SPOTTLIGHT —What To Do When Mortgage Rates Begin Moving Up

April 2, 2018

By Toni Spott

Toni Spott

Rates are increasing and they will continue to increase as the year progresses.

Yes, they are going up, but the sky is not falling.

The economy has nearly made a full recovery in the past ten years since the Great Recession took its toll on the housing market.

What generally happens when rates rise is that there is less of a demand for housing, which triggers a downward trend in the price of homes.

But that’s not happening now. In the current housing market, supply is short and it has been for quite a while. Additionally, due to the historically low rates over the past decade, the new mortgage rate increases have not affected the price of housing. In fact, prices are still going up, along with demand. Sellers are not being negatively affected.

Who do the rate increases affect?

They will affect everyone who wants to own a home, however, it will be a double hit for the first time homebuyer. Just a quarter percent increase will make a huge difference in the monthly payment, relative to the amount of the down payment. So with that larger payment, first-time homebuyers will have less buying power as mortgage rates increase. They now may have to set their sights on a lower-priced home.

For those who want to sell their home and purchase another, they will now have a higher interest rate, as well. Their home-buying power will be affected just as it will be for first-time buyers. Odds are they currently have a mortgage with a 3 to 4 percent interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage. Yet rates continue to be historically low. So all things considered, it is still a good time to lock in on a rate, even though the new rates will be taken with a grain of salt.

Inflation is another reason rates go up. When the economy is good, workers are getting raises, etc., and that can stimulate an increase in consumer prices.

Things could be far worse. It could be 1981 when a mortgage could come with an 18 percent interest rate. So look at the current rate increases as a wake up call. If you haven’t refinanced recently, now is the time to do it, and if you are thinking about buying a new home, now’s the time to do it.

According to the website Mortgage Reports, in the middle of the 2007 economic boom, 30-year rates climbed close to 6.75 percent. During the 1999 boom, rates crept higher than 8 percent.

Mortgage Reports observes that mortgage rates could rise to 5 percent in 2018, if the current economic expansion continues.

Hoping for all the best for all of you.

Toni Spott Sustainable Agent, Keller Williams Realty;
Facebook: TheToniSpottTeam;

Longtime Retail Tenant John’s Appliance Booted From Bay Plaza Building

April 2, 2018

By Sheila Julson

John Steffen grew up in the appliance business. His father Gene Steffen began selling home appliances in 1967. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

After the Bay Plaza Apartments, a retail and apartment building changed ownership in 2016, long-time retail tenants such as Cousins Subs and John’s Appliance Service & Sales relocated. The building is located at 2863-2867 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Anthony Brzezinski, doing business as 2867 S. KK, LLC, owned the building from 1984 until 2016, when he said he sold it to Enigma Properties. When reached at his home in the Stevens Point, Wis. area, Brzezinski expressed surprise that John’s Appliance and Cousins Subs were no longer tenants. “I told the new owner that John’s Appliance is very useful to the building,” Brzezinski said. “All we had to do was go downstairs and he would come and repair all of the appliances. We also bought appliances from him.”

From 1989 through June 2017, John Steffen, owner of John’s Appliance Service & Sales, repaired, refurbished, and sold dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, ovens, ranges, refrigerators, and parts, from the basement at the north end of the Bay Plaza Apartment building. He still operates the business but from an office in his home in St. Francis. No longer selling appliances and parts, he trimmed his business, limiting it to appliance repair services.

Steffen grew up in the appliance business. His father Gene Steffen began selling home appliances in 1967. He owned Gene’s Hide-A-Way Appliance & TV Store in West Allis.

Steffen said he received a notice around mid-May 2017 that he was to vacate his space on the Bay Plaza premises within 45 days. “The new owner didn’t even talk to us,” Steffen said. “He had his lawyer send a notice that we had to be out. We were overwhelmed trying to get rid of everything.” Steffen said he was not given a reason why he had to leave.

Eric Higgins of Enigma Properties confirmed that Enigma owns the building, but he refused to comment about the ousting of either John’s Appliance or Cousins or Enigma’s plans for the ground story storefront units. There are currently “For Lease” signs in the windows of the storefront units.

Steffen said he donated much of his showroom appliance inventory to Habitat for Humanity and scrapped the remainder. “[Habitat] was happy to get the stuff,” said Steffen. “We told them we were in a crunch to get out and they came with a crew and some trucks to load the stuff out,” he said.

Jodee Benavides, in-kind donations manager for Habitat for Humanity, said that the organization received about two truckloads of appliances, or about 150 pieces, including washers, dryers, refrigerators, and ranges. Habitat for Humanity procures donations of furniture, appliances, and cabinetry that it sells at a discount to the general public in its ReStore locations. All proceeds support Habitat for Humanity’s mission to build simple, decent, affordable housing, in partnership with people in need. Benavides said most of the appliances donated by John’s Appliance sold quickly.

Steffen said that despite his efforts to clear out his inventory, some appliances and parts were left behind. “We worked until midnight of the very last day that we had to be out of there,” Steffen said. He closed permanently at the end of June 2017. He posted a notice that John’s Appliance alerted would-be appliance customers that, “As of June 30, 2017, John’s Appliance Service will only be doing in home service, we will not be selling appliances.”

Although John’s Appliance is still operating, the biggest and most difficult aspect of the downsizing was that he let go four employees. “As soon as I found out (that we had to leave), I let them know what was going on so they’d have time to find other opportunities. I also let them take whatever appliances they wanted,” Steffen said. “Some people stayed until the very end. I had good employees.”

Steffen now employs two technicians and an office assistant who helps with scheduling. His son, Peter Steffen, also works for him.

“We loved that location,” Steffen said. “Bay View was always great to us. The year when we first moved in, we set up a trailer during the [South Shore Frolic] parade and gave away hot dogs and chips to the kids and the people who were there. I just loved the neighborhood.”

He also praised Brzezinski, as well as the Patel family who owned the Cousins Subs franchise, his former neighbors in the building. Steffen had no intentions of moving from the Kinnickinnic Avenue space, and he expressed concern that other long-running family businesses might also be driven out of Bay View due to more development or rapidly rising rents. “There are lots of great people in Bay View, and people came by and said they were sorry to see us move out of the area,” Steffen said.

The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions lists Patel of Jog Maya, LLC as registered agents of the former Cousins Subs at 2967 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Attempts to locate or contact Patel for comment were unsuccessful.

Chelsea Schwabe, PR and Communications Manager for Cousins Subs said, “For the last 40 years, Cousins Subs has had the joy of serving the Bay View community. As with all lease renewals, terms and conditions are carefully evaluated to ensure they remain mutually beneficial for all parties involved, and ultimately the vision for the space did not align. Cousins Subs is continuing work on its downtown development strategy to better serve its guests from Bay View to the business district.”

Lee Barczak Response To Effort To Dissolve Kinnickinnic Avenue BID#44

April 2, 2018

March 22, 2018

The Kinnickinnic Business Improvement District (BID) #44 has been the center of much recent attention. As current president of the BID board, I feel it’s important to address the grievances focused on BID property assessments, and provide the BID board’s point of view. My wife and I own buildings within the BID district and operate The Avalon Theater and the restaurant Mistral. We oppose this move to end the BID and hope you will agree after reading this. If you have already signed the petition calling for the BID to end, please consider removing your name, if what you read here inspires a change of heart.

