Category Archives: Downtown

Grand Openings: Jen’s Sweet Treats, Ferch’s, New-Look Ace Hardware

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I love grand openings, and there are three in May alone, with more to come.

Mark your calendars for …

  • Sunday, April 24: Get an early look at downtown’s newest business, Jen’s Sweet Treats, with “Sips & Sweets,” a chance to sample some yummy treats ahead of their official grand opening. Bring a toy to donate to their South Shore Santas program. 4-6 p.m. at 907 Milwaukee Ave.
  • Sunday, May 1: Jen’s Sweet Treats officially opens at 9 a.m. with a selection of cupcakes, muffins, cookies, turnovers, brownies and donuts.
  • Friday, May 13: South Milwaukee Ace Hardware, 1009 Marquette Ave. The noon ribbon cutting on Friday is the kickoff for an entire weekend of activities. Friday, it’s a Traeger grilling demo and grill giveaway. Saturday, there is a  South Milwaukee Lions Club cookout from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., an appearance by WTMJ radio’s Jeff Wagner and their Free Ride program from 1 to 3, and a Weber grilling demo and giveaway from 3 to 6. Sunday, it’s Family Day, with free popcorn and demonstrations by the South Milwaukee Fire Department. Free coffee and donuts every morning from 8 to 10., and there are sales and specials each day. More to come soon, as Ben and the Gil family looks to show off the big changes — and big investment — they’ve made to the store.
  • Friday, May 20: Ferch’s Malt Shoppe & Grille officially opens at 4 p.m., as they begin their first full season at Grant Park Beach. They have a lot planned. From rentals (lounge chairs, umbrellas, kayaks and paddle boards) to live music to movies to, of course, terrific burgers, custard and beer, it promises to be a great summer at the beach. Beach volleyball also returns this summer!

The new business momentum is real, and we’re just getting started.



Filed under Downtown, Grant Park, Local Business, South Milwaukee

Check out This List of Downtown Events

Updated on April 23 with information on the Restore the Lagoon event. 

This is quite a list, and I can’t thank the organizers of these activities enough.

South Milwaukee is becoming a leader in cool, business- and community-building events, especially downtown. And we should all be proud of that.

Here is a high-resolution JPEG. Please share on social media, and tell your friends!



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Filed under Downtown, Events, South Milwaukee

Sweet News for Downtown South Milwaukee

When it comes to the future of our downtown, to me, it’s all about sustainable small business. That’s why I’m so excited to share this sweet news …

Jen’s Sweet Treats is opening a second retail location at 907A Milwaukee Ave., starting May 1.

They will sell cupcakes, cookies, donuts, cakes, and other treats from the South Milwaukee store, while continuing to bake at their Cudahy location, 4745 S. Packard Ave.

This is a great addition to our city center, and joins Grillworks — the new restaurant opening at the former Grebe’s and Nona’s in April, I’m told — as two new local eating options.

Jennifer Clark opened Jen’s Sweet Treats, a family business in every since of the word, in 2014. A year later, the store was named the South Shore Chamber of Commerce’s Cudahy Business of the Year.

One reason why: its commitment to doing business the right way. The store gives back in so many ways, and you get a good sense of it from their Facebook page.  

Here is a message from Jennifer …

We are excited to bring all that we do to South Milwaukee.  We are looking forward to not only providing amazing sweet treats but continuing our “give back attitude” in our new neighborhood! South Milwaukee here we come! 

And we’re excited to have you. Welcome to South Milwaukee!

Learn more on their website. The photos are from the store’s Facebook page. 


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Downtown Update: New Restaurant Opens In March

Downtown momentum continues, with our newest restaurant, Grillworks, planning an opening for March.

The Orens have already made significant investments to upgrade to the former Nona’s and Grebe’s building on 10th Avenue, and they plan to open the restaurant and bar in March. They will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a Friday fish fry, prime rib and a Sunday brunch buffet.

Also, a big thanks to our Street Department for taking away the snowbanks along Milwaukee Avenue on Friday. It’s not something we’ve often done, but I hope we can do it more going forward. I’m happy to get behind efforts like this to help local businesses. (Thanks to Leah from Parkway Floral for the photo.)


Filed under Downtown, Local Business, South Milwaukee

Reminder: Christmas On The Avenue Is Saturday!

Christmas on the Avenue

Very excited about this one … see you Saturday!

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Made In South Milwaukee: Expansion Underway For Downtown Apparel And Graphic Design Company

The latest in a regular series.

To me, the future of downtown South Milwaukee lies with the owners of small, locally owned businesses who provide a product or service you simply can’t get at a big box store or shopping mall. It rests with young entrepreneurs like Kyle Werra and Steve Welk.

