Last month, after nearly eight years of operation, Mike and Kim Schmidt sold the Bella's Fat Cat location on Brady Street.
Schmidt said he was closing the Brady St. spot at 1233 E. Brady St., to better focus on his other two locations -- 2737 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., which opened in 2004, and 2974 N. Oakland Ave., which opened in 2005. He noted the newer locations "fit the prototype for future restaurants."
We got together over coffee (burgers and custard at 9 a.m. just didn't seem right) and asked Mike Schmidt five questions about his business and its future.
OnMilwaukee.com: Why did you sell Bella's Fat Cat on Brady Street and do you miss it?
Mike Schmidt: We found someone to assume our lease at the Brady Street location. After exhausting other options, we were set to just not renew our lease in August 2008, but we were approached by someone already vested in Brady Street, with interest in our location. We do miss our customers from that area, some of which are unable to get to our other locations. For that reason it was important to us to find someone else to open an affordable restaurant in that spot.
OMC: How are your other two locations going?
MS: The other two locations are going very well, growing every month and exceeding our projections every month as well. We're especially happy with our Bay View location and how it's come along with our party room and how the community has embraced us.
OMC: Any additional expansion plans?
MS: No definite plans, however we are considering other locations in the Milwaukee area as well as opportunities for the right type of expansion elsewhere.
OMC: What's a "typical" day for you?
MS: A typical day for me right now starts with office work in the morning leading into the restaurants opening and lunch rush. Most lunches and dinner hours, I'm "on-hand" at one of the locations. As we grow, I will need to continue to focus more on the aspects of running the company and have my GMs and Directors of Operations deal with the day to days at each location. However, I enjoy the people who come into Bella's, so I want to remain in touch with that aspect in the future.
OMC: Here's the kicker. Assume you didn't start Bella's -- where would you go for custard and burgers in Milwaukee?
MS: Well, being a lifelong Milwaukeean and growing up on custard and burgers, I consider Kopp's to be the gold standard. They have been great operators in Milwaukee for a long time now. If Kim and I had not started Bella's, that would be our spot.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.