The KK BID was formed in 2009 under the leadership of District 14 Alderman Tony Zielinski and commercial building and business owners, who saw the wisdom of creating an entity to promote value growth in the district’s business and commercial buildings. The original board worked to unify the commercial area of the BID. Uniform garbage and recycling bins were installed using a newly created logo that helped to identify the area. Planters and flower baskets were hung on the street to increase greenery. The BID took over maintenance of the Art Stop bus stop not long after its construction.

Through the first five years of the BID’s existence, many plans were considered but several issues prevented their fruition. As board membership changed, some potential projects were discarded and others under review did not gain enough momentum to be adopted. Over time, the KK BID and its board were perceived as less effective and board meeting attendance dropped.

In 2014 I was approached by Ald. Zielinski, who asked me to occupy an empty seat on the board. After being approved, I worked to understand what purpose this board had and why parts of the community viewed it as not accomplishing enough. In the course of this investigation, the board asked me to take on the role of board president. I’m pleased to say that during my duration on the board the number of people involved in KK BID activities greatly increased.

While the struggle continues to keep the board populated with motivated members, we’ve had a great group of passionate individuals who have worked hard to review ideas and accomplish those ideas that were approved.

In the past three years, the board has ranged from a high of seven members, the maximum number per our bylaws, to the current low of three members. Since this is a volunteer board, it has been and continues to be a bit difficult to seat volunteers who are willing to put in the hours needed. Anyone who has done this or served on volunteer committees knows that many of those who apply are solely looking to bolster their resumes. Or they are only willing to make decisions but not perform the work needed to enact them. The last thing any entity like this needs are such members or people who have a tendency to undermine what others do to improve an area like Bay View.

An important point I would like to argue is that this board has embraced that commercial building owners within the BID boundaries are the constituents of the board. Our mission is to help increase the value of commercial property in the BID by doing whatever is possible to bring patrons to the businesses that occupy these properties. It is also our mission to attract good development to the BID and to help businesses get events that enhance the experience of doing business within the BID for patrons, workers, and owners.

Currently, seven different building and business owners have verbally agreed that they, or a company representative, will sit on the board. Two of these have submitted the required information and applications, and we hope to have a complete board again within a few months.

While the attitude of the new board cannot be assumed, I hope anyone reading this letter will understand that many of the following are proposals from myself and other board members, some of whom have since ended their terms. Thus, these ideas have not yet become real initiatives of the KK BID.

The Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD) bike race has taken place in Bay View for the last three years in the area of KK and Lincoln. The BID committed to this race contingent on its ability is able to raise donation commitments of at least $18,000 by March 1, 2018. We have received commitments totaling $14,000 to date from Café Centraal, the main event-sponsor for the fourth year, Colectivo, and the Avalon. We are actively seeking donations for the balance of the projected $27,000 budget. This event is growing in size and in popularity with attendees, racers, and businesses. Several businesses in the area have stated this has become their biggest single revenue day of the year. We hope to gather more information from businesses within and close to the racing area about the business they do on the day of the race, if the race prevented them from operating their business, or if the race brought new business/customers.

Last year, several businesses did not submit the funds they’d pledged and as a result the KK BID lost $7,000. This was the first time a loss occurred, and that was certainly not the result of board members not procuring pledges nor of poor attendance at the event. I assure you the KK BID board is doing everything possible to see that events like this race, which are actually used as fundraisers for other organizations, will at least break even in the future.

The KK BID board has recently discussed the wisdom of expanding the number of events sponsored or overseen by the board. We have also heard repeatedly that too much of the BID’s focus has been centered on the KK/Lincoln/Howell hub. BID constituents to the south have often expressed the feeling they are left out. While the board and its Streetscape Committee have tried to address this by including the entire district with flower baskets, tree planting, banner, and mural projects, I state here that that is not enough. If the bike race is an event that has helped, perhaps there are other events that could do more for the rest of the BID.

One suggested event is a Music on KK Weekend. The idea here is to schedule a large number of musicians to entertain in venues up and down the BID district. A key element of this weekend would be that most of these performances would occur in venues other than the expected bar or restaurant. We would like to see them perform in salons, grocery stores, gift shops, and auto shops, as well as more traditional venues. If this is well planned and promoted by the BID, it could result in a weekend of great business, public relations, and publicity for participating businesses and musicians, which will bring new people to the area and will help increase the momentum this area is known for.

The next event for consideration is the parade once held on the weekend of the South Shore Frolics. This parade was very popular in Bay View and was held on KK for many years. More recently, the parade was canceled several times due to an inability to find major sponsors and the difficulty of finding enough volunteers to carry off a major, one-day event. Discussions about this parade have led to ideas that would revive and change the parade. One idea is to hold it apart from the Frolics weekend. Another is to hire an event company to plan and execute the parade. The final idea is to have the parade at night and make it a “Parade of Lights.”

All of these and the many ideas and details that accompany them are in the infancy stages. However, if done correctly and staged on KK from the south end of the district at Morgan Avenue and to the north, the BID board feels it could add something just as exciting as the ToAD bike race to our district.

Events like these have the ability to bring substantial revenue to a community. This revenue benefits businesses and their employees in obvious ways. However, they also benefit building owners indirectly. The more business a commercial district does, the more area businesses will prosper. Other businesses will then want to locate in the area as word of a profitable atmosphere spreads. This means rents will increase as popularity builds. While building owners wish to profit just as the businesses that occupy their buildings do, increased revenue provides the building owners with the ability to properly maintain their buildings and to make often much needed improvements.

When the Faust building sold and a new development was proposed, many people in Bay View spoke out against destroying what they believed was a building worth restoring. The reality was that the Faust buildings had been neglected for so long, that there was no way to restore them that made economic sense. I don’t say this to be negative about the previous owner, and acknowledge I do not know their situation. My point is, had rents increased enough over time, perhaps the building would have been worth preserving.

There are buildings in our BID district right now that are only marginally maintained. While it is the right of every building owner to decide how to spend their rental revenue, any good landlord knows growth in value requires good maintenance and periodic improvement. Events like the ToAD race and our other proposals are ways to help owners create value today and tomorrow.

The KK Bid board feels the region would benefit from marketing the area in a more organized and consistent fashion for it would benefit all the businesses in the BID boundaries, as well as most in other areas of Bay View.

Every time there is an event or when I speak to businesses after events like Gallery Night or the ToAD race, I hear stories of how people tell them they never knew Bay View was so much fun or had so much to offer. This may be hard for those of us with a vested interest in Bay View to believe, but don’t for one moment think it’s not true. No shopping area or business will succeed in the long run without constant marketing. Doubt that statement? My one word answer—McDonald’s.

The KK BID has made a few attempts to market and promote Bay View but has not yet been successful. The original website was little trafficked by the public and was too expensive to maintain in its original design. A temporary one was created but remains only a band-aid on this area of need. While no one wants to see money spent foolishly, many opportunities exist, within the structure of the many offerings of the advertising community, to create brand and business recognition. What’s needed for the area is a well thought out marketing campaign, which would provide benefit to the businesses in our commercial district. Naturally, each business has its own opinion on what marketing would most benefit them, so a variety of options must be available.

