Seven State Street Stalwarts
Amid constant change, these classic businesses have lasted more than half a century.
216 State, 1927
220 State, 1933
402 State, 1935
302 State, 1935
226 State, 1959
Paul’s Book Store
670 State, 1962
Stop & Shop Grocery
501 State, 1962
The first question many alumni ask, when they return to Madison after a long absence, is whether State Street is the same. In a general sense, the answer is yes — it still has clouds of goggle-eyed freshmen, pavement artists, street preachers, sidewalk buskers, and that guy who thinks you want him to explain the lyrics of Rush.
In a more detailed sense, State Street has undergone a lot of change, and this is true whether you graduated in 1959 or 2019. The road from campus to the capitol has always seen businesses flip with a speed that would astound the crepe maker at Ovens of Brittany. But the pandemic made life even harder on State Street’s mix of bars, restaurants, and retailers. According to records kept by Downtown Madison, Inc., State Street lost nearly 40 businesses in 2020 and 2021, out of 160 storefronts. But some establishments have maintained a steady presence. The seven listed at left have lasted more than half a century, at the same address, with the same name.
Published in the Winter 2021 issue
Julie March 4, 2022
Porta Bella, just off State Street at 425 North Frances Street, has been at the same location, with the same name and same ownership for over 50 years, since 1968.
Andrea Harkins March 4, 2022
Thanks for the great memories of State Street. Many significant events of my life happened there. I worked at the Rennebohm Drug Store on the corner of State & Lake where I met my future husband. We had our first date at The Pub. We bought our wedding rings at Goodman’s Jewelers. We got married at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. One year I lived in an apartment above the Redwood & Ross men’s clothing store. After we were married, my husband and I lived on Gorham Street right around the corner from State Street where he could walk to the medical school and I walked to the Rennebohm Drug Store on the Square where I was a pharmacist. However, I think the Pandemic wasn’t the only reason for all the store closures in 2020. When Goodman’s was trashed, it broke my heart.
Ray Warren March 4, 2022
What about STATE STREET BRATS
Lyda Cline Lanier March 4, 2022
Your first picture on this week’s Flaminglo PLease remember to identify Chadbourne Hall, the all women’s living quarters when I was a student at UW Madison . My room was B 26 on the second floor in the front. and we had a balcony. I had two roommates Dorothy Timm from Beloit and Mary Singer from Manitowac. I was the country kid from a farm near Tomah. We got along and stayed roommates for two years 1950 to 1952 before Chadbourne was closed and Mary and I moved to Slichter Hall, room 312,:formerly a men’s dorm. where there were showers in the bathrooms and several bathrooms on each floor. At Chadbourne we shared a bathroom with half the floor and the bathroom had one bathtub. There was one phone for half the floor with a self imposed five minute limit on calls. Of course, there was a curfew for the women: 10:30 on week nights; 12:30 weekends, men allowed only in the first floor lounge. We ate in the dorm dining hall, cafeteria style for breakfast and lunch at noon; seated at assigned round tables and served by student workers for dinner at night. It was all wonderful and great and we were happy. We, also, were close to State Street , the Memorial Union and Mary’s Catholic Church and my Calvary Lutheran Church.
Jane Kay Rock March 4, 2022
Please support these businesses. They deserve it!
Kathy Al-Eyd March 4, 2022
I believe Nicks was once called Troias and was next to the Italian Village. Across the street was a place called the Grotto where the juke box played opera. Class of 1961. I still miss Madison
Robert Kuhl, M.D. March 4, 2022
Is the Boathouse and the University Book Store still there?
Nancy Cleveland Gould March 4, 2022
But do you know that girls (what we call ourselves when I was there (1951–1955) had to wear skirts or dresses, except when there was snow on the ground. We also had to wear skirts to our dinner in my Dorm.
I would like to know when that changed ??
Judy Steinike March 4, 2022
Whatever happened to the K K! It was the place to go for hot beef sandwiches when I was growing up in Madison.
Scott Wilcott March 4, 2022
The KK (Kollege Klub) that was on State St. near the mall in the ’60s and early ’70s (not sure when it started) got knocked down (sob) for the Memorial Library expansion. A new “KK” was created about a block north on Langdon, I would say.
Glenn Schmidt March 4, 2022
I was in Madison 1962-1969. A lot of business was done on State Street including many visits to the VARBAR (Varsity Bar) and purchasing an engagement ring (still worn by the same girl) from Goodman’s in 1965 (Who can forget the singing commercial “Goodman’s Diamonds are a girls best friend!
BARBARA WERNDLI LAMPERT March 4, 2022
I remember Goodmans Jewlers like it was yesterday; and in my 90th year that’s amazing. When I graduated from Madison East High School, they gave all the girl graduates a pair of earrings and a small cedar chest type of jewelry box.
