Outpost Natural Foods Co-op Wins Sustainability Star Award 

June 1, 2017

Outpost Natural Foods Co-op has been named a Sustainability Star by National Co+op Grocers (NCG) for excellence in sustainability efforts. The award recognizes food co-ops that demonstrate outstanding leadership by making a positive impact on social, environmental, and local economic issues.
At its annual meeting in April, NCG honored Outpost for engaging staff in sustainability through the store’s green teams and through an online employee engagement game called Cool Choices, where the co-op recognized over $60,000 and 632,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (C02) in savings!
Sustainability Star award winners participate in Co+efficient, NCG’s sustainability program that helps co-op grocery stores measure their impact, drive improvements, and share the story of their important work with community members and other co-ops. This marks the second year that NCG has highlighted leading co-ops with Sustainability Star awards. Outpost is one of 10 co-ops nationwide honored for its 2016 performance.
In 2012 Outpost deepened its commitment by tracking metrics in 11 key areas throughout the business and recently published a “highlight report” noting their key impacts since this reporting began. 
Cooperative sector businesses are known for being innovators in sustainability. Earning Sustainability Star recognition shows that a co-op is leading the way, not only by excelling in sustainability pursuits, but by sharing the details and results of their efforts for the benefit of co-ops and communities around the country.
View Outpost’s Sustainability Report: http://bit.ly/2seDndI

South Shore Farmers Market Opens June 17

June 1, 2017

The long-awaited 2017 debut of the South Shore Farmers Market is Saturday, June 17 from 8am to noon. Musicians Nickel & Rose will perform at 10am. The Squeezettes perform the following week, June 17, at 10am.

SPOTTLIGHT — Preparing to put your home up for sale

June 1, 2017

By Toni Spott

Toni Spott

Putting your home up for sale can be an extremely stressful time. There are ways to avoid much of the stress by being proactive and getting things ready prior to that day.

Pay for a Home Inspection
The biggest hiccup in the whole home sale affair is the inspection. So before you even think about doing anything, have your property inspected first. You will know in advance everything that is wrong with your home before it goes on the market.

If you find that your home has major defects, the advantage is you can address them on your budget.

That means you can research the cost of the repairs so you won’t be at the mercy of a buyer telling you, for example, that it would cost $10,000 for a particular repair, instead of the $2,000 it would actually cost you.

Also, it gives you the gift of time. Time to really find out what those costs are before crunch time, when you may only be given a day to respond, or the deal goes south.

Additionally, by conducting a pre-listing inspection and being cognizant of any and all defects, you can disclose those to the buyer.

The buyer will then write an offer knowing your home’s condition. They cannot come back after their inspection, if they choose to have one, and say they want those defects fixed.

There is language in the WB-11 Offer To Purchase that protects the seller who chooses to have an inspection and who discloses aspects of a home that need repair or improvement: “Defects do not include structural, mechanical or other conditions the nature and extent of which Buyer had actual knowledge or written notice before signing this Offer.”

Don’t Wait to Discard or Pack
The day after you decide to sell, act as though you are moving out in two weeks. Get rid of all that junk that’s been accumulating and those things you no longer use.

Use three sorting categories — boxes for the garbage, boxes for charity, and boxes for the stuff you want to keep. This way when you have an accepted offer, you are will not be stressing out about how to get out of the house in 30 days but with 30 years of stuff to dispose of, or worse, move.

Eliminating everything you really don’t need and prepacking frees you up in those final crucial days right before you move, so you have time for more important things like focusing on your new residence and what it holds for you.

Once you’ve gotten all of the technical stuff out of the way, clean your home. Wash the walls, doors, windows, cabinets, countertops, etc. Remove personal photos, jewelry, medicines, and everything that has value.

Decluttering is the name of the game. Go with the less is more theory. When a buyer walks through your home, you want them to remember what the home itself looked like, not your decorating.

Paint the interior if it hasn’t been painted in the past several years.

Then bring in a real estate agent who can advise you about what else you need, or do not need to do to make your home more saleable.

Happy selling!

Toni Spott Sustainable Agent,
Keller Williams Realty;
Facebook: Toni Spott’s Real Estate
Resource; @ToniSpottsRealEstateResource

Beloved tailor sews up long career

June 1, 2017

By Katherine Keller

Hans Billerbeck wrapped up his 46-year-old tailoring business in May. He sold the building, 3118 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., in March. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Hans Billerbeck was 21 years old in 1959 when he left his home in Detmold, Germany, a small city about 60 miles southwest of Hanover.

The son of Marie and Karl Billerbeck, he trained as a tailor, following in his father’s footsteps.

