sell it.[77]

Perkins Restaurant and Bakery closed on September 22, 2013, after a pattern of poor sales reportedly resulting from poor visibility, despite the restaurant's location along Washington Avenue.[78] Scores Sports Bar & Grill, a restaurant previously located at 6100 Washington Avenue, moved into the former Perkins space in October 2014.[79]

The Salvation Army announced plans to open a thrift store in the former Randall's County Market space in 2015.[80] The store opened on October 14, 2016. The Salvation Army had originally planned to close its existing location at 2122 Douglas Avenue when the Westgate location opened, but later decided to keep both stores open.[81]

AA Supreme Buffet opened in the former Hibachi Grill space on June 29, 2017. The new restaurant retained the "Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet" sign in full, adding "AA" (standing for "Asian American") to the left side.[82] The restaurant closed in May 2019.[83]

After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Shopko announced in February 2019 that it would close its Westgate store. The store closed on May 19.[84]

Tenants[edit | edit source]

Current tenants[edit | edit source]

Former tenants[edit | edit source]

  • Shopko #27, opened November 5, 1979, closed May 19, 2019
  • Fashion Plus, opened July 28, 1980, closed January 9, 1983
  • Radio Shack, opened September 5, 1980, closed unknown
  • Shari's Card Shop, opened late October 1980, closed around 1983
  • The Gamut, opened November 10, 1980, closed late June 1983
  • Sound & Video Warehouse, opened November 28, 1980, closed unknown
  • Payless ShoeSource, opened 1981, closed unknown
  • Lamberton's, opened March 3, 1981, closed January 29, 1983
  • Randall's County Market, opened March 25, 1981, closed March 2001
  • Sweet Temptations, opened mid-March 1981, closed unknown
  • Pants Towne, opened April 1981, closed November 30, 1982
  • Scene II, opened July 1981, closed June 26, 1983
  • Gloria Marshall Figure Salon, opened September 1981, closed between 1984 and 1987
  • Billings Pianos and Organs, later known as Billings Keyboard Center, opened October 15, 1981, closed September 30, 1992
  • Hair Surgeon Designers, opened November 1981, closed September 1990[87]
  • Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles, opened December 14, 1981, closed September 26, 1997
  • Jalensky's Sports Headquarters, opened March 26, 1982, closed February 1996
  • West Wind Book Store, opened July 1982, closed October 1985
  • Stretch & Sew Fabric Center, later known as Spiegelhoff's Stretch & Sew and Great Copy Stretch & Sew, opened August 2, 1982, closed around 2004
  • Gems Galore, opened November 15, 1982, closed around 1984
  • Fashionation, opened around 1983, closed around 1992
  • Gingiss Formalwear, opened around 1983, closed around 1993
  • Fashion Bug, opened March 29, 1984, closed 1989
  • Wicker Warehouse & Jewelry, opened May 1986, closed unknown
  • Silky 'n Sassy Lingerie, opened September 1986, closed unknown
  • Sweats 'n Socks Factory Outlet, opened September 1986, closed unknown
  • LivingWell Lady Fitness Center, opened October 1986, closed unknown
  • Old Country Buffet, opened mid-December 1986, closed January 18, 2012
  • Sophisticated Lady Figure Salon, opened February 1987, closed around 1990
  • Computer Paradise & Video, opened February 1987, closed around 1989
  • The Book Rack, opened around 1988, closed around 1995
  • Sally Beauty Supply, opened July 1988, closed around 1999
  • Video Action Arcade, opened around 1990, closed unknown
  • A.B. Gifts & Jewelry, opened September 1991, closed January 1995
  • Carpet Clearance Center, opened March 1992, closed around 1996
  • One Price Clothing, opened October 8, 1992, closed unknown
  • Sunshine Sandwich & Sweet Shop, opened November 1992, closed unknown
  • Color Copy Cats, opened around 1992, closed December 31, 1994
  • Always 99 Cents, opened May 2004, closed December 2004
  • Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, opened March 7, 2005, closed September 22, 2013
  • Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet, opened July 27, 2012, closed September 30, 2013
  • AA Supreme Buffet, opened June 29, 2017, closed May 2019