The final event that is being considered is probably the most controversial. The South Shore Frolics has been an event that has fostered a “love it or hate it” response from the residents and businesses in the KK BID district and other areas of Bay View. There have been many meetings and endless online discussions about the Frolics. Like many events run by volunteers, it eventually shifted from being run by a coalition of Bay View institutions, to one being run by a single group, the Bay View Lions Club, as a fundraiser for the good works they sponsor. The Lions have had varying levels of success and as previously noted, had to eliminate the parade. While it has evolved a great deal over the years and does not resemble the Frolics during my high school years, 1965-1969, it still has the fireworks and attracts a large number of attendees.

Due to the controversy surrounding one aspect of the fireworks, there has been a lot of discussion about the future of the Frolics. The KK BID’s Visioning Committee had discussions on whether the BID could offer to operate the Frolics, making it more like the Frolics of the past. The idea was for it to be a more community-centered event that would provide Bay View businesses a chance to showcase their offerings, while keeping the fireworks and bringing back some of the old Frolics events like the Venetian Boat Parade on the water.

Other suggestions would be to offer different types of music, including a high school jazz band competition. The committee member believe the weekend should include activities from community groups like the Bay View Neighborhood Association, Bay View Garden Society, or the Bay View Historical Society, any that might be interested in being involved, if the event changed its direction. Whatever the nature of a different Frolics, the primary idea would be to make it an event centered on Bay View that would provide a showcase for its businesses, institutions, and for the enjoyment of its residents.

All of this leads me to the next issue: money. A business improvement district is funded by additional taxes placed on its commercial property owners for specific expenditures on board approved activities.

The original BID 44 board approved an assessment for all commercial and mixed-use properties in the district and that has not been changed since inception nine years ago. It is important to note that the assessment was one of the lowest of the 32 BIDs in Milwaukee. The KK BID 2018 assessment will generate $44,392 in 2018.

Recent state legislation has changed the way such assessments calculated for commercial- and residential-use buildings. While the commercial value was once used to determine the assessment, the formula has changed. Beginning in 2018, the ratio of the amount of commercial square footage to the entire building’s square footage determines what percentage of the current BID assessment the building will pay. For example, a building with 50 percent commercial and 50 percent residential with an assessed value of $300.00 will now pay 50 percent of that, or $150. This has resulted in a decrease for KK BID of $10,000, which now places the BID in eighth place in Milwaukee, in terms of revenue available for BID projects and maintenance.

In order to make up for this lost revenue, the KK BID board has discussed increasing the assessment for the BID tax. There’s never even been an inflationary increase in the nine years of the BID’s existence. This has resulted in a loss of buying power and an increased immobility for the BID to commit to any projects of substantial improvements.

Some of you may be aware that at one on the 2017 board meetings, I brought to the table the idea of such an increase. I used the number a 500 percent increase, as an example, and this was discussed by the board. They decided the board should consider a plan about how such monies would be spent before putting any increase into effect. At this time, no increase of any kind has been approved. Contrary to recent mailings you may have received, the example of a 500 percent increase has not been approved or even set for future consideration.

When the assessment increase was discussed, one meeting attendee stated, “If you could not spend these monies, why do you need an assessment increase?” I explained that most of the ideas the money would be spent on had a lot to do with enhancing parts of KK that would have little or no benefit to building or business owners. Therefore, the board did not approve spending these funds. I feel this is an excellent example of how this board has acted in the best interests of the building owners who pay these assessments.

Another funding issue concerns an agreement approved several years ago whereby the KK BID might accept a $175,000 grant from the city of Milwaukee. The stipulation of the grand is that if the loan is accepted, the BID board must also accept a loan of the same amount. Only one member of the board, who approved the agreement at that time, remains on the current board. That board member explained that their approval came from the attractiveness of the grant and low interest loan. This money may “only” be spent for streetscaping types of projects. The status of this money remained in limbo for more than two years due to city budget issues, as well as the drafting of the agreement. This grant-and-loan has been another controversial issue because loan repayment term is 20 years and it cannot be paid off early. That would lock the BID into a 20-year existence, until the loan is repaid.

There are currently more than $50,000 of streetscape improvements that could be reimbursed by these grant/loan funds. This board has repeatedly refrained from accepting the grant/loan because it was unsure of the wisdom of creating a 20-year lock on KK BID’s existence. Once again this shows board members’ concern for the BID constituency.

So, now the KK BID finds itself in a state of rebuilding the board while facing a dissolution movement by some of BID property owners. Various reasons for their efforts to dissolve exist, but none of the important questions are being addressed by this appeal to save some tax dollars. The most important question is whether or not a BID for Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View is good. Many property owners thought so when it was created, myself included. Business improvement districts are found all over the city of Milwaukee and in many parts of the country. If they have done so much for commerce all over our nation, how can it be a bad idea for KK and, by osmosis, Bay View? I believe it would be a great mistake to follow the few who think saving these monies are more important than working to keep progress in the BID from going forward.

Two more questions may be whether or not we have been an effective board and I an effective president. While I’m sure we could have done more and been better organized, I assure you every board member, as well as the 27 members of the committees, spent a great deal of time and energy working on projects on behalf of a better KK business district. These people have volunteered with no compensation for their efforts beyond thank yous and criticism. I feel they have done an excellent job and many city and neighborhood observers have commented on the increased activity of the KK BID.

So what happens if this movement is successful and the BID is dissolved? Well, I’ll save about $1,300 in taxes a year. Like any building and business owner, I will, of course, find somewhere else to channel this extra cash flow. However, I’ll be saddened at the thought of all the hard-working, thoughtful, creative building and business owners who got on a bandwagon saying we can’t get anything done to be more exciting on KK, saying we can’t create or copy great ideas to enhance business in our BID, and saying, where in so many parts of life, the many are stronger together than the disparate few, that is not the case here.

I pray that’s not what we’re saying. I hope this BID will not dissolve. I hope those who believe we can create more together than apart for the community and businesses we love will become active. I hope that if you have signed this ill-conceived petition, you will contact the organizers and tell them to remove your name.

Lee Barczak
KK BID, Board President

Campaign to Dissolve KK Avenue BID Update

March 1, 2018

By Katherine Keller

As the Compass reported last month, Bay View property owners Ada Duffey and David Brazeau are leading an effort to dissolve the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District #44.

To dissolve the BID, Duffey and Brazeau must collect the signatures of owners in the BID whose property values equal more than 50 percent of the total value of the properties in the KK Avenue BID. The current total assessment for the 194 properties equals $73,210,000. Duffey needs signatures by owners whose building assessments equal $37,337,100. By the end of January, she said she had collected “$9,049,600 worth of signatures and (had) verbal/written commitments for an additional $7,630,900,” a total of $16,680,500.”

In the four weeks since, Brazeau and Duffey have continued to gather petition signatures. “We’re right around 32% of the total bid assessment, so 64% of what we need,” Duffey said, “We’re getting one to two signatures every day. Many people are very supportive of signing the petition. I do think we will get sufficient signatures. It is just a matter of contacting people, informing them, and getting their signatures.”

