In This Together case study - State St. Downtown Milwaukee,
From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 30, 2009, by Tom Tolan
When Brandon Roethel started up his Izzy's restaurant in July
2009, the plan was to operate for about a month, then stage an
official grand opening.
Two and a half weeks later came the email that put the kibosh on
the grand opening - and could have imperiled bigger plans, for a
thriving business that would help revitalize the struggling
The City of Milwaukee had designated more than $26 million in
federal stimulus money for 18 street-repair projects around the
city. The first three projects included one that would tear up W.
State Street from N. 17th to N. 27th Streets, right in front of the
Two months later, the pavement was gone from the south two-thirds
of State Street in front of the property, at 2613 W. State, and from
most of its sidewalk. Customers had to walk through dirt to get to
the door. It could have been a nightmare to someone in the
often-shaky restaurant business.
But Roethel and his partner and building owner, attorney Charles
Hausmann, were philosophical about the street work, which they said
will improve the neighborhood in the long run and would be partly
finished in November. And they said the new restaurant did okay
during construction, partly because community members stepped up to
patronize the place.
"I honestly thought it would be a ghost town when the work
started," Roethel said. But it wasn't.
Hausmann felt that a new street was badly needed, and, in fact,
their best two weeks at the restaurant happened after the street was
Part of that is because of the support of neighbors. Ald. Robert
Bauman - the local alderman and the chairman of the Common Council's
Public Works Committee, which approved the stimulus spending for
road projects - helped get permission for Izzy's to use a city lot
at N. 27th and W. State, to replace the street parking lost in the
project. And Bauman has eaten at the restaurant several times.
Also among the frequent diners at Izzy's was June Moberly,
executive director of the Avenues West Association, the community
group that serves the area. In September, Moberly sent a catering
gig Izzy's way for the Avenues West security committee, which had a
lunch meeting at the nearby Penfield Children's Center. Overall that
day, Roethel said, the restaurant served 55 customers, a number that