Check it Out: New Commercials, Featuring South Milwaukee

Remember the Aaron Rodgers Ford TV spots filmed locally more than four years ago?

Well, two new commercials have strong South Milwaukee ties.

  • First, much of this new Ariens spot — the parts shown before they show an actual Ariens factory in orange — was filmed at The SHOP, the new classic motorcycle repair shop at 1905 13th Ave.
  • Then there is this West Bend Mutual spot. It features Neal Letteney, pastor of New Day Church, which recently moved to Wil-o-Way Grant. Pastor Neal, an actor, is the bearded fellow in the blue flannel shirt (and the wood shavings in his beard).

I love showing off the people and places that make our city great!

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What’s Next for the Oak Creek Lakefront

While Drexel Town Square and development around the Drexel freeway interchange have gotten most of the attention recently, I’ve long thought Oak Creek’s plans for Carrollville will have the biggest impact on their neighbor to the north and east.


Those plans are starting to come together and include a wide mix of uses, from single-family housing to light industrial to a convention center. A new lakefront park is already open, located along a newly extended Fifth Avenue connecting to Highway 100.

From a recent Business Journal story

The overall vision breaks the land surrounding Lake Vista Park into different districts, each with a different redevelopment strategy.

There’s 91 acres northeast of American and Fifth avenues where the city is encouraging offices or light industrial buildings for water technology businesses or other research and development. There also could be medium-density housing with apartments and single-family homes.

An affiliate of Wispark LLC, Milwaukee, owns 46 acres in that area that it eventually plans to sell to another developer, said president Jerry Franke. Wispark shareholders invested in that land as part of the same agreement that led to its participation in the Drexel Town Square and OakView Business Park developments, he said.

“Obviously, that’s the most difficult one and the one we’re working with the city on for a strategy to have someone else buy it and redevelop it,” Franke said of the lakefront land.

Planning for future uses continues, but Franke envisioned housing and single-family homes would likely be part of the mix. …

The city of Oak Creek owns about 31 acres between that Wispark property and the shoreline. City officials plan to eventually sell that land to a private developer, Vickers said.

“We have not tried to sell it,” Vickers said, adding that the new plan is “the coming out party for the fact that this is ready to go.”

South of that, a local investor group owns 8 acres with about 500 feet of frontage on Lake Michigan. It also is supportive of the city’s vision for the area, and has participated in planning discussions, said managing partner Ron San Felippo, a Milwaukee real estate investor. San Felippo said industrial buildings on the land were torn down last year. He said the ownership group hasn’t decided whether to sell the land, or develop it themselves. …

Another large planning district in the city proposal stretches between Fifth Avenue and the future Lake Vista Park, where future development would be anchored by a convention center and hotel, Vickers said. That 61-acre area would also have complementary commercial or stores to support a conference center, and housing. … 

The city TIF plan would support those areas north and west of Lake Vista Park with, for example, a $4.5 million sewer extension project. That is among $10.2 million in infrastructure projects planned in the TIF district.

Smaller scale retail could be built on about 22 acres southwest of East Ryan Road and Fifth Avenue. Also, 72 acres adjacent to Bender Park is slated for single-family houses and some apartments.

The overall TIF plan includes up to $36.4 million in city spending, and envisions it would help create more than $172.7 million in property value in new, private developments. Property taxes generated by that new land value would pay off the city’s spending by 2038.

The city estimates the area will need another $6 million in site preparation and cleanup work, including demolition of former industrial buildings. Also, $6.5 million is earmarked for developer incentives.

I welcome what’s coming in Carollville, just as I embrace what’s happening on Drexel.

These types of developments are transformative for the entire South Shore, and the work along Fifth Avenue is happening a little more than a mile from our borders. South Milwaukee will be a gateway for this project, and I’m excited about it.

That said, we are, and will always be, much more than a place people drive through on their way to and from Oak Creek. We have our own unique attributes, and that selling story is only getting better.