But Hans did not learn the trade from his father. “I’ll be too easy on you,” Karl Billerbeck told his son. Instead he secured an apprenticeship for Hans with master tailor Christian Ritterman.

Hans trained with Ritterman four arduous years, beginning when he was still in high school. In 1958 his “brother-in-law’s brother,” a man who was employed as a barber at St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wis., traveled back to Germany and visited Hans.

As he learned about his friend’s life in the U.S. and his employment at the military academy, Hans asked, “Is there a job there for me?”

“I’ll find out,” he told him. There was. Hans, with only rudimentary English, moved to Delafield and became a member of a staff of four tailors. By 1961 he had been promoted to manager. He continued at St. John’s until 1972, when he bought a tailor’s shop on Kinnickinnic.

He and his wife Sharon operated the Hans Billerbeck tailor shop for 45 years, until he locked the doors one last time May 25, shuttering one of the last old-school mom and pop shops in Bay View.

When Billerbeck established his business, he purchased his building, 3118 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., and its contents from Alois Bucher, also a tailor. He was an immigrant from Yugoslavia and had grown up near the Austrian border.

For a time after he bought the business, Billerbeck retained two part-time tailors who had worked for Bucher when Hans created handmade men’s suits.

“But then I got so busy with the other things, the uniforms and alterations, that I was better off doing (only) the alterations. To make a good suit takes 40 hours. And I had a couple of tailors working here in the beginning. It didn’t work out (financially). I said to myself, that’s enough.” He foresaw that in the long run he would be better off working by himself.

A military uniform specialist, Billerbeck said the tailors at St. John’s altered but didn’t make uniforms for its students, except when they needed to make a custom size for a student “who was a little overweight, very skinny, or small and short.”

He secured contracts with Midwest Express Airlines and the Wisconsin National Guard’s 128th Refueling Wing. He also provided tailoring services to Bay View High School Junior Army ROTC (Reserved Officers’ Training Corp), the Bradley Tech Junior Navy ROTC, and Marquette Army ROTC. “I was very busy with uniforms and doing the regular alterations for my customers,” he said. “I worked hard. I worked 60 hours a week many times.”

Sharon Billerbeck worked with her husband during the first 20 years in Bay View. “My wife came in with the kids. She helped with the paperwork. Took care of the customers. We worked hard,” Billerbeck said.

Sharon and Hans Billerbeck PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Their Story Began on a Dance Floor 

“We both liked to dance,” Hans said. “I went to the Eagles Ballroom, which is now The Rave. They had ballroom dancing and all the Big Bands, like Guy Lombardo, came there. Sharon also liked to dance and that’s where we met. She was at Ripon College at the time. She had some of the most beautiful legs I’d ever seen on a woman. And she was a great dancer.”

“And he was a great dancer,” Sharon said. “You just fell into his arms and he led you all around and twirled you all around. You could do the whole ballroom.”

“It was fun,” Hans said.

“It was incredible,” Sharon said, allowing that she liked him as soon as she met him.

Five years later, in 1965, the couple married. They lived on campus in Delafield until 1972 when Hans left the academy’s tailor shop. They bought a home in Cudahy where they raised two children, a daughter, Brenda (Billerbeck) Bauske, and a son, Hans Billerbeck.

Sharon grew up on the south side. She lived in South Milwaukee until age seven, when her family moved to Cudahy. She graduated from Cudahy High School and attended Ripon College. Her father owned and operated a business that supplied paper and cleaning supplies to restaurants, bars, and other businesses.

After college Sharon taught in the Elm Grove school system until the couple’s children were born. In the mid 90’s, the skyrocketing cost of health insurance for small business owners forced the couple to change course.

“We got to the point where the insurance was so high we couldn’t stand it anymore. We were paying $1,600 a month for health insurance. $1,600 with a $2,000 deductible — and that was 20 years ago,” Sharon said. “It was terrible because we weren’t with a (big) group. We were with a small group…the number of people in our family. The family was your group. I missed teaching so I said, ‘I could go and sub a couple of days a week.’ And then I found out that if you do so many hours over a school year, you can get (health) insurance the next year. So then I started doing that. I subbed in Milwaukee for 14 and a half years. At Fernwood and Trowbridge…at Trowbridge a lot. I loved it.”

Hans Billerbeck at work in his shop in 1976, four years after he set up business on Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View.


Hans operated his business Monday through Friday and half days on Saturday, often working long hours.

“My husband was very committed and sometimes he’d get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and say, I’ve got to go turn the press machine on so I’ll come back for a little breakfast. He’d come back for breakfast and he was gone. And he’d come back as six at night for dinner and go back sometimes, depending on what he had to get done.

