We sat down with Kevin Ervin & Mark Wistar, two downtown Kenosha business owners and board members of The Kenosha Lakeshore Improvment District (B.I.D) to find out what’s going on in downtown Kenosha.
The Kenosha Lakeshore BID was created by the City of Kenosha in 1986 to allow businesses to develop, manage and promote Downtown Kenosha and to establish an assessment method to fund permitted activities. The BID Board meets each month, on the third Tuesday at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Downtown Kenosha at 8:30am. Meetings are open to the public.
What do you love about being a business owner in Downtown Kenosha?
Kevin Ervin of Franks Diner: I’ve always felt that downtown is the heart of the city even before my wife (Julie Rittmiller) and I bought the diner. Downtown is really a great place to be now, I feel it’s growing bigger and better all of the time, it’s fun to watch it blossom.
Mark Wistar of House of Nutrition and Wellness: Helping our diverse community of customers, working with other business owners and being near our beautiful lakefront.
Why did you decide to join the BID board?
Kevin: I was asked to represent DKI (Downtown Kenosha Inc.) on the BID board when I was a part of DKI, and I’ve always felt that BID is an important organization to have. The downtown needs a group like the BID that can try and make things better downtown. There are lots of roadblocks, and it takes a long time to get things done sometimes, but the fact that we have a group that keeps trying is what’s important. Things are starting to get done now, and that’s exciting.
Mark: I always felt the Downtown needed a strong BID presence and I wanted to make a difference. We have many projects that we are working on that are set to become a reality and I feel a great sense of accomplishment. I also wanted to work with other business owners to address their needs and common goals. “High tide raises all ships”
Why did you chose Downtown Kenosha for your business?
Kevin: Well, the business was there way before we bought it. But before then, we were thinking of opening up an entirely different business down here because we could see that Downtown had a ton of potential.
Mark: The House of Nutrition was already located in Downtown but the previous owner decided to retire. One of the reasons I purchased the business was that I felt the Downtown needed a unique health store like the House of Nutrition to serve the community.
Where do you see Downtown Kenosha in 5 years?
Kevin: Better. Every year the downtown improves. In five years I see a few more of the empty buildings filled and some more development. Downtown is becoming a great area for dining and entertainment, and that’s a positive thing. I see that trend continuing and hopefully that attracts some more retailers to the mix.
Mark: I see the Downtown as a vibrant community with unique stores and restaurants that is a destination spot for tourists. The Mayor has a goal to increase residential living space in the Downtown that will help our businesses grow. I also visualize working with the Uptown as it rebuilds, having a stronger partnership with Pleasant Prairie and Somers to increase tourism.
What are some of the long & short term goals you would like to see get done during your term on the BID board?
Kevin: I’d love to see downtown banners, lighting, and bike racks put up, and I will. Those things should be completed by next year, our partners at VISIT KENOSHA have really helped getting those things done. Long term? I’d like to see some renovation and development of some of the closed up buildings, and some more retail spaces.
Mark: Short term would be bike racks, banners, lighting in the BID district and the continuation of the flower baskets. Long term I want to strengthen the BID Board to be able to assist Downtown businesses with services like graffiti removal, ability to attract small businesses and to guide them be successful. We recently partnered with Visit Kenosha and have a new website being developed. It is our hope this new site will provide better communication on Downtown events for the community and provide better interaction between business owners and the Downtown BID.
Q&A by Donny Stancato
Edited by Jason Hedman
Follow the Downtown Kenosha Magazine on Facebook & Instagram
For everything Kenosha see visitkenosha.com
(This article first appeared in the Fall 2022 Downtown Kenosha Magazine)