Category Archives: Local Business

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

open neon 97n

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

Good Luck, Rocket Robotics!


I had a chance to meet Rocket Robotics, FIRST Team 3596, last week, and I left feeling so impressed with our next generation of engineers and the work they’re doing — as well as with the community and business partnership it takes to make their work possible.

The robotics team, in its sixth year at South Milwaukee High School, is 15-20 students strong and is led by Brian Niggemann, a Caterpillar engineer who volunteers countless hours of his time to mentor the team and prepare them for their annual competition. He is joined by three other Caterpillar employee volunteers who bring their engineering expertise and guidance to the kids you see pictured above.

Caterpillar is also a significant funder of the program, paying the team’s entry fee and also donating funds and equipment used in building the robots. In addition to Caterpillar, The Rotary Club of Mitchell Field stepped up with significant funding this year, as well as smaller contributions from Vito Clean, Alliance Manufacturing Group, and Styled Aesthetic.

But it really comes down to the kids and the passion they bring to this, which was clearly evident when I visited with them.

I wish them good luck at the FIRST Robotics Regional Competition, scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, March 25-26, at the Milwaukee Panther Arena downtown. Learn more about the competition here. It’s open to the public and free. Stop by and see these students in action, and I’m certain you’ll come away as impressed as I was.

Their robot is wrapped in plastic below. They didn’t want to risk me breaking it 🙂

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Filed under Local Business, Schools, South Milwaukee

Open Thread: What’s Your Favorite South Milwaukee Fish Fry?

Post your comments below!


Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

For The Love Of Local Paczki


Fat Tuesday is in just a few days, and there’s a way to celebrate it in South Milwaukee style — with paczki!

Wild Flour Bakery makes and sells all their Polish treats at their South Milwaukee bakery at 1205 Milwaukee Ave. Raspberry, bavarian cream, lemon and prune are available for pickup and purchase from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

Pre-orders are appreciated. Call 414-571-1298 to place your order or learn more.

Learn more about paczki here. And happy Fat Tuesday!

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Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

Made In South Milwaukee: Janet Halfmann


The latest in a regular series.

OK, so Janet Halfmann isn’t technically from here, but she’s lived here 25 years, and we’re proud to claim this terrific children’s book author as our own.

She has published dozens of books — including a number in the Brooks family collection — and her newest one (“Grandma is a Slowpoke”) is due out Feb. 15.

From her website

My mom says that I was always curled up reading a book. That’s probably why I majored in English at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. At some point, I also fell in love with Spanish, spent a summer in Spain, and graduated with a double major, with plans to teach.

But soon after I married, I saw an ad for a home-study course in children’s writing, enrolled, started writing, and was hooked. Becoming a published children’s author became my dream. Reading books to our kids became #1 on my list of favorite things to do. I had some success as a freelance writer, selling articles to magazines like Ranger Rick and Jack and Jill.

But I wanted to make a living as a writer, which took me on the following path:

Got another degree in journalism and moved to Wichita, Kansas, to be a reporter on a daily newspaper for three years (I loved writing feature stories, but hard news not so much).

Moved to Wisconsin to help start the national magazine, Country Kids–but the circulation didn’t grow fast enough and the job lasted less than two years.

Worked for twelve years creating coloring and activity books (Little Mermaid, Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street, Poky Little Puppy, and scores of others) for Golden Books in Racine, WI–a great job with wonderful coworkers!

In 1997, when Golden Books moved all of its operations to New York City and I lost my job, I returned to my original dream of being a children’s author.

I got my start on my dream by writing books for the Creative Company in Mankato, Minnesota. I visited the company for an informational interview before I decided to strike out on my own. Then when I made my decision, the company gave me the opportunity to write a series of insect books, and a children’s book author was born.

And we’re blessed to have her call South Milwaukee home.

Note: Janet will be at the South Milwaukee Spring Market at South Milwaukee High School Sunday, March 20, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. She’ll also be at South Milwaukee Family Literacy Night


Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

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

New Owners Secure Bright Future For South Milwaukee Ace Hardware

New Ace owners

An iconic local retailer has new owners, and they have big plans.