“Yes, we will get enough signatures. We are getting signed petition forms back almost every day,” David Brazeau said. “Once they hear about the BID’s proposal of raising the assessment rate by 500 percent, it is a no brainer. Everyone that I have met is thanking us for doing this, as they see absolutely no value in the BID. As of today, we have 70 commercial property owners that have signed the petition to eliminate the BID, with a total value of $25.6 million.”

A Business Improvement District (BID) is an economic development tool used to help maximize business growth along a major business strip. BIDs are areas where property owners in designated geographic areas agree to percentage-based additional annual property assessment. Those assessments form a BID’s annual budget and funds are spent on projects that enhance the local business environment. Those may include improvements to the streetscape, marketing efforts, business recruitment activity, and security programs.

A change in the assessment scheme for Milwaukee-based BIDs reduces the amount of taxes that BIDs can collect. As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the new Wisconsin budget stipulates that only the commercial, not residential portions of mixed-use buildings can be taxed.

KK BID president Lee Barczak said that KK BID’s budget is already one of the smallest in Milwaukee and is one of the reasons he wants to consider raising the assessment in Bay View. He said the BID’s annual budget would be reduced by 20 percent as a result of the reduced assessments, and noted that there has never been a cost-of-living increase in the assessments since the BID started in 2009.

Crabby’s Bar & Grill — Fran Daniels has served up handmade fare for more than 50 years

March 1, 2018

By Catherine Jozwik

Kathy Bach and Fran Daniels pose in their restaurant, Crabby’s Bar & Grill. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Fran Daniels has been part of the Bay View business community for more than 50 years. He opened Francisco’s, his first restaurant, in 1964. Twenty years later he and his wife Kathy Bach enlarged the restaurant, added a bar, expanded the menu, and renamed it.

Because of its extensive seafood menu, Bach and Daniels named it Crabby’s Bar & Grill.

Located on the southeast corner of Kinnickinnic and Oklahoma avenues, Crabby’s décor includes a long wooden bar, paneling, lamp-lit tables, a big handmade canvas sailboat, and vintage Milwaukee photos. Crabby’s is a living testament to Bay View’s dining past that still offers a place to unwind. Smooth rock music from the 1970s plays through the speakers, creating a relaxing ambience for patrons.

“It’s a beautiful place,” said Daniels.

After Daniels’ stroke on Feb. 2, 2017, the couple closed the restaurant for nine months. They reopened it Dec. 4 with a new, pared down menu.

Daniels wants people to know that his restaurant is open again. “People think we’re closed,” he said, “but we’re not.”

And while Daniels and Bach have put their building on the market, they’re not in a hurry to sell.

“If it sells, great. If not, that’s okay,” Bach said.

The couple has witnessed many neighborhood changes, including a dramatic increase in the number of restaurants and bars, in their decades as Bay View business owners.

Daniels, now 77, said that when he opened his Italian restaurant, Francisco’s, in 1964, there were very few restaurants in the neighborhood, except for De Marinis.

Daniels said he and Ron Zeller, owner of At Random cocktail lounge, 2501 S. Delaware Avenue, opened their businesses at the same time and became close.

“He’s been my best friend for years,” Daniels said.

Years ago, Bay View was more family and community-oriented, according to Bach.

“If the neighbors had young kids, chances are they wound up working here,” she said.

Bach, a Rice Lake native, moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and met Daniels through mutual friends.

Daniels, who was raised in Bay View, attended Mound Street School and graduated from Bay View High School in 1958.

He was 17 when he graduated and began working in restaurants, mostly making pizzas. At 23, he borrowed $1,200 from his father, and he and Rose Stankiewicz, his boss and owner of Alsta’s restaurant, decided to go into business.

Together, the pair leased space on the south end of the building, sharing the building with other businesses such as a bakery, drugstore, and barbershop

“Rose showed him the ropes,” Bach said.

Daniels purchased the building in 1974 and converted the second level to living spaces.

He later purchased the two houses south of the restaurant and demolished them. Originally intending to create a space for outdoor dining, Daniels decided on a parking lot instead.

—Photo Jennifer Kresse

Later Daniels remodeled the exterior of the building. He expanded the restaurant by adding a bar and renamed it Crabby’s, reopening in 1984 with a more expansive menu than Francisco’s.

According to Bach, supper clubs, which experienced a downward trend in the past two decades, were popular among dining patrons when Crabby’s opened. Recently supper clubs are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, she said.

Bach said their entrees were made to order, no pre-made dishes. They even made their pasta from scratch.

Now, due to the couple’s time constraints and other commitments, such as Daniels’ physical therapy that requires several appointments each week, each several hours long, they have eliminated their original menu. No longer serving steaks, seafood, or its popular Friday night fish fry, the restaurant has gone back to Francisco’s roots, serving a variety of made-to-order pizzas prepared in an old-fashioned deck pizza oven with slate grates.

Some unusual and regional favorites include the cheese-and kraut pizza, cheese and shrimp pizza, and a white chicken pizza. “We have people driving all the way from Pewaukee for [the cheese and kraut pizza],” Bach said.

Asked about the Italian cuisine and the non-Italian surname Daniels, Bach said that Fran’s forebears were Italian. Although Fran’s father was adopted, his dad learned that his birth father was “part Italian” and that his grandfather’s last name was Matero.

Bach said she typically runs the restaurant alone, but if things get busy, she calls on two former staff members to help out—Denise Kraning, who waits tables, and Mike Scicero, who tends bar. Both have been with the business for more than 20 years.

“They’re pretty much family at this point,” said Bach.

Like any supper club worth its salt, Crabby’s serves up the Old Fashioned, a classic Wisconsin drink, but the spirits don’t end there.

Crabby’s has a full-service bar. Guests can choose from a variety of wines and domestic and imported beers.

Although Bach has taken over Daniels’ bartending duties, he was quick to mention that patrons can still imbibe traditional supper club drinks. Ice cream beverages include the Grasshopper, Pink Lady, and Brandy Alexander. For cold nights, Irish coffee, Bavarian coffee, and some of Daniels’ own creations warm customers, like the minty, sweet Irish Tease.

Because of its proximity to the St. Francis seminary, many students and religious figures, such as former and current archbishops Timothy Dolan and Jerome Listecki, have patronized Crabby’s.

Memorable and prominent customers throughout the years include former Milwaukee police chief Harold Breier, Milwaukee County Supervisor Dan Cupertino, and Oakland Raiders defensive end and onetime Oak Creek resident John Matuszak.

Kathy Bach and Francisco Daniels have been married for 46 years. Daniels has three children from a previous marriage. Two of his children followed their dad’s lead. His son and daughter-in-law, Chris and Dawn Daniels, own and operate Matero’s Pub and Pizza in Custer, Wis. His daughter and son-in-law Wendy and Thad Klasinski, own and operate Michele’s Restaurant and Catering in Stevens Point.

Andrew Oren, former pastor of the Bay View Methodist Church and lifelong resident, has been a customer of Francisco’s, then Crabby’s, for about 40 years.

“I’m a big fan of the pizza burgers. It’s a comfort food place for me,” he said.

Oren remembers how Francisco’s served up savory steak. “It would come out sizzling on a stainless-steel platter,” he said. The restaurant, smaller than Crabby’s, always seemed full of customers, Oren said.

