Bay View In Transition, Part Three — Longtime Business Owner Reflect And Look Forward

February 2, 2018

By Sheila Julson

In part three of our “Bay View in Transition” series, the Compass reached out to more businesses that have been owned and operated by the same proprietor/s or family for 20 years or more to share the changes they’ve seen while doing business in Bay View.

Pro Comp Auto Body, Inc. (3045 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) offers auto body collision repair and refinishing. Mark Amrozewicz owns the business and the building, and he estimates that his taxes have “probably tripled” since 2004.

Mark Amrozewicz —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Amrozewicz recalled how back in 1998 when he formed Pro Comp, there were a lot of old bars in the neighborhood. Now many of those bars have been updated and more restaurants have opened. He has seen his business increase due accidents caused by drivers talking or texting on their phones.

Until recently, Amrozewicz said Pro Comp was the only auto body collision repair shop in the area. “We do good work at a fair price and word spreads,” he said, “and people here like to use Bay View businesses.” He’s increased the use of social media to attract new clients.

Amrozewicz observed that not only are more people moving into Bay View, but also more people from other areas are frequenting the neighborhood’s establishments. “It’s like a town of its own,” he said. He thinks many of the old mercantile buildings on Kinnickinnic will be repurposed.

Joe and Leonard Budney —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Leonard Budney has owned and operated American Estates (2131 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) in Bay View since 1970, the same year he moved to the neighborhood. Budney, who buys and sells antiques, reports a sharp rent increase for his storefront since the “Bay View Renaissance” began around 2004. “I was paying $600 a month in 2004, and now I’m paying $1,300 a month,” he said.

As an antiques dealer, Budney has respect for the past. He’s definitely noticed how some of the older buildings have been torn down and replaced with multi-unit apartment buildings, which he thinks may make it difficult for Bay View to maintain a sense of community. He expressed skepticism that many of the older mercantile buildings will survive.

While other antiques stores in the neighborhood have come and gone over the years, Budney attributes the longevity of his business in a changing Bay View to getting to know his customers and having a good reputation.

Tony Y. Jaber has owned Bay View Quick Mart (2690 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) since 1990. The business is a convenience store that sells groceries, craft beer, and cigars. Although he doesn’t live in Bay View, he said he is at the store 14 hours a day.

Tony Jaber —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Jaber owns his building and noted that his taxes have gone up, but not significantly. He’s seen some changes in the business climate and demographics. “In the beginning, it was regular families and kids. Business was good,” he said. “I think now it is younger families and couples. Customer needs and demands did not change much; they want convenience, honesty, kind service, and easy access to the store. I do have a parking lot, but I can tell that parking (for other businesses) is an issue around here. It was like this before.”

To appeal to a new Bay View demographic, Jaber has changed some of his beer inventory to include popular craft beers. He’s also added premium cigars, e-cigarettes, and vapes.

Jaber said he loves operating in Bay View, and overall his business has been good. He said events such as the Bay View Bash have helped draw new crowds, and therefore, customers.

“I think demographics are changing, yes. But I still have simple families that come in here for their basic needs. I have customers that have been coming here since 1990. The sense of community is still here, but not what it used to be,” he said. “This is a nice area, close to lakes and parks. I hope all small businesses survive and thrive. All of the small merchants complement each other.”

Ron & Russ Flooring & Design (2648 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.), owned by brothers Ron and Russ Romero, has provided floor coverings and concrete stain and polishing since 1992. In addition to the building that houses his business, Ron also owns the building at 2650-2652 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., and he said the value of his properties has gone up dramatically.

Ron Romero —Photo Jennifer Kresse

When the business first opened, Ron said there were many empty storefronts. Today, there are not only more businesses, but also the field of competitors in his industry has grown. Most storefronts along KK are now occupied, which he says gives Bay View, as a whole, a better opportunity to market itself as a destination.

Other changes he’s noticed include the disappearance of ‘Big Blue’ — the big blue collar manufacturing industries that used to operate in Bay View, such as Louis Allis. They have since left town or closed down. He adds that many of today’s Bay View’s residents are transplants from other areas, versus long-time residents. “Bay View will continue changing,” he said.

As such, the changes he’s made to his business to appeal to a new demographic have been minimal, as many transplanted residents are younger and are renting, and are not the actual homeowners. “They have money to spend but not on the homes. We still do the same type of advertising as we did before.”

Ron predicts that in 20 years, Kinnickinnic will still struggle with a lack of parking. He doesn’t think that many of the historical buildings will survive. “There is nothing I can do about that. If the area wants it, they will get it,” he said.

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