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GREEN BAY — Lombardi Avenue, Bart Starr Road and Holmgren Way speak to the storied history of football in this city, as the Green Bay Packers prepare to face the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday in the Super Bowl.

But away from Lambeau Field, on the west side of the Fox River, is a street that predates City Stadium and the Acme Packers and is an indication of the civic renaissance happening in this community of 101,000 people.

Broadway was once an Indian path that grew into Fort Howard and later a dilapidated drug- and crime-riddled bar district.

But shortly after Don Majkowski tore a ligament in his ankle and "He Who Shall Not Be Named" took over in 1992, a grassroots effort led by small business owners began transforming the street into a more desirable destination.

There's a vegetarian coffee shop and deli, upscale restaurants with names like Chefusion and Vita Rawstaurant, two micro breweries and a chocolate shop that has been around since the 1920s.

Winterfest on Saturday featured ice sculptures, food and music. An estimated 5,000 turn out on Wednesday afternoons and evenings during warmer months for a farmers' market. Next month, the city will debut its own film festival.

"You can have a cultural experience in Green Bay," said Tony Haney, 23, who recently graduated from UW-Green Bay with a philosophy major. "It's a conservative city but there's an eclectic experience that you can have."

Haney was working on a laptop computer and sipping coffee at Kavarna Quality Coffee, opened in 1999, where the deli features a meatless menu, marinated olives and cheese from Carr Valley in LaValle and Roth Kase in Monroe.

Haney was with two friends, Waryee Kong, 27 and his sister, Kaoe Kong, 24. All three grew up in Green Bay, and Broadway is one of the first places they take out-of-town visitors.

"They really like the atmosphere," said Waryee Kong, who is Hmong. "You're seeing more cultural diversity, which I never saw as a kid."

More redevelopment is being talked about. On one end of Broadway, there is talk of a new marina and baseball stadium. On the other end, an organization called On Broadway is working to transform almost 22 acres of an old cannery site into shops and condominiums. The land is near the Neville Public Museum and just west of the Titletown Brewing Co., opened by Brent Weycker in 1996.

Last year, his brewmaster, Dave Oldenburg, made 1,200 barrels of beer, some named after Packers, others reflecting the community's past.

"Green Bay is more than the Packers," said Weycker. "We have a lot of assets."

Those includes the city's location and its history.

Jean Nicolet came ashore here in 1634 where he was met by the Winnebago Indians. Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet started their journey through Wisconsin from Green Bay in 1673, while Charles de Langlade, considered the father of Wisconsin, set up a fur trading post here in 1745, making Green Bay the oldest community in the state.

The Brown County Courthouse, built in 1911 and restored in the late 1980s and early 1990s, has the feel of a small state capitol building. Located on the east side of the river and near where a children's museum is planned, the courthouse features marble floors and pillars and massive mural paintings on the walls and ceilings.

History is often lost on those who visit the city and even by its residents, said Al Buch, a jeweler who opened a shop on Broadway in 1995. His building, a former harness shop that was built in 1894, was headed to the wrecking ball before he bought it from the city and invested $100,000 in restoration.

"It's the only place I would be," said Buch.

The Packers bring in thousands of visitors each year. But Green Bay is also home to major corporations like Associated Bank, Schneider National, one of the largest trucking firms in the country, and Schreiber Foods, a supplier of private-label dairy products to grocery chains and wholesalers.

Paper mills line the Fox River. The port of Green Bay has 13 docks that handle more than 2 million tons of cargo from 200 ships each year.

Also based in the area is KI, founded in 1941 as Krueger Metal Products. The company began making those tan metal folding chairs and tables found in VFW halls and church basements. Today, it makes furniture for libraries, schools and the health care industry. In 2010, the company, with 600 employees in Brown County and 3,000 worldwide, had sales of $615 million.

Dick Resch has been with the company since 1964 and was named chief executive officer in 1983. He owns the majority of the company and his or the company's name graces several buildings in the community, including the 43,000-square-foot KI Convention Center and the 10,000-seat Resch Center, used for concerts, hockey and basketball.

"It's a vibrant community with many, civic opportunities, not unlike a bigger community but on a smaller scale," said Resch, 72. "The Packers are part of our culture, but I think it would be a thriving community (without them). It would be smaller and less interesting, but you still have the basic industries — food, paper processing, furniture — that continue to build the town. Those would not change with or without the Packers."

Barry Adams covers regional news for the Wisconsin State Journal. Send him ideas for On Wisconsin at 608-252-6148 or by e-mail at

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