More information needed[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Pfankuchen, David. "ShopKo may buy ex-Turn Style store", Racine Journal Times, November 28, 1978, page 1D.
  2. Pfankuchen, David. "ShopKo key to development", Racine Journal Times, February 4, 1979, page 1C.
  3. Conrad, Fred W. "Goodbye to Westgate" (editorial), Racine Journal Times, May 8, 1979, page 6A.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Construction under way on Westgate supermarket", Racine Journal Times, June 3, 1980, p. 4C.
  5. "Police", Racine Journal Times, September 9, 1979, p. 2B.
  6. "ShopKo opens Monday", Racine Journal Times, October 30, 1979, p. 1D.
  7. "Supermarket planned: Biggest in city", Racine Journal Times, January 31, 1980, p. 6C.
  8. "Police", Racine Journal Times, May 30, 1980, p. 1B.
  9. "Westgate Mall store will open", Racine Journal Times, July 22, 1980, p. 4C.
  10. "New Radio Shack store opening", Racine Journal Times, September 4, 1980, p. 4C.
  11. Herman, Robert J. "Racine auto dealers joining for gigantic sale", Racine Journal Times, September 21, 1980, p. 3B.
  12. Trower, Ralph. "Tent sale without tent", Racine Journal Times, September 26, 1980, front page.
  13. "Dealers sell 267 cars", Racine Journal Times, September 29, 1980, p. 4C.
  14. "Card shop to open in Westgate", Racine Journal Times, October 19, 1980, p. 7C.
  15. "Another store signs for Westgate", Racine Journal Times, September 3, 1980, p. 4C.
  16. The Gamut advertisement, Racine Journal Times, November 15, 1980, p. 8A.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Lamberton's to move to Westgate", Racine Journal Times, November 17, 1980, p. 4B.
  18. "Sound store to open", Racine Journal Times, November 19, 1980, p. 4C.
  19. "Store opens at Westgate", Racine Journal Times, March 3, 1981, p. 4C.
  20. "Ice cream store to open", Racine Journal Times, February 17, 1981, p. 4C.
  21. "Jeans store at Westgate", Racine Journal Times, February 27, 1981, p. 4B.
  22. "Test before opening", Racine Journal Times, March 24, 1981, p. 1F.
  23. Pfankuchen, David. "Randall's supermarket will enliven retailing", Racine Journal Times, March 15, 1981, p. 1C.
  24. "Westgate businesses form association", Racine Journal Times, July 14, 1981, p. 4C.
  25. "Scene II plans move to Westgate Mall", Racine Journal Times, July 6, 1981, p. 4B.
  26. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, September 20, 1981, p. 10A.
  27. "Bits of business", Racine Journal Times, September 24, 1981, p. 5C.
  28. "Briefly: Vehicle office moves", Racine Journal Times, December 11, 1981, front page.
  29. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, March 25, 1982, p. 7C.
  30. "Bits of business", Racine Journal Times, July 27, 1982, p. 4C.
  31. "Bits of business", Racine Journal Times, May 27, 1982, p. 4C.
  32. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, August 1, 1982, p. 3E.
  33. "Courts", Racine Journal Times, January 4, 1985, p. 5A.
  34. "Bits of business", Racine Journal Times, November 23, 1982, p. 1C.
  35. "Bits of business", Racine Journal Times, November 18, 1982, p. 1C.
  36. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, January 5, 1983, p. 7A.
  37. "Bits of business", Racine Journal Times, February 1, 1983, p. 4B.
  38. Classified advertisement, Racine Journal Times, January 30, 1983, p. 5D.
  39. Pfankuchen, David. "Business bits", Racine Journal Times, July 11, 1983, p. 4B.
  40. Pfankuchen, David. "Business bits", Racine Journal Times, March 29, 1984, p. 1D.
  41. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, October 26, 1985, p. 11A.
  42. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, September 29, 1991, p. 10A.
  43. Blankenburg, Andy; Susan M. Zaeske. "Racine offers abundant business space; Malls continue trend toward specialization", Racine Journal Times, August 24, 1986, p. 3D.
  44. "Business Today: Racine County", Racine Journal Times, October 29, 1986, p. 4B.
  45. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, February 23, 1987, p. 7B.
  46. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, February 5, 1987, p. 10A.
  47. Herold, June K. "Rainfair outlet store opens today in Westgate", Racine Journal Times, January 27, 1988, p. 7B.