Now retired, he still makes it a point to patronize Crabby’s every six weeks or so. He wants people to know that Bach and Daniels, along with their restaurant, are an essential part of Bay View history.

“It’s a mom-and-pop place,” said Oren. “I’d hate to see another chain store go in there.”

Editor’s Note: Before Fran Daniels expanded his restaurant and remodeled his building, the main door to the building was located on a diagonal across the northwest corner of the building. In the 1950s, Rocky’s Pharmacy, owned by Rocco Lincoln Giove, occupied the retail space. Prior to Rocky’s, it was McKinnon’s No. 2 Pharmacy, and before that, in the 1940s, Raleigh Pharmacy, according to John Giove, whose father was Rocky Giove.

Chivalry Is Not Dead

March 1, 2018

By Catherine Jozwik

Eli Corona, owner of The Family Mechanic auto service shop, 1122 E. Holt Avenue in Bay View. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

The Family Mechanic’s kindness a balm for car break-in misery

The recent Bay View auto vandalism epidemic has many neighbors concerned. More than a few residents have awakened to find their car windows had been smashed overnight.

Elijah Corona, owner of The Family Mechanic, 1122 E. Holt Avenue, has been helping vehicle owners affected by this crime for several years. He replaces auto glass for customers in the Bay View area at cost, often saving them hundreds of dollars.

Corona, who grew up on Milwaukee’s north side, said his family didn’t have much money.

His father advised him to pick a trade, so he decided to become an auto mechanic. At age 13, Corona began working for Mr. P’s Tires at the business’s north side location as a cleaner. From 2010-2015 he worked as a technical trainer for Bridgestone, an auto parts manufacturing company.

“I worked for Bridgestone Retail Operations. “The training I did was focused on career development, quality control, (and) safety training. My territory was Wisconsin and Northern Illinois,” Corona said.

Encouraged by his wife, Brooke Corona, he opened The Family Mechanic in 2014, while still employed at Bridgestone. “(Brooke) said I should follow my dreams and I did,” Corona said. “I kind of had dual roles for about a year.”

He hired employees to run the shop, 2151 S. 1st Street, in rented space. The shop moved to its present Holt Avenue location in 2016, when his and adjacent buildings were scheduled for demolition to make way for the construction of Restaurant Depot.

Shortly after he opened the auto shop, Corona’s and several of his neighbors’ vehicles were broken into and their windows smashed. Knowing that he was a mechanic, people asked him if he replaced glass.

“I said, yes, at cost. Then the word spread. I never thought we’d be replacing that many windows. We did about 77 in three days.” Corona said. “My glass supplier loves me.”

To keep up with the influx of business, he hired two new technicians.

The average price for a piece of glass ranges from $75-$110. Laminated glass is more durable and runs about $150 per piece.

Recently some Bay View residents have come to The Family Mechanic with all four of their car windows broken.

“Most people in Bay View leave their doors unlocked and don’t leave anything in the car. Vandals here are breaking windows just to break windows,” said Corona. “It’s like a game to them.”

He noted that car vandalism is not confined to Bay View. The shop replaces glass for customers who live in the Third Ward, Walker’s Point, and on Brady Street.

Corona and his technicians repaired windows on 17 cars February 13 and three more the following day. “We have seen a crazy increase in repairs [in 2018], he said.”

Bay View Neighborhood Association president Patty Pritchard Thompson presented Eli Corona with a thank you gift for his generous service to the many unfortunate residents of the 53207 zip code area who have been victims of car vandalism. Corona replaces their broken auto glass at cost. —Photo Katherine Keller

He recommends that car owners buy an alarm system with a very loud alarm in order to deter criminals.

Building strong relationships with customers, and with the Bay View community, are priorities for Corona, who said he would like to get involved in events such as Chill on the Hill and with neighborhood associations.

Corona is still replacing broken car windows at cost for those who live in the 53207 zip code area. He said his glass partner, Paustian’s Auto Glass, is also offering its services at a discounted rate because of the sheer volume of glass replacement in the Bay View neighborhood.

Corona said he doesn’t do what he does for publicity. He does it because it feels good to help.

He will provide the service as long as he has sufficient staff to do so.

At some point, Brooke Corona plans to leave her corporate job to help her husband with the shop, stepping into the position of both office and finance manager.

In addition to his auto services, Corona owns a fleet of plow trucks and he is happy to clear streets and alleys of snow for his neighbors, especially veterans and those who are disabled. He said while he doesn’t charge the majority of those he helps with his plowing service, some people insist on paying him.

Bay View In Transition, Part Three — Longtime Business Owner Reflect And Look Forward

February 2, 2018

By Sheila Julson

In part three of our “Bay View in Transition” series, the Compass reached out to more businesses that have been owned and operated by the same proprietor/s or family for 20 years or more to share the changes they’ve seen while doing business in Bay View.

Pro Comp Auto Body, Inc. (3045 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) offers auto body collision repair and refinishing. Mark Amrozewicz owns the business and the building, and he estimates that his taxes have “probably tripled” since 2004.

Mark Amrozewicz —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Amrozewicz recalled how back in 1998 when he formed Pro Comp, there were a lot of old bars in the neighborhood. Now many of those bars have been updated and more restaurants have opened. He has seen his business increase due accidents caused by drivers talking or texting on their phones.

Until recently, Amrozewicz said Pro Comp was the only auto body collision repair shop in the area. “We do good work at a fair price and word spreads,” he said, “and people here like to use Bay View businesses.” He’s increased the use of social media to attract new clients.

Amrozewicz observed that not only are more people moving into Bay View, but also more people from other areas are frequenting the neighborhood’s establishments. “It’s like a town of its own,” he said. He thinks many of the old mercantile buildings on Kinnickinnic will be repurposed.

Joe and Leonard Budney —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Leonard Budney has owned and operated American Estates (2131 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) in Bay View since 1970, the same year he moved to the neighborhood. Budney, who buys and sells antiques, reports a sharp rent increase for his storefront since the “Bay View Renaissance” began around 2004. “I was paying $600 a month in 2004, and now I’m paying $1,300 a month,” he said.

As an antiques dealer, Budney has respect for the past. He’s definitely noticed how some of the older buildings have been torn down and replaced with multi-unit apartment buildings, which he thinks may make it difficult for Bay View to maintain a sense of community. He expressed skepticism that many of the older mercantile buildings will survive.

While other antiques stores in the neighborhood have come and gone over the years, Budney attributes the longevity of his business in a changing Bay View to getting to know his customers and having a good reputation.

Tony Y. Jaber has owned Bay View Quick Mart (2690 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) since 1990. The business is a convenience store that sells groceries, craft beer, and cigars. Although he doesn’t live in Bay View, he said he is at the store 14 hours a day.

Tony Jaber —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Jaber owns his building and noted that his taxes have gone up, but not significantly. He’s seen some changes in the business climate and demographics. “In the beginning, it was regular families and kids. Business was good,” he said. “I think now it is younger families and couples. Customer needs and demands did not change much; they want convenience, honesty, kind service, and easy access to the store. I do have a parking lot, but I can tell that parking (for other businesses) is an issue around here. It was like this before.”

To appeal to a new Bay View demographic, Jaber has changed some of his beer inventory to include popular craft beers. He’s also added premium cigars, e-cigarettes, and vapes.

