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...
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.