“It was the commitment. He had to do it. He had to have things ready. People would bring things in and say, I need it in a week and (asked if) he could do it. He’d do it right away. I’d say, ‘You’ve got all this time.’ And he’d say, “No, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s better to do it right away and get it done.’ It was always his commitment,” Sharon said.

Even so, the couple took time off for family vacations.

Those were great years, Hans said. “When our kids were young, we had a Volkswagen camper. We did a lot of traveling. We went all over the country for sometimes a week and a half. The kids enjoyed it. They still talk about it, Wyoming and Yellowstone Park and Devil’s Tower, Williamsburg, Washington D.C., Ocean City, New York, Atlantic City.”

Sharon said they never took off for more than a week and a half because Hans didn’t want to inconvenience his loyal customers.

“Last year when I started to close Mondays, I felt guilty,” Hans said ruefully. “My wife said, ‘Are you out of your mind? You’ve been doing this for 50 years. Why do you feel guilty?’

“I said I can’t help it. I’m an expert tailor and if I do a job it’s gotta be perfect. I treated my customers with respect and if you do those two things, you’re going to be busy all the time, which I was.”

Hans modified his business over the past five decades as he watched trends and adjusted to change.

For three of those five decades, they carried a clothing line.

“We had a clothing line here. We were selling trousers, sport coats, ties. Leisure suits — polyester. But at the end I couldn’t compete. Those big stores like Men’s Wearhouse where they have 40, 50 suits for one size. I sometimes had three or four in one size but that wasn’t enough. People want to see more. I couldn’t compete so eventually I just sold trousers. I gave up suits and sports coats.

“We also sold ladies slacks. But we couldn’t compete,” Hans said. “That was part of the problem. They’d come in and say, ‘You don’t have very many to select from or many different sizes.’ Well, we couldn’t afford to put all that out, plus we didn’t have a lot of space. So that didn’t work out. But we did okay. I can’t complain.”

The Billerbecks’ clientele included many professionals. “But the whole clothing thing has changed,” Hans said. “There are still a lot of lawyers. But they only dress up when they see a client. When they go to the office, they go in casual clothes. They ask me, ‘Where am I going to go?’ I say I have no idea where you’re going to go. All the tailors I knew, now are all dead.”

Billerbeck also tried selling custom-made suits for his customers that were made out of state. He’d take a customer’s measurements and mail them to tailors in the eastern United States. “Sometimes that didn’t work out too well,” he said.

The work was inconsistent and on occasion, an order would arrive with the wrong color thread on the buttonholes.

When he closed his business, Hans Billerbeck put all the contents of his tailor shop up for sale, everything except his sewing machine. PHOTO Katherine Keller

A trend that Hans bucked was digital technology. Until the day he closed his shop, he worked with analog equipment. He used the German-made Pfaff sewing machine that came with the shop in 1972. “That machine only zigzags and straight stitches. No plastic inside, all metal. Still perfect,” he said.

Hans wanted to sell his sewing machine but his son told him he must not because he wanted his dad to continue altering his clothing, when necessary.

He reluctantly agreed. “I thought I was done sewing,” Hans said resignedly.

Hans also worked with a blind stitch machine for hems and a high-pressure-steam garment press that required a 45-minute head start in order to build up sufficient steam pressure to operate properly.

The Billerbecks have had a front row seat to the neighborhood’s changes.

When he bought his building there was a gas station on the opposite side of Kinnickinnic. It closed and an Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips shop took its place. When that business closed, the building was razed to make way for Walgreens.

“Now there are restaurants, bars — it’s booming,” Hans said.

Reflecting on nearly a half century of business, Sharon said, “It’s been fine. I think we both enjoy people a lot, so being able to serve people is absolutely super. The people have always been very, very nice. We’ve worked with some great companies, with the military groups. They’ve been really good, as well as the general public.”

“I liked being my own boss,” Hans said. “No one could tell me what to do. Except Sharon but she didn’t do that too often.” The couple shared a good–natured chuckle.

“It was worth it because I could do my own thing,” Hans continued. “Some of those who were the first customers in 1972 — they were young — are still customers. Meeting great people and good customers, friendly people… And when I found they were satisfied with my work, that made it worthwhile. I’m just thankful for my customers for all my years. A lot of steady customers.”

What will retirement hold for the Billerbecks?

Hans Billerbeck sits in the back room of his tailor shop where he altered thousands of garments over the past half century. He said his customers were the part of his business he loved most. PHOTO Katherine Keller

They plan to spend a couple of months each winter in Texas where their daughter teaches German at a community college and in a high school. Their son, a headhunter, lives in Cudahy.

What does Hans plan to do with his free time?

