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Covered bar-and-stool seating outside helps blur the distinction between indoors and out.
Covered bar-and-stool seating outside helps blur the distinction between indoors and out. (Photo: David Bernacchi)
The cafe faces and embraces the Milwaukee Public Market directly across the street.
The cafe faces and embraces the Milwaukee Public Market directly across the street. (Photo: David Bernacchi)
The new Colectivo cafe in the Third Ward has an open-air concept.
The new Colectivo cafe in the Third Ward has an open-air concept. (Photo: David Bernacchi)

New Colectivo embraces the street

Like many in Milwaukee, I've rued the fact that so much of Downtown turns its back on the street. There are more than a few of us who believe that The Shops of Grand Avenue would live a more vibrant existence if it did a better job of embracing the street.

The new Colectivo cafe that officially opened today at 223 E. St. Paul Ave., across from the Milwaukee Public Market in the Third Ward, throws its arms around the sidewalk, and by extension, the market across the street.

That's a big part of the allure, co-owner Lincoln Fowler told me this morning as we stood on the sidewalk and had a clear view into the entire cafe.

"We wanted to connect to the market," he said, gesturing across the way.

To do that, Colectivo used an open concept that blurs the line between exterior and interior and built some bar-and-stool seating outside, too. In order to make it work in terms of permitting, the cafe's goods had to go behind glass and the food prep area in the back is separated by a wall.

But none of that will really have any effect for the customer, who can sit "inside" on a rainy day and watch the drops fall while enjoying a coffee. On a beautiful day, this place will be packed.

The grab and go sandwiches, baked goods from Colectivo's newly rebranded Troubadour Bakery and the rest make it a perfect complement to the market's food court-style lunch concept.

Because he opened it -- in the space long occupied by Third Ward Caffe (no, the Orvieto mural does not appear to survive) -- it's clear that Fowler and his partners aren't concerned that there's a Starbucks around the corner, a Cedarburg coffee in the market and Bella Caffe, a Stone Creek and Sven's within an easy stroll.

"We have just always tried to focus on what we do best," Fowler said.

But, there's also a Colectivo a mere four blocks south in Walker's Point, too...

"We expect there will be some cannibalizing but we'll just deal with it," Fowler said with a smile, adding that his partner Paul Miller has long lobbied for a Third Ward location.

"We really wanted to be in this location."

Now, if we could just convince the pols not to rebuild that stretch of I-794 that's been torn down...

Talkbacks

belle123 | May 15, 2014 at 10:33 a.m. (report)

People like what they like, I don't see what's wrong with having options. Really, if you love Starbucks it's not like you are not going to still go there regardless of Colectivo being right down the street.

It's still local coffee and there is a reason they are doing so well; the coffee rocks!

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TosaJim | May 14, 2014 at 12:41 p.m. (report)

I agree....I'll only frequent the small, independent neighborhood coffee/bakery shops...like Cranky Al's in Wauwatosa.

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DTtoBurbs | May 14, 2014 at 12:35 p.m. (report)

Why would Lincoln be concerned with being so close to the Cedarburg coffee in the Public Market, the Bella's, or Stone Creek, or Svens? He wasn't concerned about opening in BV across from Stone Creek, or in Tosa across from Le Tart. Cannibalize from his own stores? It's probably easily offset by the existing shops he's moving in on.

I'm all for capitalism and seeing a local company do well, and I'm ready to be knocked for being a communist here, but something doesn't feel right. I suppose I should be happy that they were successful enough to get their $million buyout from MARS, but using that money to open up so close doesn't feel very much like the local Alterra of old.

Think I'll stick with the little guys who appreciate the business.

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