Kyle and Steve own Styled Aesthetic at 918 Milwaukee Ave.

It’s a unique business that you may better know as the Rocket Shop, where you can purchase wearables and other South Milwaukee-themed items. But it’s also a thriving screen printing business, with clients including auto racing teams, national corporate clients and your local pub.

Both parts of the business are growing.

First, they are planning to expand and renovate the Rocket Shop to create a more inviting retail space. Work will be done in the next six months. They’ve also expanded their product line and store hours (it’s now open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays and 10-5 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with new Black Friday and Small Business Saturday hours coming up later this month).

And earlier this month, Styled Aesthetic announced a partnership with the school district where it would sell its clothing at the Orbit store at South Milwaukee High School.

Then there is the screen printing business. Kyle and Steve are adding a third printing press and a second dryer at their downtown location, as they ramp up production.

One cool customer of theirs: Dr. McDreamy. Fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” get the reference. Styled Aesthetic provides wearables and an online retail outlet for Dempsey Racing, the pursuit of the former TV star better known as Derek Shepherd (before he died on the show earlier this year).

Not bad for a business that started in Kyle’s basement shortly after both he and Steve were attending Franklin High School.

From their website …

Playing pool, listening to music, making fun of everything (including ourselves), wanting to have a cool Pabst t-shirt for a bar crawl and a strong desire to be our own boss are the main reasons we started a company.

Our story begins in 2006 three years before Styled Aesthetic was incorporated. After designing a shirt for a pub crawl Kyle found it difficult to find a screen printer who would print the shirt.  Rather than change the design he purchased a screen printing press and ran the shirt himself. The one color press quickly turned into a 4 color press for the next year’s more elaborate design, which led to small screen printing jobs for friends and family.

In the late winter of 2007 Kyle and Steve started talking about starting a business (while on a holiday pub crawl of course). With Steve’s background in marketing and sales and Kyle’s design background and growing knowledge of screen printing, a screen printing and design business was a natural fit. After months of planning Styled Aesthetic was born in January of 2009 in the basement of Kyle’s house in Franklin, Wisconsin.

From our humble beginnings we have grown out of the basement to a 2,800 square foot shop in South Milwaukee. We now have 7 employees and customers that span the continental United States from a diverse group of industries and companies.

And they are now proudly Made in South Milwaukee.

Check them out on the web and Facebook.


Filed under Downtown, Local Business, South Milwaukee

Celebrating Small Business At South Milwaukee’s Business Incubator

Thanks to Steve Fenno for hosting me at today’s Meet the Mayor session — and thanks for supporting small business at his self-described business incubator at 916 Milwaukee Ave.

Rocket apparel. Antiques. Disc golf accessories. Signs. Unique woodworking gifts. Firearm safety training. Dry cleaning. There’s even a guy in the basement who makes fishing lures.

In all, there are more than 10 small businesses located in this historic building in the heart of downtown, and it was great to meet so many people working to deliver unique goods and services through a really unique property.

Steve describes the Doyle and Fenno building as a “small business incubator center.”

He writes: “The focus is on a safe, clean, attractive facility with reasonable rates to allow small businesses to flourish in our city. The building owners and tenants consider themselves to be partners, working hard together to help each little business succeed. Thankfully, we are fortunate to have a business-friendly city government, which we also consider a partner in this endeavor.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Here are a few photos from today …



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Filed under Downtown, Small Business, South Milwaukee

D.B. Tax & Financial Services: Investing In Downtown South Milwaukee



D.B. Tax & Financial Services is betting big on downtown South Milwaukee – and I can’t be more excited about it.

The accounting and wealth management firm has purchased the former Tai Ping Restaurant, and will expand into the building starting this winter. The work includes rebuilding of the restaurant façade to match its current building (the former Grand Theater) and extensive interior remodeling.

The expansion will allow D.B., 1125 Milwaukee Ave., to add four employees to its current 11.

All in, it’s an $800,000 investment in downtown South Milwaukee, from a business with longstanding roots in the community.

From the D.B. website

Established in 1989 by its founders Larry & Diane Burger. After many years of dedicated service with the Wisconsin Air National Guard – 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee, WI, Larry and Diane retired from the military and ventured into small business entrepreneurship. They purchased, remodeled, and opened an office in the front suite of The Grand Theater Building (Established 1913), in South Milwaukee, WI. It was in these early years the firm provided personal and business income tax preparation and tax planning. After its establishment and continued growth, new staff was hired, more office space was added, and the firm began to accomplish what most small businesses envy – that is growth, dedicated clients, quality service, and an excellent reputation in a great community. As additional staff came on board, Diane and Larry ventured into retirement. It was at this time their daughter and employee since 1989, Lisa Pugel (f.k.a. Lisa Klatt), began actively managing the South Milwaukee location. Lisa is now the acting President of D.B. Tax & Financial Services, Inc. and providing services to clients from communities over Southeastern Wisconsin.