“That’s a good question,” he said. “In the summer I could play golf. I can stay busy in the summer. Winter? I don’t know. We’ll see. I’ve got to find a hobby. I can’t stay home all day, I’ll go crazy,” he said.

Hans said he doesn’t want to upset Sharon with his restlessness. “We’ve been married 51 years. It worked out to this point. Let’s not spoil it.”

Billerbeck sold his building in March and said he doesn’t know what the new owners’ plans are for the building or the site.

Jeweler hopes to forge community gem

June 1, 2017

By Sheila Julson 

Last month, Robert Devoe Peter opened The Jewelers Guild, LLC, at 2408 E. St. Francis Ave. The ground level 5,000-square-foot space features a showroom, classroom, and workshop. In addition to jewelry sales and service, the workshop — equipped with benches and tools, can be leased by the day, month, or year. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

In the not too distant past, the neighborhood jeweler was as common a presence in communities as tailors, milliners, bakers, and butchers. Most of those locally-owned jewelry shops faded away during the past five decades, sending people seeking to purchase jewelry or needing repair and appraisal services to chain store jewelers, often located in sprawling malls.

Bucking the trend, Robert Devoe Peter has established a neighborhood jewelry shop and studio. Last month, he opened his new business, The Jewelers Guild, LLC,  at 2408 E. St. Francis Ave. The ground level 5,000-square-foot space features a showroom, classroom, and workshop. In addition to jewelry sales and service, the workshop — equipped with benches and tools, can be leased by the day, month, or year.

Devoe Peter hopes to teach a new generation the art of making jewelry.

Devoe Peter has been designing and making jewelry for more than 30 years. He’s self-taught and originally began by tinkering with copper, which led to making jewelry that he gave to friends. “Then I found that if I made them better, I could sell them to my friends,” he laughed.

He’s owned six jewelry stores in the Milwaukee and Mequon/Cedarburg areas, including Robert Devoe Peter, formerly located in downtown Milwaukee on Jefferson Street near Cathedral Square. He has also lived in Colorado, but like many, he was affected by the 2008-09 recession. The cost of silver and gold skyrocketed around that time, so he returned to Wisconsin to try to regroup and figure out how to live in a new economy but still make jewelry, a commodity that’s not a necessity.

He said he’s been thinking about his business model for a few years.

With a keen eye for trends, Devoe Peter noted that people in today’s economy lean more toward artistic and simple jewelry pieces versus extravagant diamonds and gemstones that have to be purchased on credit. He has adapted to today’s tastes and is eager to teach others to do the same.

“I had the opportunity to make a living doing this,” he said, “so I want other people to be able to carry on the art and craft of making a living with this. There’s plenty of room for more jewelers,” he said.

Not many people are pursuing jewelry-making, he observed, mostly because it’s a tedious process. It requires costly tools and materials, which can deter beginners. There’s also a lack of resources for people interested in learning the art of jewelry making. He said colleges, Alverno, for example, used to have amazing jewelry departments, but now they’re gone. It’s difficult to learn the craft on the job at jewelry stores where employees more commonly are tasked with polishing pieces and are not taught to cast and set stones.

Robert Devoe Peter PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Devoe Peter also said the St. Francis location was ideal for jewelry sales and service. With the recent closing of Donn Powers Jewelers in South Milwaukee, jewelers are scarce on the South Side.

“There’s no jewelry store around here for about eight miles, so if you want something fixed or appraised, or even if you need a watch battery, you have to go a long way,” Devoe Peter said. “I think there’s a real need for it, and we have lots of free parking.”

An Idea Made Real

The Jewelers Guild is located in the former Schramka-Rembowski Funeral Home building. Devoe Peter said it was empty for three years before he purchased it and began a nine-month cleaning and renovation process.

When he began searching for a space, he initially planned to lease, but he had difficulty finding space that was affordable in a good location with free parking. Then he happened to drive past the closed funeral home and noticed it was for sale.

The renovation entailed new walls, new lighting, five jewelry cases in the showroom, a stone fountain, and a workshop designed specifically with jewelers’ needs in mind. “Some workshops are dark and dingy, so I wanted this space clean and bright,” he said. The workshop has design elements that incorporate vastu shastra — similar to the Eastern concept of feng shui — with paintings representing water, fire, and earth, the essential elements of jewelry making.

Windows in the walls that separate the showroom from the work area allow people to watch jewelers craft their pieces.

The store’s inventory will include Devoe Peter’s pieces and jewelry crafted by Jewelers Guild members. Prices will be affordable, he said, beginning with some pieces around $20.