Jaber said he loves operating in Bay View, and overall his business has been good. He said events such as the Bay View Bash have helped draw new crowds, and therefore, customers.

“I think demographics are changing, yes. But I still have simple families that come in here for their basic needs. I have customers that have been coming here since 1990. The sense of community is still here, but not what it used to be,” he said. “This is a nice area, close to lakes and parks. I hope all small businesses survive and thrive. All of the small merchants complement each other.”

Ron & Russ Flooring & Design (2648 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.), owned by brothers Ron and Russ Romero, has provided floor coverings and concrete stain and polishing since 1992. In addition to the building that houses his business, Ron also owns the building at 2650-2652 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., and he said the value of his properties has gone up dramatically.

Ron Romero —Photo Jennifer Kresse

When the business first opened, Ron said there were many empty storefronts. Today, there are not only more businesses, but also the field of competitors in his industry has grown. Most storefronts along KK are now occupied, which he says gives Bay View, as a whole, a better opportunity to market itself as a destination.

Other changes he’s noticed include the disappearance of ‘Big Blue’ — the big blue collar manufacturing industries that used to operate in Bay View, such as Louis Allis. They have since left town or closed down. He adds that many of today’s Bay View’s residents are transplants from other areas, versus long-time residents. “Bay View will continue changing,” he said.

As such, the changes he’s made to his business to appeal to a new demographic have been minimal, as many transplanted residents are younger and are renting, and are not the actual homeowners. “They have money to spend but not on the homes. We still do the same type of advertising as we did before.”

Ron predicts that in 20 years, Kinnickinnic will still struggle with a lack of parking. He doesn’t think that many of the historical buildings will survive. “There is nothing I can do about that. If the area wants it, they will get it,” he said.

Campaign To Dissolve Bay View Business Improvement District

February 2, 2018

By Katherine Keller

Ada Duffey and David Brazeau, long-time critics of the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District #44 (KK BID), are spearheading a campaign to dissolve the organization.

Both own property in the district that stretches along South Kinnickinnic Avenue from Becher/Bay streets to Morgan Avenue.

A Business Improvement District (BID) is an economic development tool used to help maximize business growth along a major business strip. BIDs are sections of a city where the property owners agree to pay extra property taxes. That extra tax revenue forms a BID’s annual budget and the funds are spent on projects that enhance the local business environment. Those may include improvements to the streetscape, marketing efforts, business recruitment activity, and security programs.

The formation of a BID was long-championed by District 14 Ald. Tony Zielinski, whose district includes Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View. Soon after he was elected alderman in 2004, he began a quest to form a BID, succeeding when it was established in 2009.

Ada Duffey mailed this postcard to each of the property owners in the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District. She and David Brazeau, both BID property owners, hope to dissolve the BID. —Graphic Jim Price

To dissolve the BID, Duffey and Brazeau’s petition must collect the signatures of owners in the BID whose property values equal more than 50 percent of the total value of the properties in BID 44. The current total assessment for the 194 properties equals $73,210,000. Duffey needs signatures by owners whose building assessments equal $37,337,100. At press time, she said she has “$9,049,600 worth of signatures and verbal/written commitments for an additional $7,630,900,” a total of $16,680,500, after only a few days of soliciting petition signatures.

Lee Barczak, owner of the Avalon Theater, is the current KK BID president. The BID’s bylaws stipulate a board of seven directors, but there are currently three, including Barczak. The board has operated for more than a year without a secretary, after Joyce Parker left the board after serving several terms. During the past year, scheduled meetings were canceled because there were not enough board members present to reach a quorum.

Despite Zielinski’s efforts and those of the board, the KK BID has enjoyed neither widespread nor robust support by the Kinnickinnic Avenue property owners.

For Duffey, the final straw was a recent proposal by Barczak and the board to increase the annual assessment by a factor of five. “They were very close to voting on it a couple meetings back,” Duffey said, “but then they decided they should come up with a plan how to spend it first. In addition, the property owners do not get to elect the BID board members, but yet they can increase our BID tax.”

The mayor appoints BID board members.

Duffey is also opposed to the possibility of the BID hiring an executive director, another recent proposal by the BID board. “Currently, as it is, the board is not accountable to the property owners,” she said. “I am not interested in having my money being used to hire someone who is not accountable to me. I think property owners are better off keeping their own money. I think we should use our money to make improvements to our buildings.”

Brazeau shares similar sentiments.

“I don’t think the BID has ever lived up to its potential,” he said. “And I do not think it ever will. The board has a hard time even keeping four (executive) board members and as of right now there are only three. If you cannot even keep an interested board of four members, then why do we even have this?”

Like Duffey, Brazeau originally supported the BID.

“At first I did support it and signed the form supporting the creation of the BID. Per Tony (Zielinski), the BID would bring many, many great things to KK Avenue. The BID has been around since 2009. I do not feel it has lived up to Tony’s promise.”

Lee Barczak, who has served as the BID board president since 2013, hopes to salvage and rejuvenate the BID.

He points out that the KK BID’s annual budget is one of the two smallest of the 48 Milwaukee BIDs. The assessment was originally set at a low percentage when Zielinski was soliciting property owners’ support to establish the BID.

Barczak said it has been a struggle to find board members because of the amount of work that is asked of them in their roles as unpaid, volunteer board members, who are expected to lead committees and who often wind up doing much of the committee work themselves. But he said he has verbal commitments from five people to join the board and he is optimistic that in a month or so, he will have  re-established a full board of seven. He said in the past the BID has had as many as 27 volunteer committee members who were dedicated and hardworking.

A change in the assessment scheme for Milwaukee-based BIDs reduces the amount of taxes they can collect. As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the new Wisconsin budget stipulates that only the commercial, not residential, portions of mixed-use buildings can be taxed.

That means the KK BID’s budget, already one of the smallest, will be further reduced, which is one of the reasons Barczak wants to consider raising the assessment in Bay View. He said its annual budget would be reduced by 20 percent as a result of the reduced assessments, and noted that there has never been a cost-of-living increase in the assessments since the BID started in 2009.

What has the BID spent money on?

For the past several years, the BID has paid for flower baskets to be hung along the BID corridor and the hand-wrought brackets that secure them to the light poles. It paid for the landscaping and snow removal at the Art Stop bus stop on Kinnickinnic and Howell/Lincoln. And until funds run out, it pays for graffiti removal on BID buildings.

In 2017, it contributed to five murals that were painted on buildings in the BID.

Barczak thinks the BID would benefit from hiring a part-time administrator, the term he prefers rather than executive. The administrator’s role would include dealing with city issues and communicating with the city, in addition to being in charge of the BID’s website.

Ideally, he said, he’d like to operate the board with an annual budget of $180,000. With that, he thinks he could create initiatives to “help do things that add to the excitement of owning a building in the BV BID.”

Stacy and Debbie Leszczynski own and operate Excel Printing, 3374 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. From the beginning of the BID, they have felt that the south end of the district (south of Oklahoma Avenue) was ignored. They smarted the first year that the BID hung flower baskets in the district north of Oklahoma only. “In 10 years or more, they have only cared about the north end. They take money from all the owners from Bay Street to Morgan Avenue but they spend it on the north end. In 10 years our end has gotten a garbage can and hanging baskets,” she said. A number of years ago she tried unsuccessfully to be appointed to the BID board.

