By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Apr 04, 2022 at 1:02 PM Photography: Lori Fredrich

A brand new wine & spirits shop is slated to open as early as June at 605 W. Virginia St. in Walker’s Point.

The property, which is being developed by husband and wife team Braden and Brianna Just, will feature apartments on the western portion of the building.

Meanwhile, the vacant retail space on the corner of 6th and Virginia, which was built as a Schlitz tied house in 1907 and has more recently been home to Il Mito and Juto restaurants, will be transformed into Thelma Carol Wine Merchants.

Behind the shop are industry veterans Rebecca Button and her husband Jerel Hall. A certified sommelier, Hall earned his master’s degree in library science, but has spent the past 15 years working in liquor retail, distribution and various positions in local restaurants and bars.

Rebecca Button and Jerel Hall
Rebecca Button and Jerel Hall (Photo: Heather Koch)

Meanwhile, Button, who currently works as the marketing and events director for Milwaukee Downtown, comes to the table with years of events experience, along with industry acumen from work at bars and restaurants including Odd Duck, Bavette La Boucherie and At Random.

The shop, which will feature a varied selection of wine, beer and spirits, is named with a nod to the owners’ grandmothers Thelma June and Carol, both of whom worked as librarians.

“They were both extremely strong, incredibly kind women, so it’s an homage to them,” notes Button, who says the impetus for the shop was to “combine our passions to create a warm, welcoming, inclusive space where people can learn more about wines.” 

She says the shop itself will pay homage to their careers, as well as Hall’s background in library science, through an aesthetic that captures the warm, cozy, welcoming vibes of a Victorian library.

“The original wooden bar will be a focal point,” says Button, “And the beautiful historical elements of the space will be complemented by warm velvet curtains and furniture.”

As for the retail selection, it will include primarily wines with a focus on smaller producers including biodynamic and natural wines, along with wines made by female and BIPOC winemakers.

"We want to champion small winemakers," Button says.

Guests will also find a mix of local and imported beers, along with spirits (with a focus on rum and whiskey) and a small tobacco component.

Although the shop will be mainly retail focused, Thelma Carol Wine Merchants wil also feature a robust tasting program, along with full glass pours for customers.

Button, who grew up in the greater Milwaukee area says she met Hall at Indiana University where they both attended school, but when the couple chose to move together to Milwaukee, they lived in various neighborhoods from Bay View and Riverwest to the East Side.

“We’ve always loved being tourists in our own city,” she says. “And for years we’ve loved the energy in Walker’s Point. We were really drawn to the engaging, growing community here.”

It was that energy, along with the the building itself, she says, which drew them to decide it was the perfect place for their new retail shop.

“When we took a look at the building, it immediately clicked,” Button recalls, “Not only was the building beautiful, but it’s surrounded by great spots like Great Lakes Distillery, the Iron Horse Hotel and Zocalo Food Park.

“We can’t wait to bring this new concept to the neighborhood," she says.

Follow Thelma Carol Wine Merchants' progress on Facebook and Instagram.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

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.