“We can make anything. If you can imagine it, we can make it,” Devoe Peter said. He displayed two Milwaukee-themed silver rings he created, one with “MKE” and the other with “414” incorporated in the design. There were also heavy bracelets he created that resemble a large nail. A man who lived in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, gave him the nail and said it was an original bronze spike from the plank of a sunken Spanish galleon.

Devoe Peter said he hopes to offer about 30 different jewelry-making classes for adults and children. Both Jewelers Guild members and nonmembers who wish to teach may rent a classroom that will accommodate 10 people.

Devoe Peter said he has already leased eight workbenches and that eight spots are still available. The daily rate is $65 per day and includes use of tools and equipment. Monthly members pay $455 and receive unlimited use of the space, 24/7 access, and use of all tools and equipment, plus a display case in the store and a page on The Jewelers Guild website.

Robert Devoe Peter created rings based on the design of a bracelet he created using a nail recovered from the plank of a sunken Spanish galleon. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

“It’s a good deal, since you don’t need insurance, you don’t need to buy your own equipment, and you don’t need to rent a store,” Devoe Peter said. “You can just walk in and start working with big equipment like polishers and grinders (that are) already available.”

Members also have access to a lower level office, bathroom, and break room.

As observed in the old proverb, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Necessity has spawned many gadgets used in all types of industry. Over the past 15 years, Devoe Peter has created tools that make jewelers’ work safer and more efficient. But he’s also created tools for woodworkers, dental technicians, and others that he markets and sells through his other business called Bench Guru.

Three years ago, using a 3D printer, he created the prototype for the Precious Metal Recovery System he invented. The meticulous process of grinding metals not only creates dust particles that can be inhaled by jewelers, but it also wastes precious silver and gold. The Precious Metal Recovery System incorporates a mounted clear-panel shield that provides a barrier between the dust and the jeweler’s nose and mouth. There are LED lights and there’s a vacuum that collects the gold or silver dust so it can be recycled. Devoe Peter still uses the prototype he made on a 3D printer. The Bench Guru tools and equipment are made in the United States and sourced and manufactured as much as possible, he said, in Milwaukee.

Devoe Peter hopes to create a different kind of jewelry experience through The Jewelers Guild. “I’m really excited about doing this and the response so far has been really great,” he said. “I was actually able to make this happen.”

SPOTTLIGHT — Who will provide the most accurate home valuation — Zillow or a local agent?

May 1, 2017

By Toni Spott

Toni Spott

Estimates are estimates and price opinions are price opinions.

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what the price of a property should be these days. Lately the topic has heated up with the emergence of websites like Zillow and others.

Zillow is an online real estate database company that sells its information to real estate agents and produces a forecast of a home’s value known as a Zestimate. (Trulia, a site similar to Zillow, recently purchased Zillow.)

Zillow’s data, according the company’s chief analytics officer Stan Humphries, is drawn from a number of sources including the U.S. Census, county records of sales, tax assessments, FEMA flood zone maps, Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Cost Index, the Federal Housing Finance Agency Home Price Index, and more. But those sources don’t include information about the current condition of the home or recent upgrades.

Sellers who are thinking of putting their home on the market need advice about establishing the best asking price for their home. Often, as they contemplate price, they think about a price point that will provide what they need or want. They get advice from their friends and family, and of course, everyone feels it’s worth a whole lot!

Then they go online and up pops Zillow! Woo! It’s a big showy site with lots of numbers, statistics, maps, and photos of real estate agents, etc. They type in their address and up pops the Zestimate — this is what your house should sell for! But most of the time that price is over- or undervalued; it’s rarely spot on.

So that is where is where the confusion comes in. Most people accept the Zestimate as expert advice and run with it. Here is the issue with that — Zillow “only knows” numbers. Its database can’t see the smoke stains on the ceiling or hear the cars on the freeway. It can’t smell pet odors. It can’t see the updates or the paint and other finishes. It doesn’t know if there is a big fenced-in backyard or if there is an apartment building right next door.

Zillow and Trulia have never been in your home to see what shape it’s in or what you’ve done to it, be it good or bad. These content portals share basic data but they can’t give you insight and local knowledge like a real estate agent can. A real estate agent can provide information about the immediate neighborhood and actual street where your home is.

A local agent will provide you with accurate and timely information that will include current home sales in your direct neighborhood. They know how the local market is going and where it’s going next. They live and breathe home sales versus the online guestimates of the value of your home. A real estate agent has their finger on the pulse of the market because they tour homes on a weekly basis and know what’s going on locally. They know about that new shopping mall going in a mile away, they know about the factory is slated to be built down the street in the coming months — they know what’s going on in the here and now.

Ultimately, the market sets the price, not a website.