Steve Ste. Marie, who owns the Maytag Laundromat, 2510 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., supports the BID. As a former BID board member, he said he knows board members are expected to contribute time, both attending board meetings and leading the programs of its various committees. While he thinks a fivefold assessment increase “is a little stiff,” he thinks the BID would benefit from a paid executive director to run the BID.

Department of City Development spokesperson Jeff Fleming said DCD is responsible for overseeing the operations of the city’s BIDs ensuring that they comply with the laws, rules, and expectations, which include an obligation to accountability. It also works with BIDs to get them back on track.

He said that the city will withhold dispersal of BID 44’s 2018 operating funds until the board posts its missing meeting minutes, its last audit, and its annual plan (budget). He said the city can dissolve a BID per statute but “the most important thing we do is support a BID to make it successful.”

Fleming said DCD is in consultation with BID 44 to “beef up its board” and noted that it is not unique in the challenges it faces. “We understand they are working to meet their requirements,” he said.

Zielinski is taking a laissez-faire approach.

He said he wanted a BID in Bay View because he felt the area deserved the same options as other parts of the city and because there was sufficient support to create the BID.

However he said, “It is the right for an area to say we don’t want this tool.  I support the wishes of the impacted area. While a great many parts of the city support this tool, our area may be the exception. If it dissolved, he said he doesn’t plan on reviving it.” He said he admires Barczak for his dedication to Bay View and the BID.

“The president of the BID is Lee Barczak,” said Zielinski “He is a hero in my book. He purchased the Avalon Theatre for our neighborhood when he could have made a lot more money by investing in something else. He has not only put his money where his mouth is but he has dedicated countless hours to the BID. Lee understands the value of a BID if other people are willing to help. But he cannot do it all by himself. If there are not other people to help, the BID will dissolve.”

Duffey and Brazeau said they think they will obtain sufficient signatures to dissolve the BID. They are not bound by a deadline but they hope to complete their petition by early February, at which time they will present it to the city and request dissolution.

SPOTTLIGHT — Is Winter A Good Time To List My Home, or Not?

December 2, 2017

By Toni Spott

Toni Spott

The housing market has slowed down, as it always does, this time of year — the holidays and the winter months.

Have you taken your home off the market? Or if you’re ready to sell, have you convinced yourself to wait until spring? And you’re probably thinking, who has time to sell a house now?!

From my perspective, we have somewhat gotten away from the historical winter slow-down. Like I’ve stated before, buyers look for homes 24/7, 365 days a year, thanks to the internet. It’s a little like going to the grocery store to pick up only a few things but coming home with a bag full of items you had no intention of buying. But because they were in front of you, you bought them!

Likewise, homebuyers may say they are not buying until the spring but then they go online, just to browse the market…and they fall in love with a home. They can’t help themselves, they have to see that house, and bam! They’ve bought themselves a house — in winter!

Another consideration is that there are corporations that are in the process of relocating employees now. They want them in place by the first of the year. That means the employee needs to purchase a home before the year ends so that they can start their new job on time. But there are also employees moving and needing homes all winter long.

Know that those, who put their home on the market now, experience less competition. That’s because so many people take their homes off the market and don’t relist until spring.

And another bonus of listing now is that because of the ongoing shortage of homes in the current market, it’s still a seller’s market! You are in control!

Worried about disruption? Remember, you can show your home when you wish, therefore protection your family and your plans from disruption. If you sell now, you won’t have to be in that extremely competitive spring market where you could potentially get less money for your home.

Buyers who venture out in the winter weather are rather serious buyers. Would you go out in a snowstorm or on a cold rainy day just to look at a house for recreation? You’d have to be pretty serious about purchasing a home in that kind of weather, so I would recommend that you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth! Winter buyers are serious!

As I stated above, the spring market is extremely competitive when all those homes come back on the market. Then the spring market becomes a buyer’s market and you may not get as desirable a price for your home that you would have in winter.

Toni Spott Sustainable Agent, Keller Williams Realty;
Facebook: TheToniSpottTeam;

Second Annual Christmas on KK Dec. 1

November 2, 2017

“Christmas on KK,” an event that combines merriment, shopping, and charitable giving, will take place Friday, Dec. 1, from 5pm until approximately 10pm. It is being staged by business owners on the north end of Kinnickinnic Avenue between Archer and Smith streets.

All money raised from the sale of raffle tickets sold during the event will be donated to the Bay View Community Center (BVCC). Likewise, the Bloom Center for Art and Integrated Therapies is planning an ornament make-and-take from 5:30 to 7:30pm, where proceeds will be given to community art therapy programs. Two pop-up shops will donate 10 percent of their event sales to other to-be-determined charities.

Bay View Homes will host Letters to Santa from 5:30 to 7:30pm. Participants will make a small donation and write a letter to Santa and receive his reply by mail.

Cherubini and Keri Torgerson of Mac’s Pet Depot organized last year’s Christmas on KK, which Cherubini said raised $600 for BVCC. “Last year we had 13 businesses participate, and many of them said they were busier than they were on Small Business Saturday,” she said.

More info, schedule, and updates: Facebook, Instagram, and


St. Francis Custom Motorcycle Builder Wins National Competition

November 1, 2017

A welding class at St. Francis High School was the initial impetus that propelled Steve Dietzman on the path to becoming a highly accomplished custom-motorcycle builder. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere.”

That was the tagline that advertised Easy Rider, the 1969 cult classic biker movie.

Since then, thousands have surrendered to their wanderlust to ride the nation’s ribbons of highways on two wheels, in search of their own America.

Champion custom-motorcycle builder Steve Dietzman of Studio Cycles stands ready to outfit them with his rad rides.

Steve Dietzman, a modest 25-year-old, rose to national prominence this year with his custom-built 1968 Triumph Bonneville Chopper. He won the Retro Modified Class category of 2017 International Motor Show (IMS). Dietzman believes his attention to detail and his passion to go above and beyond helped him win the competition.

“I went to [the IMS] for about three years as a spectator, so that motivated me to finish up my bike and enter it in the show,” he said.

Dietzman’s custom-built 1968 Triumph Bonneville Chopper was the winner in the 2017 International Motor Show’s Retro Modified Class. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Milwaukee’s Royal Enfield (retail store of British motorcycle manufacturer) sponsored the retro Modified Class category. Dietzman won a trophy, a Royal Enfield motorcycle, and a cash prize.

The Compass caught up with Dietzman on a sunny September afternoon as he worked in a workshop near in the Tippecanoe neighborhood. Motorcycles in various stages of completion were staged throughout the shop.

Most of Dietzman’s motorcycles are projects for his friends. He pointed to a Harley-Davidson Panhead, stripped down to the frame, wheels, and fuel tank. “This is my buddy’s Panhead. He got married and started a family at 23, so that’s what happens,” Dietzman said, pointing to the bike’s shell, indicating his friend’s progress on the rebuild has been slowed.

Another friend dropped off a Honda for a full custom build.

On display was one of Dietzman’s most recent accomplishments, a sleek blue and chrome 1979 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead Chopper. The bike was featured in a motorcycles-as-art exhibit curated by Michael Lichter at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The iconic rally began in 1938 and is held annually in the first week of August in Sturgis, S.D.

