A West Allis business owner hopes to bring consumer awareness to the variety of food and dining options the area has to offer.
Mark Lutz, owner of the West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe, says it’s about time West Allis businesses got their due.
Lutz, who purchased the cheese shop at 6832 W. Becher St., in 2002 and added a second location in the Milwaukee Public Market in 2005, says he took note when the Public Market location started taking off.
"I saw how the Third Ward and Walker’s Point were building up," he says, "And it really hit home that everyone sort of skips over West Allis."
The neighborhood, Lutz notes, isn’t so different from East Tosa, which has seen a burst of growth among local food-based businesses in the past few years. But, the popularity of the East Tosa area is largely the result of business owners working together to promote their neighborhood.
So, about two months ago he took action. Lutz took to the streets and formed a consortium of unique restaurants and specialty shops on the east end of West Allis. The initiative, called Eat West Allis, aims to bring awareness to food-based businesses in the area, attracting new customers and business owners and keeping the neighborhood in the know about what’s happening at local shops and restaurants.
"I knew that if we pulled together, our businesses could reap the same type of benefit that all the vendor at the Public Market do," he explains. "After all, we have great spots here -- from bakeries and coffee shops to full blown restaurants."
The Eat West Allis web site currently showcases eleven food-based businesses, including Antigua Restaurant, Double B’s BBQ & Burgers, Urban Joe Cafe, Kegel’s Inn, West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe, Corvina Wine Company, Chef Paz Restaurant, Twisted Bistro, Freese’s Candy, Aggie’s Bakery & Cake Shop and Coffeeworks.
The group released the third installment of its newsletter last week, a publication which contains information about events, food specials, discounts and even a "Cupcake of the Week" forecast from Aggie’s Bakery for the month of August.
Moving forward, the business owners involved in the Eat West Allis initiative have plans to meet on a regular basis to discuss plans for promoting their businesses. Lutz says the group has plans to launch a social media presence, plan a variety of collaborative special events, and will work to pull business in from a variety of entertainment venues in the area.
"We have a new hotel going in across from State Fair Park," he says, "We have the Milwaukee Mile. And there’s a large number of people who use the Pettit National Ice Center. So, we’ll be working to capture the attention of those venues and really put a focused effort into promoting all the great places to eat here."
Lutz says there’s been a great deal of support for the initiative so far, and he’s excited to see it grow.
"The mayor put it on his Facebook page and we had over 200 people sign up in less than a day," he says. "And we put it on our page and it blew up. The neighborhood is really going nuts for it. There are so many nice families in this area who really want to see their neighborhood do well."
For more information on Eat West Allis, visit eatwestallis.com and sign up for the newsletter.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.