The best example of a good use of the Zestimate program is the CEO of Zillow. He put his home on the market for sale and received 60 percent of the Zestimate value. It clearly wasn’t worth what Zillow and the Zestimate said it was. He sold it at market value. Rather ironic.*

All agents use the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) to gain the latest statistics on the market, and then when listing a home, they meet with the owner and tour the home to note any improvements or defects that affect the value of the property, as well as the surrounding area.

The same system used to establish the value of a home is also used by buyers, if they are working with a buyer’s agent. Like the selling agent, they need to know the actual value of the home they are placing an offer on. However, they tend to use the online sites to get an idea of the supposed home value, which doesn’t work in their favor.

So like the seller, it is in a buyer’s best interest to contact a real estate agent.

Happy Spring selling and buying!


Toni Spott, Sustainable Agent,
Keller Williams Realty;
414-788-4255; tspott@kw.com
Facebook: Toni Spott’s Real Estate Resource;

REAL ESTATE SPOTLIGHT 53207 — If you love a low-interest mortgage rate, act now

February 1, 2017

Toni Spott

Toni Spott

It’s the love month—and don’t you just love your home! Oh wait, you don’t own your own home?

Wouldn’t you just love to have a home that’s all yours?

Well it may be better to look for one earlier rather than later in the year. The two factors that would affect your monthly mortgage payment. Home prices and interest rates are both predicted to increase as the year evolves. Interest rates may increase significantly.

According to the National Association of Realtors, interest rates are expected to be at the lowest, 4.5 percent and at the highest 5 percent. The current rate is 4.125%. Interest rates can make a dramatic difference in your monthly mortgage payment and what you pay long term. It’s important to lock in a rate as soon as possible to avoid a higher mortgage payment. I believe having a fixed rate versus a variable rate in this current climate is a safer decision. The fluctuation of the markets and economic uncertainty associated with a new federal administration make locking into the current rate a wise decision. If you can lock in the current rate, it is guaranteed not to go up during the life of the loan. If you decide on a variable rate, that rate will fluctuate with the market and it’s been predicted that it will be raised a few times before the end of the year.

And for those of you who do own a home and have loved living in your home and are thinking of selling, now is the best time to do that. There is no more “spring” market.

What exactly is a “spring market?” It was always thought that one should wait until the spring market in order to get the best deal on a home whether buying or selling. Now, not so much. Now that buyers are online 24/7, 365 days a year, any type of seasonal market has been eliminated, with one exception.

As soon as the first of January arrived, buyers were out fast and furious this year looking for a new home. There is always that hope of a rebirth at the beginning of the new year, a renewal of goals and aspirations. Home buying is no different. With the elimination of the seasonal market, the minute the New Year arrives, buyers are on the look out hoping to find “their home” before anyone else gets their hands on it.

So if you list your home sooner in the year you will have much less competition. Because so many sellers feel they need to wait for the spring market, they all list their homes at the same time and become each other’s competition, making it difficult to get the best price for their home. It’s a buyer’s dream!

Consider adding a personal touch. If you are a seller getting ready to go on the market, write a letter to your future buyers on why you loved your home so much. What made you buy the home? What do you love about your neighborhood, the street you live on and your neighbors? Buying a home is an emotional time for everyone, buyers and sellers alike, so the more you can appeal to what the other is looking for, the happier everyone will be.

Demand for Bay View remain strong and it is competitive. I’m finding that buyers are still in love with the idea of finding a home in Bay View! They can’t get enough of our great community! Buyers are aware of all the great things that Bay View has to offer that other communities don’t have.

Bay View Real Estate by the Numbers

136: Homes sold in the past four months

$118.37: The average selling price per square foot

51: Average days on the market

93: Homes on the market

23: Homes on the market with accepted offers

Toni Spott Sustainable Agent,
Keller Williams Realty; 414-788-4255; tspott@kw.com
Facebook: Toni Spott’s Real Estate Resource;@ToniSpottsRealEstateResource

REAL ESTATE SPOTTLIGHT 53207 — Price it right

December 1, 2016

By Toni Spott

Toni Spott

Toni Spott

Thank you for joining me for my inaugural real estate column. This monthly column will be all about real estate and how it applies to Bay View. The real estate market can be a fickle thing. It goes up; it goes down. It’s usually up when you are trying to buy and it will go down when you are trying to sell. Murphy’s Law, right?

Currently, we are in a seller’s market phase in Bay View because there is such a shortage of homes for sale. There are also a lot of frustrated buyers. As soon when a home comes on the market, the seller receives an offer the first day. But, of course, not your offer.

Listings seem to vanish within days in Bay View. That is, if the home is priced right.

Let’s take a look at that.

