Vintage ad posters, forgotten windows found during Kissinger makeover
Kissinger Appliance and TV in Port Washington has undergone a major makeover in a process that put owner Jim Kissinger in touch with some of the store’s forgotten past.
For four months, the appliance store temporarily moved a couple blocks north of its 700 N. Wisconsin St. location.
Kissinger is not exactly sure how old the brick building that houses the store is, but he is certain it dates to before the 1900s.
“A customer brought in this picture of the old Biever general store, with a horse-and-buggy parked out front and a dirt road,” he said.
The aging building, formerly the home of Biever Appliance, left a lot of room for improvement, and Kissinger said the transformation at the bright, new retail space has been dramatic.
“We pretty much gutted everything,” he said, noting that walls, lighting and the heating system were removed and replaced.
A new office was created at the rear of the store, opening additional display space. There is now room to show more than 120 appliances.
Although contractors handled most of the construction, Kissinger said the store staff got a chance to work off pent-up energy by handling the demolition, in many areas taking the store down to its stud walls.
In that process, some interesting artifacts from the old Biever store were discovered.
Five different posters advertising vintage General Electric appliances dating to the 1930s were found beneath the drywall.
Kissinger had the marketing posters cleaned and framed. They now hang throughout the store.
“Actually, I thought we would find more stuff than we did as we started tearing down walls,” he said.
The renovation also resulted in the removal of a bank of leaded-glass windows that capped the front window showcase.
“We didn’t know they were there because they were covered by panels of wood,” Kissinger said.
Any hope of salvaging the old glass windows was lost when it was discovered that the material holding the pieces together was crumbling apart.
“There were gaps as thick as a pencil, and the wind apparently whistled in,” Kissinger said.
He hadn’t planned to replace the storefront window, but said “things kind of started snowballing.”
The energy savings have been striking since the new storefront was installed.
One thing that was not changed is the store’s blue Maytag carpeting.
“They don’t make it anymore and it is still in pretty good shape,” Kissinger said.
The front of the building includes a bit of a nod to the past, although it was entirely coincidental.
Brad Shirley of Artistic Impressions was hired to put in a stamped concrete entryway at the front door.
To dress up the simulated wood planks, several decorative fish were added.
“He didn’t realize how appropriate that was because Joey Biever (the store’s former owner) was one of the founders of Port Washington’s Fish Day,” Kissinger said.
Kissinger bought the business from Biever in 2004.
At the time, he also owned an appliance store in West Bend, but that shop was closed in 2007.
“There were six appliance stores in West Bend, a town with a population of 30,000. We just couldn’t stay in business getting only one-sixth of the pie,” Kissinger said.
The Port Washington store, however, has remained strong.
“Even when we were in the temporary location, people came in. Business was good,” Kissinger said.
Photo Credit: KISSINGER APPLIANCE and TV in Port Washington has undergone a dramatic transformation, with plenty of light from new front windows and overhead LED fixtures. At left, Jim Kissinger inspects an old appliance poster that was found during the renovation. Above right, a fish has been included in the stamped concrete entryway.Photos by Mark Jaeger