Curt is Chicago native - but don't hold that against him. After stops in Madison and California, he moved to Waukesha in 2004 to open a downtown business.
As most of America fights its way through tough economic times, it seems as if little ole Waukesha Wisconsin continues to operate on its own schedule.
In the past year, downtown Waukesha has certainly seen some changes that seem to go against the flow of the great recession.
And while everything isn’t always flowers and roses down here (it would be boring if it were), I think it is important that we take note.
Here is what’s happening, good and bad, in your downtown…
We will begin this update on the far west end of Main Street by beautiful Veterans Park. There we will find the Ogden Condo Project known as The Town Homes at Mill Reserve, nestled along the Fox River.
The good: These modern condos are a great addition to a downtown in need of owner occupied housing.
The bad: This project began at the same time the housing market took a dive. Homes and condos are a tough sell everywhere.
What’s next: Hopefully the project will outlast the recession and continue construction once the market rights itself.
494 West Main Street.
In recent weeks, this little forgotten building on Main Street’s far west end has seen a new coat of paint on its east wall and some clean up work to its interior.
The good: The building backs right up to the Fox River. When the rear windows are open, the beautiful sound of rushing water can be heard throughout the inside.
The bad: It was condemned by the city a few years ago after tenants reported the basement leaked and stated it was hazard to their well-being. Just for the record, EVERY building that backs the Fox River has a leaky basement (with exception to the new condos).
What’s next: Who knows? Hopefully the owner can work something out to make the building marketable again. My suggestion- fill the basement with sand and let it act as a filter for the river. Dirty water in, clean water out. Let’s kill two birds with one stone.
After seeking approval from the Waukesha Plan Commission for changes to his property, my neighbor across the street concluded the first part his new landscaping project.
The good: What was once a sea of asphalt has been transformed into a beautifully landscaped entrance including low bushes and a nice iron fence.
The bad: It cost him a little more than expected so further improvements will have to wait until next year. These include planters behind the fence and landscape lighting.
What’s next: The remaining asphalt is going to be sealed next year as well. It is a huge improvement and compliments the neighborhood very well.
Bodway’s Live Music Grill.
I probably shouldn’t touch this one with a ten foot pole, but what fun would that be?
This one time bar and music venue changed itself into a restaurant and music venue a while back to avoid the hassle of needing a conditional use permit from the city to operate.
The good: The building received a major facelift after it was converted from the old Donut Shoppe into what it is now. It also spawned the opening of Bodway’s Live Music Studios, right next door to me. And what better place to offer music lessons than right next door to an art school?
The bad: Three years after work began on the bar, I mean restaurant, I mean whatever, the building still sits dark with no new opening date in sight.
What’s next: I am not at liberty to say. However, I would like to note that this is the quietest bar in downtown Waukesha.
Otto’s Fine Art Academy.
Five years after two nuts from California decided to open an art school for kids, Otto’s continues to flourish in downtown Waukesha. And with 80 to 100 students drawing and painting there every week, it shows no signs of slowing down.
The good: Art school patrons not only enjoy class, but also enjoy all of the great things downtown has to offer, like coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries, gift shops, Friday night music festivals, and the Farmers Market.
The bad: Patrons occasionally mention that getting downtown in the afternoon can be a hassle sometimes with traffic and trains, but they all agree it is worth the trip.
What’s next: Hmmm…rumors are swirling. Is another art academy in the works? I think for now Otto’s will open more class times at the current location to handle the growing student population.
On the south corner of Maple and Main sits an incredible building. Once the location of the offices of Cooperating Congregations, this building is now home to a beautiful home decor store and two stunning condominiums (which are for sale).
The good: This property received a major overhaul last year, and Katydids Home Store on the first floor is an amazing space. It is a favorite of many customers of Otto’s Art Academy as well.
The bad: Katydids was once located at the busy east end of West Main Street, and they have found that drawing customers to the quiet west end can be difficult. But it appears they are establishing themselves very well.
What’s next: I heard cooking classes may take shape there in the future. For more information you can check them out on the web.
378 W. Main
The building that once housed Sprizzo Gallery Café been converted to a beautiful art gallery. It now joins the ranks of the Almont Gallery, River’s End Gallery, and Ashton Arts, in making the west end of Main Street home to some of the finest art galleries in the county.
The good: A once vacant building breathes new life again.
The bad: The outside architecture of this building doesn’t do justice to the good that is happening inside.
What’s next: Building owner Jeff Seymour is planning a major overhaul to the building’s exterior including the addition of a garage door for open air art displays as well as a new awning. The updates are compliments to the history of the building- a one time auto service location.
Masterpiece Art Supply
While downtown is in desperate need of an art supply store, Masterpiece Art Supply is, unfortunately, closing its doors after being in business for only a year. It seems that the owner has experienced some health problems that have kept her from being able to operate the store on a consistent basis.
The good: There really is no good here. This is a good business that has seen a bad time. However, the store is having quite a sale to help liquidate their merchandise.
The bad: Any time a good business leaves the downtown, it is a bad thing, and the owners of the store are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. I wish them the best. Masterpiece is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10AM to 4PM until the end of October.
What’s next: Downtown still needs an art supply store. So if you have ever thought about starting your own business, have at it!
A recent banner in the window of American Tattoo reads “Celebrating 30 Years of Business”. That’s outstanding. Anyone that can make a small business work well for that long is doing something right.
The good: Good economic times or bad, there is always a good reason to get a tattoo.
The bad: I see no bad here. While tattoos may not be for everyone, the art of tattooing is one that should be appreciated. American Tattoo is just as much an art gallery as any other down here, only the art is usually out walking around.
What’s next: 30 more years.
Sprizzo Gallery Café.
Oh the difference a move can make! This popular café relocated across the street from its old location last year and transformed a dilapidated little office building into an extraordinary place to grab a light breakfast, an excellent lunch, or a delicious dinner. On the weekends, Sprizzo also plays host to a variety live musicians.
The good: Rumor has it that business has tripled since the move. The new restaurant is more spacious and has its own private outdoor patio.
The bad: With triple the business sometimes comes triple the stress. However, the folks that run Sprizzo are no strangers to stressful situations.
What’s next: For now, I think they have all they can handle.
That covers some of the newer events on the far west end Main Street. Next week we will explore what’s happening in the center of downtown, including the Clarke Hotel and the Five Points area. If you can’t wait that long, why not come on down and check it out yourself?
You’ll be glad you did.