Our neighbor will continue to grow in its own way. We’ll hold true to who we are. And we’ll both win because of it.

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Happy Anniversary, Pink Bunny Games!

Happy fifth anniversary, Pink Bunny Games!

There was a great turnout for their celebration and ribbon cutting on Saturday.

‘Thanks to the South Milwaukee Community & Business Association and state Rep. Jonathan Brostoff for being a part of this special day, as we celebrate yet another small, independent business choosing to locate and grow in South Milwaukee.

Damien opened the store in 2012 as a way to get his collection out of the living room — and now he is eyeing expansion. Here’s to 50 more years in South Milwaukee!

By the way, here is the story on the name, from their Facebook page

This story is really a two parter. The first part, I used to be what you would call a backpack dealer of Magic cards. This means that I would travel to events all around the midwest and trade cards for a profit with people at those events. There were several other people that did the same thing as myself, and we all sort of hung out with each other at the events.

The next part had really nothing to do with my Magic dealings. My girlfriend Ericka, had ordered a coat online. When the coat arrived, it did not look like the picture on the internet. The one that arrived was shaped like a big square, while the one pictured online was shaped like a woman. She was going to send it back, but I asked how much it cost her. It was only $20, so I told her to keep it and I would wear it. The coat in question was a fluffy, furry Pink coat.

Now back to my side gig as a backpack dealer. Magic was almost all males at the time, it is still a lot more males than females now, but we are moving in the right direction. Back then however, a room with 1000+ Magic players likely had less than 10 women in its population. Back then, I started wearing this fluffy Pink coat. I was just wearing it to be that goofy guy that did abnormal stuff, but what I didn’t realize, was that I was creating a brand. When a player walked into that room with 1000 people in it and had to find one of us backpack dealers to get that last card for his deck, I stood out like a sore thumb. It was fairly easy to pick out the fluffy Pink coat in a room full of guys.

All of the backpack dealers had nicknames for each other, and mine was Pink Bunny, due to my coat resembling the energizer bunny. I wore that coat for several years before it had to be retired, but the nickname has been with me ever since.

Fast forward a few years, and I had made the decision to open a store, rather than continue working out of my apartment. When decidinbg what to name the store, I made the decision that a descriptive name was not as good as a memorable name. I could have been Game Store, or Game Emporium, but if you looked at a list of generic sounding names, mine would dissappear into the mix as soon as you got to the next page, however, a name like Pink Bunny Games would stick with you, it would stand out, much like the fluffy Pink coat did for me so long ago.

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Check out these South Shore headlines …

Also, NOW has published a new police blotter, including this item …

Officers were called to an apartment in the 1200 block of Michigan Avenue at 12:52 p.m. April 4 and 8:49 a.m. April 5 after a 35-year-old woman told police that she had received phone calls she believed were from actor Kiefer Sutherland. She was advised it was a scam and to ignore the calls.

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May 24: You’re Invited to the SMPAC’s 2017-18 Season Preview & Tasting Party

From the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center …

Please mark your calendars for the South l Performing Arts Center’s 2017-18 Season Preview & Tasting Party, Wednesday, May 24 at 6:30 pm, at the PAC. 901 15th Avenue.

In addition to sneak previews of the upcoming season, we’ll feature our NEW official caterer, Skyline Catering, and some of our PAC sponsoring restaurants. The following sponsors have graciously offered to participate in our event by hosting a complimentary tasting (small bites) of their specialties:

  • Skyline Catering
  • Scrappy’s BBQ
  • Barbiere’s Italian Restaurant
  • Azteca Mexican Restaurant

This FREE event is open to the public.  Invite family and friends to join in the fun.

