Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Bittercube Opening in Uptown Neighborhood

Developer Ryan Pattee brings bitters manufacturer to west side neighborhood.

By - Oct 26th, 2018 03:11 pm
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Bittercube's boutique shop at 4828 W. Lisbon Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene

Bittercube’s boutique shop at 4828 W. Lisbon Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene

Artisanal, craft and cocktails are all not words commonly associated with Milwaukee’s Uptown Crossing neighborhood. But that’s exactly what’s coming to the west side area.

Long an overlooked portion of the city, the neighborhood’s name is derived from its location at the highly trafficked intersection of W. Lisbon Ave., W. North Ave. and Highway 175.

The area is seeing a wave of investment due to a confluence of factors. Town Bank has planted roots in the neighborhood with a new bank branch, investment is moving east from nearby Wauwatosa, developers are looking for buildings with good bones and potential for redevelopment and an active business improvement district and alderman are pulling all the levers they can to bring in new tenants.

Bittercube, an artisanal manufacturer of bitters for cocktails, will open a manufacturing facility and tasting room in a one-story building most recently used as a warehouse at 4828 W. Lisbon Ave. The move represents a significant expansion of the company’s operations that are currently housed in the Lincoln Warehouse in Bay View. The firm, founded in 2009, is led by Nick Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz.

Developer Ryan Pattee purchased the 8,676-square-foot building from the city in 2016 for $30,000. The place wasn’t in great shape, as Patte told Urban Milwaukee: “The building was missing a portion of its ceiling, and the basement was a small lake.” City records indicate it was used as a daycare center prior to being acquired in property tax foreclosure.

Pattee’s firm repaired the building and leased space temporarily for storage and distribution to a variety of firms, including motorcycle manufacturer Royal Enfield. Pattee Group junior partner Brennan Balistrieri learned that Bittercube was looking to expand and set about courting the firm.

The Pattee Group ultimately invested more than $300,000 in the property, coupled with a substantial investment from Bittercube, to create a retail store known as The Bazaar, a tasting room, a suite of offices and a manufacturing space. Town Bank, which opened a new branch a few doors south in 2017, financed the deal for Bittercube.

The city contributed a $5,000 facade grant and $25,000 whitebox grant to support the build out. Pattee praised Uptown Crossing business improvement district board member and Town Bank executive Ranell Washington and area Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II for their support of the project.

Pattee led Urban Milwaukee on a tour through the building twice, once in late June when the project was still highly conceptual, and Friday morning as Bittercube was preparing to open. The building has been completely transformed in that time. A big, empty room in the rear of the building has been divided into a series of spaces containing a walk-in cooler, fire safe storage rooms and a large, food-safe manufacturing space. The tasting room and store at the front of the space have a finely-honed design aesthetic that mixes the softness of wood with the exposed ductwork in the ceilings.

A parking lot along the building’s north side is envisioned as an outdoor patio. Pattee said he hopes to overhaul that space next spring.

The project looks to be another feather in Pattee’s cap. In recent years the Pattee Group has completed projects in Clarke Square, Walker’s Point and Washington Heights. The firm is now advancing a project along W. Historic Mitchell St. When asked about his future plans, Pattee, one of a handful of developers doing small projects across the city, said: “I would love to do it again in this neighborhood.”

Bittercube’s Journey

In an interview, Bittercube co-founder Ira Koplowitz told Urban Milwaukee why his company decided to relocate. “We had outgrown our space in Bay View and were looking for more room, as well as looking for the ability to have a tasting room and have retail,” he said. “We found this building and it was a perfect size for our expansion… It just felt right.” Koplowitz said the company has 16 employees in Milwaukee, with business partner Nick Kosevich and a handful of other employees based out of Minneapolis.

“We’re really excited to showcase everything bitter cube has to offer,” said Koplowitz. The tasting room will allow Bittercube to show off its bitters, tonics and elixirs. With a liquor license, Bittercube will offer both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

The tasting room will be open every Thursday from 5 p.m. until 12 a.m., Friday until 1 a.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. “Starting next year we’ll have cocktail classes and cocktail experiences on Saturday during the day,” said Koplowitz. The tasting room will also be open every Sunday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The Bazaar, the retail shop at the front of the space, will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. The shop is intended to serve bartenders and home cocktail aficionados.

A grand opening celebration is planned for Saturday from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. If you’re coming, don’t be intimidated by the lack of an exterior sign, that’s still to come.

Uptown Crossing Changes

Beyond Bittercube and Town Bank, a number of new businesses have opened in the area. Vennture Brew Company owned a coffee shop and brewery at 5519 W. North Ave. earlier this year and Scene 1, a restaurant and lounge, opened at 5526 W. North Ave. in 2016. The owner of longtime neighborhood stalwart McBob’s is planning a second restaurant, Tusk, at 4919 W. North Ave. A new restaurant is also in the works for the building immediately north of Bittercube.

The city also led a planning process to select a new design for the end of the Highway 175 freeway. This would require support from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation before being implemented, and envisions turning the freeway ramps into a boulevard before the intersection with W. Lisbon Ave. and W. North Ave.

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