Current owner Tom Gram had been an employee at the store for 41 years before taking the reins from the Rode family, who opened the shop back in 1911. Gram ran the shop with business partner Paul Willette, who detailed the devastating sentimental losses to Kenosha News:
This was just a building, but people’s memories were inside. That’s what is killing me. A woman had just come in Monday and brought in a photo of her grandparents in elementary school, wanting it to be restored. I left it on my desk. Now, it’s all gone. Our customers lost family memories.
“We understand the protests, but why destroy these businesses?” added Gram.
So historic is the store that even President Trump paid the site a visit, despite the co-owners stating outright that they “didn’t want anything to do with President Trump.” Despite the current owners declining the visitation offer, former owner John Rode III was drafted in to host the President. “I just appreciate President Trump coming today; everybody here does,” Rode said.
So, what’s next for the store owners? Gram says he’ll likely retire earlier than originally planned, while Willette says he’ll be looking for a new job, although he didn’t specify if it would be in the same field.
All images Shealah Craighead, courtesy of the White House.