Every week in 2015, OnMilwaukee.com and local design company Too Much Metal join forces to introduce the latest member of the Milwaukee All-Stars – a team of unfamiliar winners living in the city who consistently and diligently make it shine. Each week, a new member will join the team – based on your recommendations – and at the end of the year all will come together in a Rally of the Raddest Milwaukeeans. We're not sure what that means quite yet, so for now, meet …
Toby Cerqua has been a partner in Bittercube – a local company that hand-crafts artisan bitters – for about a year. Prior to joining the business full-time, Cerque collaborated with the group.
Cerqua was offered the job for the same reason he is this week’s All-Star – he is a creative and passionate collaborator.
"We work every day to give people experiences and products that are as genuine and high-quality as we can possibly make them," he says.
OnMilwaukee.com / Too Much Metal: What are your favorite smells in Milwaukee?
Toby Cerqua: Can I say bitters? Our apothecary smells amazing when we're in production. I don't know that Milwaukee has any uniquely Milwaukee smells that I feel super strongly about. I guess there is that questionable melange of smells you get walking through one of the million street festivals we have in the summertime. Delicious food and sweaty people and beer and blacktop ... I'm going to go with that as both my favorite and least favorite.
OMC / TMM: What is you favorite time of year in Milwaukee?
TC: The lazy answer is "summer, because warm and festivals," but autumn has always been my real favorite, I think. It's fleeting, it's beautiful, you get to wear sweaters and boots. And I feel like when autumn comes around, everyone suddenly remembers that winter exists and it's almost here, and there's this burst of activity to get in as much fun stuff as possible before the cold and the busyness of the holidays comes around.
OMC / TMM: What are your hopes for Milwaukee?
TC: I hope that Milwaukee can grow up into a more progressive, inclusive, diverse, culturally active city. Anybody living here knows we have some issues to work on. The sharp segregation and social inequality that plague the city and state are in crucial need of address. If we can work to make our population more diverse and integrated, better educated, healthier, and more mobile, I really do believe the rest will take care of itself over time. I realize that's a tall order in the current political climate, but these things are necessary if we want our city to be a place that smart, creative people want to live in the coming decades.
OMC / TMM: What made you fall in love with Milwaukee?
TC: Milwaukee is a little big city. Small enough to meet people doing interesting things, and to run into friends on the street, but big enough to provide variety and not feel stifling. You can make ripples here. I'm a believer in building a community and making your surroundings better, and not just fleeing to greener pastures. This is a place where you can actually take a shot at that.
OMC / TMM: Why do you do what you do?
TC: Lots of reasons, hard to narrow the answer. I want to have a stake in what I'm doing; this gives me that stake, and in a pretty unique setting. It is both fun and stressful, and at times very challenging.
We make a luxury item of sorts, nobody needs bitters to survive, but it's still fulfilling: we work every day to give people experiences and products that are as genuine and high-quality as we can possibly make them. That means doing things the hard way, not cutting corners in the service of a little extra profit – and that's the way I want the whole world to be run. It feels good to practice what I'd preach.
OMC / TMM: What is your guilty pleasure?
TC: I rarely watch TV, but once in a while I give in and queue up some show I've heard is good on a streaming service. Then I end up binge-watching an entire season of whatever it is in two or three nights.
OMC / TMM: If you could high five one Milwaukeean, who would it be?
TC: Very difficult to pick. I want to high five pretty much everyone I can think of, but some of those people get plenty of figurative and / or literal high fives. I'm going with Isaiah.
Do you know a Milwaukee All-Star? OnMilwaukee.com and Too Much Metal are looking for true-hearted folks living in the city of Milwaukee who love what they do – and do it with zest and style. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with recommendations.