During the first few years Lisa owned the firm, she implemented new technologies that gave the office the ability to work more efficiently with the taxing agencies. These advancements allowed for the firm to process faster returns with even faster refunds. And more importantly, without sacrificing quality. In addition, Lisa brought new services to the firm which included comprehensive financial and tax planning, payroll and small business bookkeeping, insurance services, education planning and estate planning. All of these services are still provided today by a dedicated staff with decades of experience.

It was within the next year Lisa purchased The Grand Theater Building and began a major remodeling and renovation process adding more than 4500 square feet of office space. You can still see the reminisce of the old movie theater as you pass through the hallway and glance upwards to see the architectural features of the old theater. It was in 2009 that the last of the interior renovations occurred (adding loft living space in the upper unit) and the exterior facade was given a tremendous face lift as it is now one of the most beautiful buildings on Milwaukee Avenue.

And it will only get more beautiful in the months ahead.

I met with Lisa earlier recently to discuss her plans, which include $10,000 in façade grant support from the City of South Milwaukee. She showed me around, and her space is beautiful. From the movie poster holder near the front door to the columns lining the hallway, you can still see remnants of the old theater, but the space has been completely modernized.

The expansion I’m certain will be first class, too – and a strong step in our ongoing work to bring downtown South Milwaukee back to life. Thanks for being a part of the renaissance, D.B. Tax!


Filed under Downtown, Local Business, South Milwaukee

Planning For The Future: Have Your Voices Heard! (And Get Candy)

October 24 Halloween Open House Flyer update

Here is one more reason to be a part of Saturday’s downtown trick-or-treating event: Along the way, you will have a chance to help shape the future of our city.

Graef Consulting is holding its second open house/public feedback session from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday at 924 Milwaukee Ave., the storefront located directly east of Sorce Martial Arts. Stop in and share your input and learn more about the comprehensive plan under development. Displays will include:

  • Opportunity area development scenarios;
  • Boards with visual / design precedents;
  • A photo montage of a concept for the public space at the southeast corner of Milwaukee and 10th Avenues;
  • Recommendations for downtown;
  • A synthesis of feedback from the first open house this summer at the Downtown Market;
  • Blank maps for further feedback (neighborhoods/districts/corridors, opportunity areas, and a large aerial map); and
  • “What I Want For South Milwaukee” stickers to provide feedback and comment forms.

There will also be a coloring station for children and candy (of course). The PBS “Around the Corner” episode on South Milwaukee will also be shown during the open house.

Be sure to take a break from trick-or-treating and be a part of this activity. Your feedback is critical as we continue our work in planning South Milwaukee’s promising future!

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Filed under Downtown, South Milwaukee

Rocketober Rolls On: Downtown Trick-Or-Treating Details


One event we were proud to add to the list of Rocketober activities last year: a downtown trick-or-treating event.

It was a hit. Hundreds of families took part, supporting local businesses while collecting some candy along the way. Well, it’s back in 2015 — bigger and better than ever.

Nearly 40 businesses and institutions are taking part this time, and you can see the full list in the flyer posted above. Be sure to stop at them all from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and visit Moran’s Pub for a raffle drawing afterwards. Then head to the Mill Pond Zombie House a few blocks away, or the Human Concerns Haunted House.

(Check out the full list of Rocketober events here.)

Thanks so much to Julie Arnold from Lovenote Creative and James Moran from Moran’s Pub for organizing this year’s trick or treating. This should be a lot of fun.

Be sure to use this flyer as you travel to the various businesses. Either print it, or pick one up at a participating location.

See you Saturday!

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Filed under Downtown, Events, South Milwaukee

The Food Trucks Are Coming Back!

Food truck 7 Food truck 6 Food truck 2 Food truck 4

Update: The hours are now noon to 3 p.m. It’s reflected below.

It’s Food Truck Carnival time again in downtown South Milwaukee!

We’re bringing back the gathering of food trucks on Sunday, Sept. 27, at the site of the South Milwaukee Downtown Market on 11th Avenue between Milwaukee and Madison.

Great food from some of the area’s top trucks will be served from noon to 3 p.m. that day. Live music is also planned.

I’m excited to see this event return, and we learned a lot from the first one in May.

