WATCH NOW: Southport Bikes and Boards to close after over 40 years | Local News

One of Kenosha’s most iconic stores will close after 41 years when its owner retires.

Southport Bikes and Boards, formerly Southport Rigging, will close this fall, owner Ralph Ruffolo Jr. has announced.

Ruffolo, a Kenosha native, opened a windsurfing business in 1981 in the basement of the building that currently houses Harborside Common Grounds at 5159 Sixth Ave.

“I needed something to do in the summer, so I started teaching windsurfing,” Ruffolo said. “We rented this little space under Common Grounds and it was good as we could teach windsurfing right in the harbour.”

Just two years later, and as his business grew, Ruffolo moved to Uptown at 6201 22nd Ave.

“That’s when we started selling skateboards,” Ruffolo said, adding that customer Natalie Troha encouraged him to do it so “she wouldn’t have to go to Milwaukee for her children.”

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In 1986, the company moved to its current location on the south side of town at 2926 75th St. in the former Walkowski Lawn and Garden building.

Just as its store location has evolved, so have its offerings.

Over the years, Ruffolo started selling snowboards, clothing, and eventually absorbed bike store Total Cyclery. Total Cyclery was owned and operated by Marty Gauss for 17 years. He rented the western part of Ruffolo’s building before “announcing he was retiring on a Christmas,” Ruffolo said.

Ruffolo, the owner of Gauss, took over Total Cyclery in 2004 and renamed it The Bike Shop, part of Southport Bikes and Boards.

“It was a good decision,” he said.

‘A great experience’

Ruffolo, 70, said he is ready for retirement and proud of the work he has done in his hometown. He plans to stay in Kenosha.

“It was an awesome experience. I have to be my own boss because I tapped into something very early on. I had a passion for skiing and I had a passion for sailing, and when you really have a passion for something, you get right into it. I immediately understood that windsurfers, skateboarders and snowboarders have the same thing. If you can understand their level of passion, you can anticipate what they want,” he said.

Yet, owning a small business wasn’t always easy. He said the past decade has been particularly difficult.

“It got to the point where we had all the money we could have invested in the business and we didn’t want to invest anymore. We were very lucky when COVID happened because people couldn’t go to restaurants, they couldn’t go to the gym, so they worked from home and the easiest thing to do was turn to a bike ” , did he declare.

Ruffolo also had plenty of bikes in stock for sale, unlike many other retailers. He currently has hundreds of bikes in stock and plans to sell them all by the end of the summer.

Stop and visit

Ruffolo said customers are encouraged to visit in the coming weeks and reminisce about their experiences with him.

“We appreciate all of our former employees and all of our former customers,” he said. “We couldn’t have done this without them.”

In retirement, Ruffolo plans to spend more time sailing and playing baseball with his grandchildren. He will also continue to operate Ruffolo Enterprises, his company that makes accessories for skiers.

Scott Shumway, owner of Creative Designs Custom Signs, plans to purchase the building for his growing business, Ruffolo said.

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