- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

RACINE, Wis. (AP) - When you get an Italian bomber at DeMark’s Bar & Restaurant, owner Sharon Burman will park a napkin dispenser next to you.

You will need it. Eating a sauce-filled bomber is at least about a 10-napkin experience, as the regulars at DeMark’s all know, The Journal Times (https://bit.ly/25cDkk7 ) reported.

DeMark’s has been at the northwest corner of Albert Street and North Memorial Drive since 1906 - excepting eight to 10 years following the start of the Great Depression, when founder Roger DeMark closed what had started as a small grocery store. In 1939, one of his sons, Jimmie DeMark, reopened the business as Jimmie’s Tavern.

For perspective on the business’ overall longevity, 1906 was also the year the San Francisco earthquake killed more than 500 people, and Upton Sinclair exposed the dangers of the meat industry in his book “The Jungle.” Theodore Roosevelt was president, and a first-class stamp cost 2 cents.

In the 110 years since then, the location and family recipes have stayed constant, and the business is still in the DeMark family: Current owner Sharon Burman is the founder’s brother’s granddaughter.

And the family’s Italian heritage is still worn proudly. As examples, the front door is entirely painted as a hanging Italian flag, and a Life magazine cover photo of Joe DiMaggio hangs behind the bar.

But the factories of the north-side neighborhood that DeMark’s once thrived in have largely gone still and silent, including the Racine Steel Castings foundry, Rainfair, Hamilton-Beach, Henry Nielsen Iron Works and Haban Manufacturing. Thirsty workers of the neighborhood’s combined industrial might once supported no fewer than five taverns, said Burman’s brother John DeMark.

DeMark’s alone served 50 half-barrels of beer a week, said Burman’s husband, Jeff Johnson. “They were three-deep at the bar back in the day,” he said.

Many workers took their paychecks to DeMark’s, where Sharon’s father, Rocky DeMark, cashed their paychecks for just the price of whatever cents followed the dollar amount on their check, Johnson said.

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But in their neighborhood, and others like it across America, that smokestack heyday has faded into the mist of memories. Burman voices concern about the impact on the business that was her father’s, that she has kept going for 25 years.

“I feel like people have forgotten about us over here on the north side,” she said Friday - even as DeMark’s was doing a respectable lunch-time business and patrons watched live golf on flat-screen TVs.

Burman and her son Ryan Burman say any fears people may have about the neighborhood - which includes the Racine County Juvenile Detention Center kitty-corner from DeMark’s - are misplaced.

“We have never had any trouble,” Sharon said.

“No graffiti on the walls,” Ryan added.

Ryan, 32, the heir-apparent to DeMark’s, said they are using Facebook to try to reach out to customers, and they plan to add advertising to that, Johnson said. The family plans to remodel the dining room and wants to build back up their dinner-time business that once crackled with activity.

They hope to attract new life, to mingle with old traditions, at DeMark’s.

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Information from: The Journal Times, https://www.journaltimes.com

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