It takes little more than a drive past the Mayfair Collection to see that something has changed. The signs which once market the locations for AJ Bombers and Smoke Shack are no longer visible, marking yet two more casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was big news when the restaurants opened in late 2016. They were part of a Hospitality Democracy trilogy – AJ Bombers, Holey Moley Doughnuts + Coffee and Smoke Shack – which generated excitement in the Wauwatosa area, bringing a taste of Downtown and the Third Ward to the near Western suburbs.
Holey Moley's location at the Mayfair Collection closed in 2018, in part to make room for an expansion of AJ Bombers. But not two years later, both the burger & custard slinging AJ Bombers and smoked meat-filled Smoke Shack Express have followed, a sign of the hard times being felt by restaurants across the nation.
"It was a very difficult decision for us to close our AJ Bombers and Smoke Shack locations at the Mayfair Collection," says Vice President of Operations, Chris Adams. "The Mayfair Collection has been an incredible partner for us since we opened our spaces there in 2016. We are grateful we were able to serve the Wauwatosa community in addition to downtown Milwaukee."
Unfortunately, operating restaurants in 2020 has posed a unique set of challenges for restaurants, even those with multiple locations throughout the city.
"We’ve had to make tough, strategic decisions for our businesses during these unprecedented times and the wellbeing of our Mayfair team was a top priority during the changes," says Adams of the closing.
"With the strong support we are seeing from patrons for dine-in, patio and carryout at our downtown restaurants, we were able to offer alternative positions to our Mayfair staff at AJ Bombers and Smoke Shack downtown. We’re proud of the communities we’ve built at AJ Bombers and Smoke Shack and we’ll continue to serve delicious burgers and BBQ in Milwaukee."
AJ Bombers (1247 N. Water St.), Holey Moley Doughnuts + Coffee (316 N. Milwaukee St.) and Smoke Shack (332 N. Milwaukee St.) remain open for business.
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.