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Working Toward a Cleaner Watershed: Workshop, Planning Update Meeting Set

2017-04-26 Residential Stormwater Workshop & Planning Update flyerFrom the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and Root-Pike-Win Watershed Initiative Network …

You are invited to our Residential Stormwater Workshop & Planning Update! The event will be held Wednesday evening, April 26, 2017 in South Milwaukee and will include a brief informational update on the Oak Creek Plan from Laura Kletti Herrick P.E., CFM and Thomas M. Slawski, Ph.D. of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. Topics of their presentation will include a short summary of the stakeholder comments received at the August 2016 planning meeting and presentation of some of the field data collected to date. 

The main portion of the event will be a resident workshop focusing on what citizens can do on their properties to improve and reduce stormwater runoff. Offered as part of the Respect Our Waters program, this workshop applies to all residents of southeastern Wisconsin. Learn actions you can take in your own yard to help protect our precious waters. You’ll glean new information, get your questions answered and go home with great guides on eco-friendly spring and summer yard care, lawn alternatives, rain gardens, rain barrels, composting, permeable surfaces, management of yard waste and pet waste and more. 

Refreshments will be served and registration is required. There is no cost to attend. 

Sign up here.

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Making a Difference, One School Lunch at a Time

Recently, I had a chance to speak with Steven Broeker, a South Milwaukee resident who is making his city a better place by feeding the hungry. It’s a terrific story, and a creative approach to solving a real problem with too many of our local students.

I’ll let him take it from here. From Steven’s Go Fund Me page

Growing up, my family was hit hard with the recession, making it difficult for me to have funds for food and clothes. Luckily, I was blessed with a very caring support system including my grandmother, friends and their family members, that would provide for me. Without these people I would be a different person today. I know my middle school/ high school experience would have been much more difficult.

When I was younger, I thought the only way that I was going to be able to help was if I was wealthy. Later I realized that this wasn’t the case. My help came from my grandmother, close family, friends, and friend’s families. It was a combination of people coming together that was able to help me throughout my life. I would like to provide help to these students and will need your assistance in doing so. Please help make a difference in a student’s life, from experience; it can make all the difference.

The hardest part of being a student and having to go through this was a sense of concentration throughout classes. As lunch would get closer, I would start to wonder if the lunch ladies were going to let through the line with an already negative account. If so, I would get the bare minimum, which would lead to more distractions throughout the rest of the school day. Luckily on days where my balance hit the max negative amount, a friend would step in and provide something for me, or they would borrow me money until a check would come from my grandmother. At times this would be embarrassing and I would try and keep my situation to myself. 

And he’d go hungry because of it – “some days I wouldn’t eat at all,” Steven said.

This is a story repeated every day in our schools today, as kids, even those who receive federally subsidized free or reduced lunch, “fall through the cracks,” as he put it.

Now a college graduate and a sales rep for Palermo’s, Steven wants to help solve the problem. He is helping those kids, because he can. We all can.

“You don’t have to be wealthy to do it,” he says.

Steven is working with South Milwaukee School District social workers to raise money to help students who don’t have money that day to eat or eat well. They might be kids who don’t qualify for the lunch program but still lack money for lunch, or students who do qualify but may want more than what the lunch program can provide. Or, perhaps most importantly, they may be kids who probably do qualify for the lunch program, but their parents haven’t signed up for it for whatever reason – maybe out of pride, like Steven back in his school days at Rawson Elementary and the middle and high schools.

To help, Steven has started a Go Fund Me campaign He launched the effort less than two weeks ago, and he raised more than $1,000 in the first 24 hours.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” he said.

The campaign has now raised more than $3,000, surpassing Steven’s revised goal.

My hope? We can keep resetting that goal higher, especially as Steven aims to eventually expand the effort to the middle school and the elementary schools.

There is no shortage of need. Around half of South Milwaukee students qualify for free or reduced lunch – across the district and at each local school. It’s a sobering statistic – one that Steven lived first hand. Now that he doesn’t, he wants to help those who do.

It’s an inspiring story. I just gave $50. How can you help?

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