12 questions for Company B's Brigette Breitenbach
If you've ever been to The Iron Horse Hotel and thought, "I can't believe I'm in Milwaukee," you're not alone. One of the minds behind that experience is Brigette Breitenbach, owner of Company B and partner in the newest Milwaukee lounge, Black Sheep, full-service upscale bar, restaurant and wine tap at 216 S. 2nd St. that officially opens Monday, Aug. 12. Keeping up with Breitenbach is no simple task.
OnMilwaukee.com: What side of town did you grow up on?
Brigette Breitenbach: I grew up in South Milwaukee until middle school when we moved to New Berlin and sidewalks were replaced with "Mom, can you drive me...?"
OMC: Describe a typical day at Company B.
BB: We technically start at 9 a.m. but emails are 24/7 – it's why everyone gets an iPhone. We might be developing a digital strategy for a client, working on a social media training session, reviewing designs for a promotional campaign or pitching the media on an event. I have a talented, energetic team of account people and designers. Now throw in a few regularly visiting dogs and music that ranges from standards to a LaCage house mix and you've got controlled chaos.
OMC: The Iron Horse Hotel has been amazing for Milwaukee. Tell us about another project you're involved in, Black Sheep.
BB: Moving into a space owned and built out by our client KPH Construction prompted lots of discussion over what to put on the fist floor. It's a great old building with amazing bones so a bar was a natural, and given the plethora of great restaurants in Walker's Point, we felt a legit lounge is what the neighborhood needed. So we came up with Black Sheep.
Great wine on tap meets kicked-up hot dogs. Concept development and branding is what we love – start to finish from story to opening. People think of us as websites and logos but I believe we really get space planning, interiors and brand experience. Black Sheep is all that, reflecting passion from our entire team including operators Jessica and James Valona and developers Keith Harenda and Steve Madziarcyzk of KPH.
OMC: You have that special mix of creative and business. How does that translate to your wardrobe?
BB: Yeah it's a creative field but clients trust us with their money so wacky doesn't work. I need to be able to have lunch at a moment's notice with finance people and then head to Bike Night. Literally. So I think my wardrobe is fashion forward, even a little edgy but right for my age and appropriate for business.
OMC: What's your favorite shop in town?
BB: Five Hearts and Stephanie Horne are great but I'd say Lela. I'm a big fan of resale, vintage and new looks by smaller designers. Lela has that mix figured out.
OMC: Describe your workout regimen.
BB: I love to work out and am easily bored. So I train with Sahnya Thom, a kickboxer and martial artist, at the Brickyard – strength, core and heavy bag. I take Muay Thai style classes at Drench with Adam Von Rothfelder who is the highest energy person I know and beats the crap out of me. I cross train with Eric Stachowiak at Gold's Downtown, practice yoga with Stan Kononov at Health & Power, and lift at Elite with my boyfriend on the weekend who works out as much as I do.
OMC: Tell me the story behind the red Porsche.
BB: My dad was a car nut. And that car was his baby. 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa. Zero to 60 in 5.4 seconds (so I'm told). When he passed away, I drove it with my friend Colleen to Milwaukee from North Carolina and feel like I'm sitting in my dad's favorite chair every time I'm in it.
OMC: You have two high schoolers and keep a smile on your face. How is that possible?
BB: They are great people, not just my kids. Active, interesting and colorful. They challenge me all the time, for sure, but the older they get, the closer they are to moving on so I try to treasure every day. And when I forget that, my mother reminds me.
OMC: You're involved in a new boutique hotel in ... central Wisconsin. What's the draw there?
BB: Hotel Marshfield is a great project because it proves you can find good design and exceptional service in small markets. Our branding for them is reflective of that. People think of central Wisconsin as backwards, but it's genuine, proud and unexpected.
OMC: Your travels took you to Dubai last year. What were some highlights?
BB: Traveling with someone you love and friends you adore to one of the most exotic places is amazing. I'd say a room overlooking the dancing fountains around Burj Khalifa – the world's tallest building, late-night poolside shisha at The Palace and hours of fragrance shopping are things I remember most.
OMC: If you could change one thing about Milwaukee what would it be?
BB: It's still so segregated. My children have the most diverse group of friends and have seen racial injustice because of ongoing stereotypes. But it's a choice – we'd be a better city if our social circles included diversity of all kinds.
OMC: Where do you go from here?
BB: Well, I can't ever see myself retiring. I love what I do, and I have an incredible man in my life who's become a partner in every sense. I want to develop new things, travel more and keep asking what's next.
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