Dietzman performed the fine-tuning, welding, and mechanical aspects of the build. The paintwork is outsourced to his buddy, artist Rome Urbaniak. “Some people think it’s my best work yet,” he said, referring to the Shovelhead, “but I don’t think so. I always strive to go above and beyond, always pushing, pushing one step further. I hope my best work is yet to come!” he said.

Dietzman owns five motorcycles, three in driving form. His Triumph Bonneville is his favorite.

Teen Passion

Dietzman started riding motorcycles when he was 16. His first bike was a 1969 Honda 350. “My friend and me used to rent a single-stall garage not far from here during high school and we hid our motorcycles from our parents,” he said. “We called it ‘the studio’ because it was tiny. The name carried over to Studio Cycles.”

Dietzman’s parents found out about his motorcycle after one of their friends saw him cruising around Bay View. “After I caught wind of this, I decided to drive my bike home one day. Their response to me having a motorcycle was well received! I believe they knew (about my bike) longer than I thought they did,” he said.

Dietzman is a 2011 graduate of St. Francis High School. The school has a woodshop, but hasn’t had an auto or metal shop for some time, Dietzman said. So during his junior year, he participated in a school-to-work program and studied welding at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s downtown campus.

“I realized I didn’t want to do welding as a career,” he said. However, he immediately connected with the fabrication aspect of welding that he could use it for work on motorcycle frames and parts.

When he sought a deeper understanding of engine mechanics, he took a small engines class at MATC, along with auto tech training.

He built his first motorcycle when he was 18, a 1977 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster. “It was totally stock and (I) made it into a bobber. I changed the frame and everything on it,” he said.

The bike was featured in a motorcycles-as-art exhibit curated by Michael Lichter at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Bobbing a bike involves stripping extraneous bodywork from a motorcycle, including removing the front fender and shortening the rear fender.

Dietzman finds motorcycles primarily via Craigslist.

For his commission projects, clients usually have a general idea of what they want and Dietzman fine-tunes it for them. He gets ideas from social media. He studies photos and considers how to make good ideas even better.

Despite holding a full-time sales position at Fastenal, an industrial supplier, along with his own business, Dietzman still finds time to mentor bike builders of the future through BUILD, a nonprofit educational organization that pairs teams of high school students with bike-builder mentors. The St. Francis High School program started in 2011, during Dietzman’s senior year. He and four other students participated in the program’s inaugural year.

“School was a little boring for me, but to go work on those motorcycles after school was awesome,” he said. “I remember skipping work to go work on motorcycles. That gave me the kick start to want to work on bikes.”

Dietzman serves as a mentor in the St. Francis High School program.

He helps students gain valuable life and interpersonal skills while restoring vintage motorcycles. They start out with a motorcycle chassis that is in rundown condition and turn it into a full race bike. They learn a wide range of skills, including motorcycle design, welding, fabricating, painting, and even fundraising. At the end of the build, the bikes are raced at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Other high schools that offer BUILD include Bradley Tech, Pulaski, New Berlin, South Milwaukee, Shorewood, and Muskego.

Still in his 20s, the sky, or the open highway, is the limit for Dietzman. While he loves making custom bikes and might expand into a larger workspace with a storefront, he’s keeping his full-time job and will see where the road takes him.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to the Bay View Compass. 

Who Owns What On Kinnickinnic?, Part Two

November 1, 2017

By Katherine Keller

Looking south, the intersection of South Kinnickinnic Avenue and East Potter Street. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Last month Part One of this series looked at property ownership on Bay View’s main commercial district focusing on the stretch of South Kinnickinnic Avenue between East Bay and East Conway streets. Analyzing the construction dates, it is apparent that development moved from north to south on the street that has long-served as Bay View’s most prominent commercial strip and a main thoroughfare.

This month we look at the section of Kinnickinnic between Homer and California streets. Private homes are scattered between the commercial buildings along the entire swath of Kinnickinnic from East Bay Street to East St. Francis and many of those commercial buildings include dwelling units. The mercantile buildings, for the most part, are two-storied with storefronts at street level and apartments above, although in some instances, there are also apartments behind the storefronts. Examples of those are the Alchemist Theatre building, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic and the South Shore Gallery & Framing building, 2627 S. Kinnickinnic.

The earliest existing example of a mid-century modern apartment building is the “two-story ranch-style” that now houses the Tessmer law practice, 2616 S. Kinnickinnic, that was built in 1958. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Constructed in 1968, this was the only solely-apartments-building in the Bay/Becher to Homer stretch of KK, the section featured in Part One of this series, until Dwell was built in 2012. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Another trend that becomes apparent, as one travels south on KK is the introduction multi-unit apartment buildings. The first example, though not first-built, is two-story Lannon Stone, 2390 S. Kinnickinnic, on the north side of Café Corazon. The stark contrast of its mid-century modern architectural style to that of the existing buildings most likely raised a few eyebrows when it made its debut in 1968.

The earliest existing example of the mid-century modern apartment building is the two-story “ranch-style” that now houses the Tessmer law practice, built in 1958, 2616 S. Kinnickinnic. Two more examples are found at 2501 S. Kinnickinnic, built in 1961, and 2549 S. Kinnickinnic, in 1967. The 2501 building was used as a location site in the 2011 Bridesmaids movie.

The multi-use Dwell development was constructed in 2012. It features retail units at street level and apartments above. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Now, half a century later, there is another apartment-development boom on Kinnickinnic. The new buildings are characterized by three- or more stories with retail at street level. Century-old architecture of a bygone Bay View is being razed for the new construction.Since we published Part One, the Compass learned that the Bay View Bowl property is listed for sale.

The .29-acre parcel on the northeast corner of Kinnickinnic Avenue and East Conway Street includes the two-story bowling alley/apartment building and 17 parking spaces. To the south, the parking lot faces Dwell, the apartment and retail development constructed in 2012.

The two vacant lots above, 2557-2557 and 2563-2565 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue, were purchased by Scott Genke in 2016 for $250,000 each. The 2016 assessment was $16,900 for each parce

This Who Owns What on KK Property List includes the ownership and assessed value of the properties located on the 2000 to 2400 blocks of South Kinnickinnic Avenue and a small section of South Howell Avenue. Addresses, built-dates, ownership, and assessment values were found in the City of Milwaukee Assessor’s records. Read Part 1 of this report.

A likely development site is the northwest and southwest corners of South Kinnickinnic Avenue and South Herman Street, where 10 parcels are owned by entities associated with Milwaukee developer Tim Olson.

The most obvious potential development site in this strip is the northwest and southwest corners of South Kinnickinnic Avenue and South Herman Street, where 10 parcels are owned by entities associated with Milwaukee developer Tim Olson. The parcels include the former Bella’s Fat Cat restaurant, a large empty lot, and eight homes. 

These homes on the west side of South Herman Street between Kinnickinnic and Montana Street are three of the eight homes in the parcel featured in the satellite photo below. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Developer Scott Genke added apartments to the roof of the King Building, 2534 S.Kinnickinnic Ave. The building originally served as the King Chevrolet dealership when it was built in 1928. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Next Page »