  • First, we’ll have more trucks this time — 10 committed so far, with hopefully a few more to come. Stay tuned for a list.
  • We’re also spacing the trucks out more, down the entire stretch of 11th Avenue, so lines should be more defined. (However, I can’t say if lines will be shorter; these trucks are very popular).
  • We’re also asking the trucks to bring more food, so they don’t run out as quickly.

I can’t wait for this. The last event drew thousands of people downtown, and I’m hoping for a big crowd this time, as we look to bring more and more of these community- and business-building events to our city center.


Filed under Downtown, Local Business, South Milwaukee

Grillworks: New Restaurant Eyed For Former Nona’s Cafe, Grebe’s

Grillworks wants to continue the legacy of great food coming out of the building at 2206 10th Ave.

South Milwaukee’s newest downtown restaurant, in the former of home of Nona’s Cafe and Grebe’s, will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and feature a “supper club-style” menu with a small bar area serving Old Fashioneds and ice cream-type drinks, as well as bakery items and hot ham on Sundays.

That’s according to Jessica Hess, who will operate the restaurant, and her family, the Orens, the former owners of Slick Willie’s (well regarded for its terrific food).

The city council’s Legislation and Permits Committee approved the establishment’s Class B liquor license at its meeting on Tuesday. It will go the full council in coming weeks.

I’ll keep you posted as the reopening date approaches. And welcome, Grillworks!

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Help Shape The Future Of South Milwaukee

Graef flyer

Join the conversation!

The GRAEF team is looking for feedback from residents, visitors and others as part of their ongoing work to update South Milwaukee’s comprehensive plan.

Stop by their booth at the South Milwaukee farmers’ market from 3 to 7 p.m. this Thursday to meet the group, provide your input … and have your voice heard.

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Filed under Comprehensive Plan, Downtown, South Milwaukee

Looking Back, To Move Ahead: Take Your Own Downtown History Tour


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I can’t thank Nels Monson and the South Milwaukee Historical Society enough for their efforts with the downtown history walking tour on Saturday.

Nels’ knowledge of local history and storytelling abilities are amazing, and hearing him speak about our “proud past” inspires me.

My ask: Take the tour for yourself. Here is a brochure for a self-guided version of this trip into South Milwaukee’s past.

I think you’ll agree that, more than ever, this much is clear: We need to embrace that past as we look to the future of downtown, a future that we’ll be writing in coming months as part of our downtown planning efforts. There is so much inspiration we can draw from our history, as we look to drive investment, energy and new life in our city center.

Of course, we can’t dwell on the past. And we don’t. But as we plan for the future, I’m excited to learn all I can about where we’ve come from as we work together to determine where we’re headed.

Let’s get moving on this journey!

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Welcome Back, Papa Luigi’s II


“How you doin’?” asked the voice on the other end of the phone, and I knew exactly who it was.

It was Sal Purpora, of course, owner of Salvatore’s/Papa Luigi’s II in downtown South Milwaukee, and he was calling with good news.

His message: He is planning to formally reopen his facility – closed for nearly a year and a half due to more than $1.6 million in water damage from a burst sprinkler system pipe – in phases starting at the end of this month.

First, it will be for bowling leagues and select banquets – with the bar open during times when the facility is in use. Then will come the kitchen, restaurant, and gym space, although remodeling those parts of the building may take a year or more as Sal continues to allocate money from his restaurant supply business and Cudahy location to South Milwaukee.

So, it will take some time. But I am still very excited that Sal, for the first time, is making this formal, public announcement of his plans to reopen – and for what this means for downtown. It is significant progress, and a definitive answer to the question I know many fans of Papa Luigi’s had: “Will Sal ever rebuild?”

One key part of the rebuilding effort was installation a costly new sprinkler system, and that occurred in recent weeks. Our inspectors signed off on it recently. With this in place, this allowed us to grant him permanent occupancy. (Bowling leagues and small events were being held at Papa Luigi’s based on a temporary occupancy permit since 2014.)

I want to thank our fire and inspection departments for their work in assisting Sal in the formal reopening process. Sal was highly complimentary of their efforts, and as mayor that is great to hear. I want South Milwaukee to be known as “open for business,” and we are.

Look for more information soon on the reopening plan.

Sal is already accepting banquet bookings for groups of 50 or more, with food — cooked fresh, made to order and delivered within 15 minutes — for now being catered in from his Cudahy location. Contact Janet (414-807-4965), Frank (414-839-3988) or their Cudahy restaurant location after 4 p.m. for bookings.

And I’ll keep you posted as his phased reopening continues. In the meantime, please join me in officially welcoming Sal back to South Milwaukee. Really, he never left.

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