If a home has been on the market for an extended period of time and it’s a great home with new updates, etc., but isn’t selling, it’s because the price isn’t right.

If it’s in need of a total makeover, and there is no interest, again, it’s the wrong price. A home will not sell until it is priced right. So what should you do to be smart and ready in a tight market like this?

Make sure you have a lender who has pre-approved you, then find a good agent to represent you. You want to find someone who will educate you about the home buying process and what you need to do to purchase a home.

They should also inform you about the market itself. What is listed in your price range, in the area you are looking, and what are those homes selling for? Remember, a listing price is only the asking price. The seller may indeed sell it for that listed price or for over or under it.

Again, the market sets the price when it comes to a home sale, not the seller, not their friends or family, and not what they paid for it. It is the price the buyer pays for a home that determines the final price.

If you, as a buyer, have done your homework, you should be able to make smart decisions that work in your best interest. Be cognizant of the current market in the area where you want to buy. Know what homes are selling for.

As a seller, you should make sure you are working with a knowledgeable, honest, proactive agent who knows the market in the area where the home is listed. Make sure the agent does more than just put a sign in the yard. Even in this seller’s market, your home needs stellar marketing.

Also, never assume it will sell right away. A good agent should actively market and promote your home until it is sold or until all the contingencies are exhausted.

Email me anytime with any questions you may have.

Happy Holidays!

Toni Spott, Sustainable Agent, Keller Williams Realty; 414-788-4255; tspott@kw.com
Facebook: Toni Spott’s Real Estate Resource; @ToniSpottsRealEstateResource

Bay View Art in the Park at Humboldt Park

September 1, 2016

By Sheila Julson

PHOTO Brian Breider

PHOTO Brian Breider

Long-time Bay View residents can attest to their neighborhood’s growth from a close-knit, somewhat sleepy blue-collar community to a haven for young professionals, artisans, musicians, and foodies.

Despite its new hip status, the community retains its respect for its roots and history and a know-your-neighbor ambiance.

It’s only natural then, that “new Bay View” has embraced Bay View Art in the Park, a premier fine arts and craft fair that strives to offer diverse and affordable paintings, prints, jewelry, ceramics, glassware, photography, sculpture, metal, and fiber arts.

PHOTO Brian Breider

PHOTO Brian Breider

The fair is held the second Saturday each month in Humboldt Park, May through September.

Local ceramics artist Brian Breider founded Bay View Art in the Park. It debuted the summer of 2014 at Zillman Park on the north end of Kinnickinnic Avenue.

By offering affordable fine art, Breider aimed to fill a market niche without competing with other local craft fairs.

Zillman Park was originally chosen because it was an underutilized space, Breider said. During the fair’s first two seasons, he staged the event every Saturday throughout the summer, rather than once a month. It was an experiment to see if the community would support a weekly art event, especially during Wisconsin’s short summer season filled with festivals, concerts, and events.

In February, Breider told the Compass he felt the construction planned for the Faust Music site on Kinnickinnic and Ward, across the street from Zillman Park, would not be advantageous for the event, the artisans, or its patrons. As such, he decided to find a new venue. He selected Humboldt Park.

The new once-per-month schedule and the move to Humboldt Park appear to have benefited everyone. “Ultimately the artisans decide, and without the artisans there is no event, so I definitely go by their feedback and their needs,” Breider said. “The artisans really like this space, and it’s easy to load and unload. The patrons like it as well, but the focus is first and foremost on the community of artisans. If they’re happy, I’m happy, so we’re hoping we can stay there.”

Breider said he rotates the vendors and that about 36 are present each month. Some sign on for the whole season, while others for one or two dates, an approach that he said allows for a good rotation schedule.

Breider has received compliments on the diversity of vendors. He doesn’t limit the number of artisans who offer the same medium or style but he strives to find a mix of student artisans, up-and-coming artisans, and established artisans. There is a waiting list, he said.

Admission is free so sponsorship dollars cover advertising costs, Breider’s largest expense. Revenue generated by vendors who rent a 10-foot by 10-foot space covers other expenses such as park fees and insurance.

Breider said that some have suggested he invite food trucks but he rejected the idea because he prefers to keep the event focused on art. He also values his partnership with St. Francis Brewing, the vendor who operates the Humboldt Park Beer Garden, and does not want to bring in food or beverage vendors that might compete with the brewery.

Making fine art affordable has been the Breider’s mission since inception. “We don’t have a price cap and some artisans have sold some higher ticket items valued at several hundred dollars, but we just ask that our artisans have a nice range so the art is accessible for everybody,” he said.