South Milwaukee Ace Hardware has been sold to Harry and Chris Gil, owners of Harry’s Ace Hardware & Rental at 7240 S. 76th St. in Franklin. Their son, Ben, will manage their second location.

The Gils are showing their commitment to South Milwaukee by signing a long-term lease for their space at Sunrise Plaza, 1009 10th Ave., and they are planning a significant store remodel later this spring.

Please join me in being among the first to welcome the Gils, and to wish Dave Micale, the previous owner, well.

Dave built a first-class local business that went head-to-head with big box stores and more than held its own thanks to great customer service. Here is a message from Dave …

I would like to thank all of our customers for all the kindness and support that my family and I have received over the past 20 years. I can’t express enough how we enjoyed being a part of the neighborhood. We have met a lot of good people and made many great friends. I will forever be grateful.

The Ace announcement — especially the signing of the long-term lease and the planned improvements — is great news for Sunrise Plaza as a whole, which has new owners focused on improving the center and making it more financially viable.

And what’s good for Sunrise Plaza is good for South Milwaukee, and continued small business growth in our fair city. It’s exciting to see.

Welcome to South Milwaukee, the Gil family!


Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

Now Open: South Milwaukee Burger King


I stopped by today (January 12) and really like the new look and feel.

Welcome to South Milwaukee!

(Burger King is located on North Chicago Avenue, in front of Walmart.)


Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

Burger King: Opening Mid-January

BK 12-15

I spoke to the franchise owner today, and the Burger King on North Chicago Avenue, in front of Walmart, is expected to open by mid-January.

I’ll keep you posted … and an early welcome to South Milwaukee!

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Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

Local Growth: Littlest Flowers Center For Achievement

Peggy image image 7  image 4 image 6

Let’s welcome our newest local business: Littlest Flowers Center for Achievement.

From owner Peggy Clark, who is replacing her current daycare with this one in a former medical office building at 1725 College Ave. …

Littlest Flowers Center For Achievement officially opened November 30, 2015. Our goal is to bring a child-centered, play-based learning environment.  We are family centered and actively involve the whole family in the learning experience! We are very proud to build our future here in South Milwaukee!

I got a tour recently, and it’s easy to see the significant investment Peggy has made in making the space welcoming and functional for children from six weeks to 12 years old. She is looking to cap enrollment at 50 to keep the teacher-to-child ratio low.

Thanks for investing in South Milwaukee, Peggy and Littlest Flowers.


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Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

Happy Days In South Milwaukee: Fonz Coming To Town

MEARS Online Auctions is one of my favorite local business.

What Troy has done with the former St. Mary’s Hall is amazing — you have to see it to believe it. And you have that chance on Saturday.

That is when MEARS is holding its Autograph Expo, with a special appearance by Henry Winkler.

More details here … and be sure stop by and grab a unique Christmas gift at one of the most unique (and coolest) businesses in the area.


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Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

29 Ways To Shop Local This Holiday Season

Shop Local South Milwaukee

Today is Small Business Saturday, and what better time to join me in committing to shopping local this holiday season?

