Family affair: Third generation marks milestone in Janesville

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Jim Leute
Friday, August 1, 2014

JANESVILLE—Dr. Jim Damrow never knew his grandfather who opened a chiropractic office in downtown Janesville in 1914.

But Damrow is treating a handful of patients who saw his grandfather decades ago in the Jackman Block, now the home of the Brennan Steil law firm on the corner of Main and Milwaukee streets.

“They've stuck with us, and that gives me an immense sense of pride,” Damrow said.

Damrow, his associate Dr. Tina Byrnes-Pierce and three others staff Damrow Chiropractic Office just off Court Street on the city's far west side.

The office is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Three years after opening his practice, E.H. Damrow was called into World War I. He served in a medical unit because of his proficiency in the relatively new field of X-Ray.

Returning to downtown Janesville after the war, he was among the first chiropractors the state licensed under its new program in 1925.

Eventually, he moved the practice to Center Avenue on the city's south side. He saw patients in part of the home, and his family lived in another part.

E.H. Damrow's son, Dr. John “Jack” Damrow, joined the practice in 1950, they built a new office on the property in 1954 and the elder Damrow died in 1959.

Jack Damrow built a new office on Conde Street in 1981, and son Jim joined his father in 1992.

“When I joined him, we talked about how we would celebrate our 100th anniversary,” Damrow said. “I wish he was here to see it.”

Jack, a well-known businessman and community advocate—particularly for the south side—retired in 1995 and passed away in 2007.

He often worked 75 hours a week—including nights and weekends—while raising nine kids with his wife, Claire.

Jack's oldest son briefly joined him in practice in 1980 before returning to medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon.

Jim, the youngest son, and his sister, Nancy, now represent the third generation.

“My dad is the reason this business is what it is,” Damrow said. “He built an incredible reputation over 45 years, and all I have to do is not screw it up.

“I have an incredible sense of pride in that legacy.”

With 100 years and three generations of care, the Damrow family has experienced most of the swings in an industry that started to gain momentum in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Over the course of his father's, the use of chiropractic care exploded, Jim Damrow said.

In the 1950s, Wisconsin passed a law allowing patients to seek chiropractic care for worker's compensation-related injuries.

In the 1980s, new insurance equality laws prohibited insurance companies from discriminating against chiropractors and allowed patients access to chiropractic care as defined by state law.

Along the way, however, the perception of chiropractic as quackery or a cult continued.

“My Dad certainly put up with more of that than I have,” Damrow said. “It's much more accepted now, although there still are critics.

“If you look back, the medical industry had a lot of questionable practices, too.”

Damrow said he enjoys excellent working relationships with several local medical doctors, many of whom refer patients to his office.

His practice has continued to grow.

Out of space, he moved the practice to Ridge Drive in 2006.

“Word of mouth is big for us, and we've been doing very well,” he said. “We've got great exposure on the west side, more than I ever imagined.”

Like his father, Damrow is heavily involved in the community.

On the south side, he started the Southside Business Association.

On the west side, he's been active in Westgate Business Corridor and is involved with Kiwanis and Forward Janesville.

“I grew up on the south side of town and care deeply about what happens there,” he said. “I grew up across the yard from my dad's office, and I could see how he interacted with his patients and the community, how people enjoyed coming to him.

“I saw the impact he had, and I wanted to emulate that.”

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