PHOTO Brian Breider

PHOTO Brian Breider

“We don’t compete too much with other craft fairs like Makers Market. We want to work together. There’s no shortage of creative people in Milwaukee, but we have to choose artisans that we think will bring diversity to our festival,” Breider added.

Community nonprofits offer art-related, hands-on activities for children and adults to participate in during each of the monthly events. The final date of the 2016 season is Saturday, Sept. 10 from 11am to 5pm. Sponsors Sparrow Collective and Walker’s Point Center for the Arts will offer a free children’s art workshop.

Will the event remain in Humboldt Park in 2017? Breider said it comes down to whether fees charged by Milwaukee County Parks for the use of garbage cans and other facilities will remain affordable. He noted that he plans to retain the once-per-month schedule.

The final event of the 2016 season is Saturday, Sept. 10.

More info: bvartinthepark.com.

Sheila Julson, who grew up in Bay View, is a regular contributor to the Bay View Compass.

Cream City Swirl Closed

September 1, 2016

PHOTO Katherine Keller

PHOTO Katherine Keller

A sign on a window of Cream City Swirl, 2663 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., announced that the business is closed and for sale.

Susan Nolan opened her business April 20, 2014, selling frozen yogurt, crepes, and gelato. She did not immediately respond to a Compass request for comment.

Dash to Bash debuts September 17

September 1, 2016


Amber Budahn recently opened her second Bay View location on the northeast corner of E. Rusk and S. Delaware avenues. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Amber Budahn recently opened her second Bay View location on the northeast corner of E. Rusk and S. Delaware avenues. PHOTO Katherine Keller

The 2016 Bay View Bash will kick off with the first Dash to the Bash 5K run and 1.5-mile walk. The Dash was organized and is presented by Wild Workouts and Wellness. The 12th Annual Bay View Bash will be held Sept. 17.

The run/walk begins at 10:30am. Dash registration is open from 9am to 10am. Wild Workout team coaches will lead a warm up at 10:15am. The run starts at 10:30am and the walk at 10:35am.

The course starts outside of Sven’s Café on the corner of Russell Avenue and Lenox Street, passes through the neighborhood on the west side of Kinnickinnic Avenue, and through Humboldt Park.

Proceeds will benefit the Bay View Bash Fund through the Bay View Community Fund.

More info: bestbayviewbootcamp.com/dash-to-the-bash

The Shop Relocates to South Milwaukee

September 1, 2016

By Katherine Keller

After a 12-year stint at the Hide House in Bay View, Tim Schneider has moved his motorcycle repair business to South Milwaukee. He opened for business at the new location in the last week of August.

His business, The Shop, specializes in repairing and rebuilding Japanese and European motorcycles, including vintage models. When he began, he only accepted non-American bikes because he saw there was a niche in the local market. Since then, he’s expanded and now accepts American-made bikes but only those made in 1930s and years prior.

Schneider is independent, not tied to any bike manufacturer.

He opened his business in 1999 on Land Place near Brady Street and moved to the Hide House in January 2003.

Schneider purchased the 5,000-square-foot building located at 1905 13th Avenue. He said he’d been looking for a new location “pretty aggressively for the past two years, or so.”

He was motivated by a desire to invest in a building because of the long-term financial security it offered him, now and in retirement.

He purchased the property from Charles Wink, who operated CJ’s Auto Works in the building since 1973 or 1974, according to Wink’s son Charlie. He said that Charles himself purchased the building from his grandfather who had operated a small foundry in the building that dates from the 1920s.

“The Hide House property is great and it was well-suited at first, but it’s divided into so many sections and laid out awkwardly. The owner (Sig Strautmanis/General Capital Group) and the rest are great and they always helped me out but I had to start thinking about long-term security. They knew I was looking for a building.” Owning the building provided him with that and secured what he said is a business that keeps growing and thriving.

Schneider will occupy the majority of the building, 4,000 square feet. The existing tenant operates an auto body business and will remain in the building. “The financing went through very quickly,” said Schneider. His offer was buoyed by the income generated by the section of the building that is leased. “The tenant basically paid the mortgage,” he said.

Schneider said his bank required a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment audit to identify potential liability such as an underground fuel storage tank or contaminated soil. The audit cleared the way for financing. “It came up clean,” Schneider said. “It was on the market for quite a long time. I got a good deal.”

He spent three months cleaning and prepping the nearly 100-year-old brick building.  “It was cheap and it was a dump. The building was really solid. It just needed a little TLC. Sweat equity, that’s the keyword here,” he said.

The new location permitted Schneider to expand his retail operation that he is set up on the second floor above his shop. At the Hide House, his retail inventory was limited. He sold oil filters and batteries and similar items, but he’s adding apparel to the retail line to include jackets, helmets, and gloves.

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