Bob Villwock March 4, 2022
I came to Madison in 1972 and worked at the Chocolate House scooping ice cream cones and making sundaes, malts, and shakes. During registration week, as employees we measured the amount of customers in feet deep at the counter rather than number of people. Granted the name has changed to the Chocolate Shoppe, but it is still in the same location on the corner of W. Gilman and State (though it expanded into what used to be a shoe store next door) and still serves ice cream to rival Babcock Dairy Store. I think that it deserves mention for staying power on State. Prior to 1972, it survived all of the unrest of the Viet Nam War era so it measures up to the 50 year plus litmus used in your article.
D Henderson March 4, 2022
Brat House was very popular in the 1950’s
DONALD GELDERNICK March 4, 2022
More thoughts: Troias, owned by my friend’s uncle, where I ate lunch many times during study rages… was east of the University Book store (once Browns Books), The KK moved to the dining hall area of Langon Hall. AND just off of state some survivors include Riley’s Wine and Liquor, The Plaza on Henry St., Paisono’s moved but still here, Lombardino’s way out on University Ave where Smokey’s just closed, and The Edgewater on Langon and Lake Mendota. Rennebolm’s switched to Walgreen’s but is still there. No more Pub or Var Bar… but the ghosts and empty bottles may still be there. Good times. Thx.
Charles F. Hurlbut March 4, 2022
When I was a student in the 1960s, State Street served as the critical artery connecting the hyper energetic and progressive university community with the more centrist oriented city of Madison. State Street provided the interface that served the interests of both parties. It’s because of State Street that the city and university have lived in harmony since the university’s inception.
KJ Sayner March 5, 2022
Bob Villwock- That shoe store was my grandpa’s shoe store, called The College Boot Shop. Great store! My mom was a 1958 grad from Madison, my husband a 1986 grad and now our 2 boys go there, one graduating in May. State Street has absolutely has changed throughout the years. I love hearing all these stories. And I love Madison!!! On Wisconsin!
Dorothy Hassemer Rebholz March 5, 2022
I lived at Liz Waters between 1955 and 1959. Often on Saturday nights a group of girls would walk to the Capitol or Orpheum theater to see the latest movie. Looking at Bascom Hill today, I think it must have been a cold trek back to the warmth of Liz on a frosty winter night!
Colleen Foy March 5, 2022
Bob Villwock, do you remember the location of Goldi’s Unmatched Pair (Shoe Store)? It was on the left side of State Street, as you look toward The Square. It was started by two students.
Marie T. Ransley March 5, 2022
The Pub was the go-to place on lower State Street when I was an undergrad in the early 1970s (B.A. 1974, J.D. ’81). I don’t remember ever going in the Var Bar, but I remember the ledge that hung by chains over the door. This figured in a story told to me by a colleague at my first job post-B.A. He was in Madison working for a Master’s in the fall of 1969, the year before I matriculated. One lovely autumn afternoon, the football team, which hadn’t won a game in THREE years, surprised everyone by beating Iowa. Naturally, the celebration of choice for many people was to get rip-roaringly drunk. My friend said he saw the Athletic Director, Elroy Hirsch, carried on the crowd’s shoulders to the entrance of the Var Bar, where they lifted him to the ledge above the door. He stood there, swaying, above the crowd.
Kathleen stam March 5, 2022
Is the brat haus still there? It wasn’t on state street. It was one block down toward witte hall. I’m remembering’64-‘68. Hunky bartenders/grillers wearing white tees and jeans.
Steve Polzer March 5, 2022
State Street is iconic! The problem is that with the recently Woke crowd they decided to take over UW, State Street has turned into a ghost town!
Many businesses with tremendous history are gone!
Let’s hope the City of Madison & UW will Wake up and let State Street be STATE STREET!
Claudia (Smith) Cole March 7, 2022
What memories – the Var Bar, the Pub, Brat House and the Plaza which I was amazed to read is still there on Henry Street! The Plaza burgers were the best when I was at UW 1961-1866. Also can’t forget the KK where the “townies” ruled. After I graduated I came back on a road trip and couldn’t wait for one of those delicious sandwiches at the Brat House and the Plaza Burger. It’s interesting to me what people remember when they travel. For me it’s always been the new friendships established and the food – could you tell?
Marilyn Mann Bailey March 14, 2022
I met my future husband (an airman from Truax) at the Uptown Cafe on State Street in 1955 when I was 16 and a junior in high school. Back in those days, good girls didn’t date boys from the base – guess I was not a good girl. We married in 1956 and are still married – almost 66 years later. Good things last!!