Inside BILTRITE Furniture-Leather-Mattresses’ 95-Year Local Legacy

BILTRITE Furniture-Leather-Mattresses has been a staple in southeastern Wisconsin for nearly a century.


Photo courtesy of BILTRITE Furniture-Leather-Mattresses

In 1928, Irwin Kerns opened what was then called BILTRITE Upholstery, manufacturing and selling custom made sofas out of a small storefront on Third Street and Garfield. Over 20 years, the business grew enough that Kerns moved into a five-story building on Mitchell Street in 1948. That same year, he renamed the shop BILTRITE Furniture to reflect its growing inventory.  

Irwin’s daughter, Claire, married Mort Komisar, who took over the business in 1964. He was succeeded by his son, Marty, who started as a part-time employee as a teenager and took over leadership in 1970, while Mort continued working at the store into his 80s. 

Marty married his wife, Gail, in 1977, and she soon joined the staff at BILTRITE. Their children, Randi Komisar Schachter and Brad Komisar, have both been involved in the family business since they were children. “We all work hard,” Randi says. “We have passion, commitment and love for the business.” 

“We’re a Milwaukee born-and-raised business.” – Randi K., Fourth-Generation Family Member

In 2006, BILTRITE once again outgrew its location and the family moved from Mitchell Street to Layton Avenue in Greenfield, where it now has a 45,000-square-foot showroom. The retailer once again changed its name to reflect its expanding purview: BILTRITE Furniture-Leather-Mattresses. BILTRITE keeps thousands of items in stock, including affordable Amish furniture, other American-made furniture, flippable mattresses and much more. 

Marty remains fully active as BILTRITE’s president and CEO. He, Gail, Brad and Randi continue to work at the store, and Brad’s wife, Sarah, has also joined the staff. This year, they’re celebrating 95 years in business. 

“We’re excited, appreciative and humbled by the fact that we’re still going strong,” Randi says. “We’re four generations of the family in this business, and we celebrate our whole team because it’s taken all of us together to hit this milestone.”

BILTRITE Furniture Leather Mattresses

5430 W. Layton Ave., Greenfield



This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s January issue.

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