Be sure to like the Shop Local South Milwaukee Facebook page and maybe …

  1. Buy gift certificates from some of our great local bars and restaurants, from Azteca to China Chef to Barbiere’s to Paisano’s to Muskie’s Gourmet House to Spirts Pub & Grill to the new Tap Room – and many, many more. How about giving the gift of burgers and custard at the beach, in advance of Ferch’s returning next summer?
  2. Local coffee makes a great gift from MKE City Sippers or Nomi.
  3. Give the gift of fitness and health at Moxie Fitness, the South Milwaukee Fitness CenterSorce Martial Arts, Dowling Community Acupuncture, Drenzek Chiropractic … the list goes on.
  4. Buy one of the limited-edition South Milwaukee Community & Business Association holiday ornaments. This year, it’s the city logo.
  5. Games for Christmas? Absolutely! Shop downtown at Board Game Barrister or Pink Bunny Games for traditional family board games, Magic: The Gathering gear and more.
  6. Get a beautiful stained glass piece from Studio One Art Glass. (We have one hanging in every first-floor window of our home.)
  7. Buy some unique wood art from Larry Oleson, the man who built all of the Little Free Libraries this fall.
  8. And speaking of terrific wood pieces, Wolfgang Calnin, the retired high school choir director who owns Urbanwood Studio, also does one-of-a-kind work using rehabbed local wood, including the cool Ecophoniq smart phone speaker.
  9. Buy Rocket or South Milwaukee apparel from one of our downtown t-shirt shops, Styled Aesthetic or JB’s Tee Shirt Factory.
  10. Have a NASCAR fan in your house? Green Flag Racing downtown is the only store in the area (state?) focused on selling items only for auto racing enthusiasts (like me).
  11. Staying with collectibles, check out South Milwaukee-based MEARS Online Auctions, which has one-of-a-kind vintage sports gear, toys, and military items up for bid as we speak. Troy has also opened a military collectibles store at 723 Milwaukee Ave. (the former Voice Journal building), with the candy store to come soon.
  12. Like horror? Graveyard Records & Movie Maniacs bills itself as “the Midwest’s larger horror collectibles store,” and Dave’s store at 1013 Milwaukee Ave. doesn’t disappoint. This is very cool (and somewhat macabre) stuff you can’t get anywhere else.
  13. Shop at the South Milwaukee Christmas Market on Saturday, December 5. Around 90 local artisans are expected — 90!
  14. Give the gift of performing arts with tickets to an upcoming show at the South Milwaukee PAC.
  15. Nothing says “happy holidays” like jewelry, right? Jewelry from Donn Powers, that is.
  16. Pick up some holiday flowers or a centerpiece from Parkway Floral.
  17. How about antiques? Check out Memory Lane or Grandma’s Attic in the Fenno Building, 916 Milwaukee Ave.
  18. Buy a bandanna, jigsaw puzzle, notebook and other HANmade item — designed by South Milwaukeean Colleen McCarrier.
  19. Enjoy a children’s book from award-winning local author Janet Halfmann.
  20. Buy a new chair, sofa or bed from Galaxy Furniture, Grant Park Plaza’s newest tenant.
  21. Keep your vehicle running right with the gift of an oil change or three from a local car care center in our fair city.
  22. Cater your holiday meal from a local caterer like Emerald City or Charlie’s Catering. Pick up a pie, bread or cookies from Wild Flour Bakery.
  23. And don’t forget holiday beer, wine and spirits — I’ll put a plug in here for Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter, Blue Moon Gingerbread Spiced Ale, Redd’s Apple Ale or a nice Miller Lite or Coors Light — from local liquor stores Chicago Avenue Liquor, Marquette Liquor, King’s Row, G&K Liquor or BJ’s Liquor.
  24. Give the gift of golf this Christmas, with a free round or three at Grant Park or other county courses.
  25. Know a disc golf fan? Stop by Acetime Disc Golf.
  26. Give the gift of a clean pooch at Fancy Paws Dog Grooming, 1200 Milwaukee Ave.
  27. How about a VISA gift card from one of our local financial institutions?
  28. Get a loved one (or you) a new hair style, with a gift certificate from one of our local salons.
  29. And, finally, let’s not forget local chains, many of them owned by local franchisees — small business owners themselves. If you’re going to shop at a chain store this holiday season, please do so at places like Ace Hardware, Planet Fitness, Pick ‘n Save, Aldi, Cousins, Subway, Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, Toppers, Walmart, Napa, Speedway, Walgreens, Dollar General, Dollar Tree and others that all our city home.

What did I miss? Post your comments below … and shop local!


Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

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

Saturday: Meet The Mayor (Me) Downtown

My next Meet the Mayor session is this Saturday, November 14, at one of the more unique properties downtown.

It’s the Fenno building, 916 Milwaukee Ave.

This building is home to a variety of small businesses — including a few that I bet you didn’t know about: Memory Lane Antiques and Grandma’s Attic, Acetime Disc GolfDynamic Sign and Graphix, Styled Aesthetic, Wolf’s Dry Cleaners and more.

Be sure to stop by between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and, check out the local businesses and discuss what’s on your mind.

My door is open!

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Filed under Events, Local 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