  48. "Business Talk", Racine Journal Times, July 18, 1988, p. 9A.
  49. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, February 16, 1989, p. 5A.
  50. "Business Talk", Racine Journal Times, May 29, 1989, p. 7B.
  51. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, September 14, 1991, p. 10B.
  52. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, January 19, 1995, p. 2D.
  53. "Business Today", Racine Journal Times, March 4, 1992, p. 2C.
  54. Holley, Paul J. "Modesti, associate attempting to purchase Main-Lake Center", Racine Journal Times, October 4, 1992, p. 1G.
  55. Holley, Paul J. "On the Street: State banks don't face the surprise", Racine Journal Times, November 15, 1992, p. 1F.
  56. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, December 26, 1994, p. 2A.
  57. Sumner Coon, Laura. "New life in old Plaza: Racine's first major shopping center turns 40", Racine Journal Times, October 20, 1996.
  58. "Office of DMV on move", Racine Journal Times, October 14, 1997, p. 1B.
  59. Burke, Michael. "County Market's closing its doors", Racine Journal Times, January 16, 2001.
  60. Bennett, Chris. "Glad You Asked", Racine Journal Times, November 30, 2004, p. 1B.
  61. Burke, Michael. "Always 99 Cents opens", Racine Journal Times, May 25, 2004.
  62. Bennett, Chris. "Glad You Asked", Racine Journal Times, September 18, 2004.
  63. Buttweiler, Joe. "Always 99¢ store will be new addition to Westgate Mall", Racine Journal Times, August 22, 2002.
  64. Burke, Michael. [https://journaltimes.com/news/local/store-on-the-brink-of-closure/article_8d9f5b1d-e83c-5320-aa19-0522be02e1db.html "Store on the brink of closure", Racine Journal Times, December 1, 2004.
  65. Burke, Michael. "Douglas corridor needs some new cover art", Racine Journal Times, December 27, 2004, p. 5B.
  66. "Main Moon 2 now open", Racine Journal Times, February 17, 2005, p. 4A.
  67. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, March 3, 2005, p. 3B.
  68. Burke, Michael. "Name change", Racine Journal Times, July 3, 2005, p. 3C.
  69. Thoreson, Bridget. "Woman accused of abandoning baby in trash bin after giving birth", Racine Journal Times, September 3, 2010.
  70. Thoreson, Bridget. "Woman to serve nine years in prison for leaving newborn in trash bin", Racine Journal Times, April 14, 2011.
  71. Burke, Michael. "Careers Industries to buy unused corner of Westgate Square", Racine Journal Times, March 23, 2011.
  72. Burke, Michael. "Some property owners fill vacancies creatively", Racine Journal Times, July 4, 2011.
  73. "PHOTOS: Careers Industries sets up in new location", Racine Journal Times, December 15, 2011.
  74. "Careers Industries opens gluten-free store Thursday", Racine Journal Times, February 29, 2012.
  75. Burke, Michael. "Racine Old Country Buffet closed in bankruptcy action", Racine Journal Times, January 23, 2012.
  76. Burke, Michael. "New Asian buffet restaurant in Old Country Buffet space", Racine Journal Times, July 27, 2012.
  77. "Hibachi Grill Supreme closes its doors", Racine Journal Times, November 11, 2013.
  78. Bauter, Alison. "Perkins Restaurant closes after poor sales", Racine Journal Times, September 24, 2013.
  79. Burke, Michael. "Scores Sports Bar & Grill moves to Westgate Square", Racine Journal Times, October 27, 2014.
  80. Burke, Michael. "Salvation Army store to move, expand", Racine Journal Times, July 2, 2015.
  81. Burke, Michael. "Salvation Army opens new store at Westgate Square", Racine Journal Times, October 12, 2016.
  82. Burke, Michael. "Asian buffet restaurant opens at Westgate Square", Racine Journal Times, June 30, 2017.
  83. Burke, Michael. "Another buffet restaurant closes at Westgate Square", Racine Journal Times, May 28, 2019.
  84. Burke, Michael. "Shopko now officially closed; optical department still open", Racine Journal Times, May 22, 2019.
  85. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, September 21, 1980, p. 11A.
  86. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, January 4, 1984, p. 8A.
  87. Classified advertisement, Racine Journal Times, September 30, 1990, p. 13C.

External links[edit | edit source]