Jeramey Jannene

Pepper Pot Coming to Harambee

City panel okays sale of building. MLK Dr. location the second for restaurateur Dwight Jackson.

By - May 1st, 2019 11:40 am
Dwight Jackson presents his plans to the Common Council's Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. Image from City Channel.

Dwight Jackson presents his plans to the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. Image from City Channel.

Dwight Jackson‘s plan to open a new location for his Jamaican restaurant Pepper Pot at 2543-47 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. drew enthusiastic support from members of the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee Tuesday morning.

Jackson was before the committee to secure approval to purchase a city-owned, vacant building for $1. But that’s the easy part. Next Jackson plans to invest approximately $900,000 into the two-story property to rehab two apartments, build out a space for his catering operation and open a sit-down restaurant.

“It will bring new life to a building that would have otherwise been demolished,” said King Drive Business Improvement District Executive Director Deshea Agee.

Agee said one of his goals as part of a vision to create the best King Drive in the country has been to bring more restaurants to the commercial corridor. “The only way to do that is to identify businesses that are here and want a second location, or find entrepreneurs,” said Agee.

Jackson fits both descriptions. He started cooking out of his house in 2004, which served as an informal restaurant. He told the committee he quickly found he was making more cooking his signature jerk chicken rolls one day a week than he was at his printing job in West Bend. Customers included council members Khalif Rainey and Milele A. Coggs, who both spoke of the good food and long lines Jackson was drawing during the land sale hearing.

That success led to opening a catering kitchen and carryout counter at 4120 W. Capitol Dr. in 2014. Jackson said he will maintain that location in Rainey’s district, while opening the new location in Coggs’ district.

“We want people to come and sit and eat and experience some Jamaican flavor,” said Jackson. Agree credits former Milwaukee Urban League president Ralph Hollmon with making the connection to Jackson.

Coggs told her fellow committee members that Pepper Pot is certain to be a success. “Out of 900 MLK Drives in the nation, I challenge you to find one better than what we have and what we continue to build,” said Coggs.

Jackson’s project beat out a competing proposal for the building by developer Lavelle Young. “Both proposals were very good,” said Department of City Development real estate specialist Matt Haessly in the report.

Jackson will be pursuing a liquor license for the new location. The land sale report states that Jackson will operate the restaurant from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. “The restaurant will offer or celebrate unique Jamaican traditions and customs such as island-style brunches, Jamaican festivals and holiday celebrations,” writes Haessley in the report. Jackson intends to employ 12 full-time and 8 part-time employees within five years according to the report.

For more on the proposal see our coverage from last week. The land sale will be considered by the Common Council on May 7th.

About the Building

The city acquired the 6,000-square-foot parcel through property tax foreclosure in October 2017. The building, judging by a condition report, has seen better days. Photos in a May 2018 report show a sizable hole in the floor, a damaged ceiling and walls stripped to the studs. It was assessed for $133,200 in 2017.

According to city assessment records, the building was built in 1927 and contains 7,881 square feet of space spread over two floors. The upper floor will be redeveloped into two apartments and office space for the catering operation. A rooftop deck for the restaurant is planned for the rear of the building.

The two-stall commercial building could accommodate two retailers and has seen a lot of uses in its nearly 100 years of life according to a historical land use report compiled prior to the city listing the building for sale. The retail storefronts have been used to sell bicycles, groceries, ceramics, enamel, leather goods, lamps and tavern furniture. It’s served as a home for Little Mother’s Shop as well as The Grand Barber Shop and Kromah African Hair Braiding. A small garage at the rear at the site was once used as an auto repair shop.

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Related Legislation: File 190055

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