Construction has begun on an historic cream city brick property at 234 E. Vine St. in Brewers Hill that will eventually house both a restaurant and a lifestyle boutique.
The property, which was built in 1902, was originally a tied-house owned by Miller Brewing Company. It made the rounds – being sold to both Pabst and Blatz brewing companies – before becoming a privately owned property. At one point – though not recently – it housed a bar called The Party House Inn.
The project, which will incorporate two distinct but intertwined concepts – Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern and Orange and Blue Co. – is being undertaken by Whitney and Wolfgang Schaefer, a husband and wife team that purchased the property this past fall.
Wolfgang, who grew up in the Milwaukee area, is currently the Director of Education at Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co. Whitney is an artist who worked as the coordinator for the Kohl’s Color Wheels Program at the Milwaukee Art Museum until this past May.
"I’ve been thinking about Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern as a concept for almost a decade," notes Wolfgang. "I hoped for it, I talked about it. And the question always was when are you going to pull the trigger?"
Meanwhile, Whitney was stoking a similar dream: to own her own shop.
"Eventually," she says, "we came to a point where we thought, ‘Why can’t we take both of the things we want to do and marry them together?'"
Whitney launched Orange and Blue Co., a shop specializing in a curated mix of vintage and modern home goods and apparel, with her business partner Anne Madison earlier this month. She says the hope is that the brick and mortar version of the shop will open in the northern portion of the building as soon as October.
Meanwhile, Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern, a restaurant that will focus on simple but high-quality diner-style fare, is on the docket for an opening in 2017.
"I’ve always been obsessed with breakfast," says Wolfgang. "It’s food I’ve always gravitated toward and that I enjoy making for other people."
Although fine details of the concept are still in flux, Wolfgang says he’s certain about a number of elements.
"We’ll have a core menu, plus specials that change – with the seasons, with our mood," he says. "I also like the family style of brunching. So there will be things like pancake casseroles and bacon pies, larger-format items that can be shared."
Another staple on the menu, he says, will be the BELTCH, a breakfast sandwich made with bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato and cheese.
"One of the things that has made me the most confident about opening a restaurant has been peoples’ response to the sandwich when I make it for them," he remarks.
Whitney nods. "That sandwich is why I married him and gave him a son," she says.
As for the tavern aspect of the space, Wolfgang says he’s never wanted to open a bar, but always wanted to own a place that served beer. And for him, the notion of breakfast and beer have always been intertwined.
"At that juncture where you begin to know your parents as human beings, my dad taught me that beer goes with breakfast," he says. "And from there, it was always this sort of marriage for me between eggs and beer."
The couple, who have been referring to the dual concept as their "urban Cracker Barrel," note that, although the concepts will each be distinct, they will also coexist synergistically.
"Ryan Strycker of Vision Design is handling the design for the space," says Wolfgang. "But Orange and Blue will take a strong role in the decor, from the place settings to linens and the furniture."
"Ultimately, there will be a flow between the two spaces," Whitney adds, "and a large selection of items – including furniture, plates and linens in the restaurant – will be for sale."
In the end, the Schaefers note, the concept will be classy and fun.
"I love the social aspect, and the idea of feeding people," says Wolfgang. "And this is about creating a place that has the kind of food I love and is the kind of place I’d love to hang out."
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.