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John Manke is an active former Bay View resident who is involved in numerous neighborhood organizations, including the Bay View Historical Society, the Humboldt Park Fourth of July Association and the Shore Shore Farmers Market. He believes Bay View has a fine tradition in its past that we do not want to lose in the future.

T.E. Stemper Company

The T.E. Stemper Company is 100 years old this year. The present building stands at 1125 E. Potter Ave. in Bay View.  Thomas Stemper purchased the 1894 bankrupt "European Statuary & Art Co." from Simon Rosenblatt in 1911.  He also owned the "Milwaukee Church and Supply Co." that was located next door to his other business. This business made church altars.  He was also active as an organist at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. His company made and sold church supplies for over 100 years. In 1971, they had a great fire, that destroyed most of the molds for the statues.  In 1971, the building was rebuilt with a new front. Statues were now ordered on consignment from Italy as needed. Repairs on the old ones were made if possible in his store. Many local churches purchase their specialized  needs from Stemper Co.

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The information in this article came from John Utzat (in his Red Skies of Bay View book). John Utzat is a charter member of the Bay View Historical Society who was the originator of the Bay View Walks of the Society. He has published two books on the history of Bay View and has given many talks on Bay View history. He has also written local history stories for several newspapers.

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From T.H. Stemper Company history:

  Three generations and supplies since 1911 and counting.  That in a nutshell is the story of the Stemper family's involvement with Wisconsin's and one of the nation's leading firms in the religious goods industry. It's also a story to commitment to excellence that has been, and will continue to be, a key ingredient in the company's success.

 It began in 1911, when Thomas H. Stemper, a teacher and organist with no backround in the church goods business, purchased  the bankrupt European Statuary & Art Company (ES&A) at the present Potter Avenue site on Milwaukee's southeast side from Simon Rosenblatt, who had founded the business in 1894. As implied in the name, the company's primary business was the manufacturing of plaster statuary and altars. T.H. Stemper returned the business to economic health, relying upon the design skills of a domestic workforce. In 1913, T.H. Stemper purchased another bankrupt business -- H.E. Schwaretz Co., a religious goods store. He renamed it Milwaukee Church Supply Co., and relocated it to a building adjacent to ES&A. Again he applied his management skills tp turning around this previously failing business.

 In 1946, he incorporated the two businesses under the current T.H. Stemper Company, Inc. name. As the business evolved, and customer expectations changed, so did the company's focus. Religious goods became the company's dominent activity.  The result is that, today, our store has a huge in-stock inventory, and we are authorized representatives of of some of the world's leading religious goods manufacturers.

 We are proud of the fact that we have earned a national reputation in the religious goods field, but we are more than that.  In response to market needs, new divisions have been added over the years. They include Restoration Services and the Consignment Center.

 T.H. Stemper demonstarted early in his business carrer the need to change -- a valuable trait he passed on to those who would succeed him. His immediate successors were sons Eugene and Daniel J., who had joined the company  after graduation from Marquette University. In 1968, Damiel J. assummed ownership of the company, and guided it successfully through a series of changes in the marketplace influenced primarily by a period of transition in various Christian denominations.

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