The Stone gets polished up - but not too much
It's easy to drive by The Stone, 2422 S. Howell Ave., and not even know it's there, especially considering it doesn't have an exterior sign and it's a bit off the beaten path of the unofficial Kinnickinnic-based Bay View bar district.
However, we finally found our way through the door this weekend and are really glad that we did. The down-to-earth Stone reminded us a bit of the East Side's Wolski's and Riverwest's Uptowner – but with more beer selections and bottomless baskets of free peanuts.
During our recent visit, we had a couple of drinks with co-owners Shawn Leet and Kristin Pochowski and their social media-helper / friend, Erik Kirkstein.
Leet opened the bar in 1997 with his father, who passed away in 1999. The two men bought the building in 1996, the Tuesday before the Packers won the Super Bowl, but decided to take time to remodel the space when they learned the street would be under construction for most of the year.
Fast forward 18 years later to 2014, and it's time for another remodel.
Nothing major will change, but Pochowski says they plan to add fresh coats of paint in new colors, an exterior sign, English dart leagues (they recently got dart boards) and a shuttle called The Rolling Stone, which actually debuted last year for Summerfest but, this year, will also transport people to and from Brewers games.
Currently, Kirkstein says the vehicle is in the process of "looking more like a rolling stone" and will be ready to roll by Opening Day.
"It's also available for rentals – bachelor and bachelorette parties," says Pochowski.
The bar's name came from a contest that Leet and his father held in the neighborhood before the place opened. He says they received about 200 name suggestions, but most were unusable.
"We got names like 'Packer Backer Bar' and 'Bar Next Door' – sorry to anyone who was around back then and might have suggested those names – but there was only one name that worked for us," says Leet.
The suggestion was actually The Stepping Stone, which was originally the name of the bar. Over time, however, the customers organically shortened it to The Stone.
"It's easier to say, especially if you've been drinking," says Leet.
Pochowski and Leet – who are engaged and have a 2-year-old son – have lived in Bay View for a long time and watched it change over the years.
"The neighborhood has gotten a lot better," says Leet. "Now it's an economically viable business district, but 15-16 years ago, it was quite different."
Kirkstein says The Stone has managed to merge the old Bay View with the new.
"It's an intersection of the neighborhood's traditional working class mixed with a younger crowd," he says. "It's really a microcosm of the neighborhood."
The beer selection is one of The Stone's biggest assets. It features 21 beers on tap – many of which rotate – and about 110-130 bottles in coolers. Leet pays special attention to seasonal beers and, consequently, had 10-12 different Ocktoberfests available in the fall. He currently offers a nice selection of winter beers along with many others.
"Come for the beer, stay for the awesome peanuts," he jokes.
The Stone's happy hour is daily from 4 to 9 p.m. and offers two-for-one tap beers.
"People can come in and try a bunch of different beers and don't have to spend $100," says Kirkstein.
"Of course we don't discourage them from doing so, though," says Leet.
Leet hopes to someday offer more food options, but for now, he is satisfied with what they already have going on at The Stone. On a recent Friday night, it was crowded by 7 p.m. and there was warm, kind buzz about a group of friends coming to celebrate the life of one woman's mother who had recently passed.
"People seem to like it here. They hang out for a long time," Leet says.
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