Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Urbal Tea Opens Cafe On South Side

Health-focused cafe in transformed building located on revived commercial strip.

By - Jul 20th, 2021 09:56 am
Urbal Tea. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Urbal Tea. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A new cafe is open in Milwaukee’s “Crisol Corridor” with hopes of creating a new neighborhood anchor.

On Monday morning, Urbal Tea opened its first cafe at 3060 S. 13th St. The location is just north of Oklahoma and on the redeveloping strip from S. 13th Street from Cleveland to Morgan Avenues which was dubbed Crisol Corridor in 2015, boosted by a Business Improvement District (BID) that was formed.

The cafe’s opening marks the continued growth of the Milwaukee business. Owner Nick Nowaczyk started the company as a side business selling at farmers markets nearly a decade ago, made the jump to being a full-time entrepreneur serving wholesale customers in 2016 and now has his first cafe and dedicated manufacturing facility.

“We are creating really unique offerings and they are made on site fresh,” said Nowaczyk during an interview after he joined with Mayor Tom Barrett , area Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and Crisol Corridor BID director Leif Otteson for a ribbon cutting.

The 2,000-square-foot cafe, which serves air roasted coffee and pastries in addition to house-made tea, features a variety of seating options and free WiFi. Nowaczyk said he hopes the welcoming environment draws people in from the surrounding Polonia neighborhood and the whole Milwaukee area.

“It’s about making this neighborhood better, improving the community,” said Nowaczyk. The cafe’s name is a play on the words urban and herbal. “This is an area that I think is up and coming.”

Urbal Tea occupies a building that was acquired by the city through property tax foreclosure in 2016 and had holes in the roof by the time Nowaczyk got involved. In 2019, when the sale was approved, neighboring Alderman Jose G. Perez said the property was blighted and neighbors wanted to see something happen. Built in 1922, it was last occupied by the nightclub Lex Lounge.

The property was redeveloped by Ryan Pattee, who has made a specialty of transformed city-owned, dilapidated buildings. Pattee Group, with support from an approximately $60,000 city grant, invested $175,000 in the property’s renovation. His company paid the city $45,000 for the two-story building. Windows were added, restrooms updated, a new bar installed and a fully-accessible entrance created.

The cafe’s opening was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Nowaczyk and his wife Lisa lived for a time in the four-bedroom apartment on the building’s second floor. The couple has now moved out, buying a home in a nearby neighborhood.

Nowaczyk received certification as a master herbalist at the Wildwood Institute in Madison. “You are just trying to create healthy, alternative beverages,” said Nowaczyk. “But for me, it was always ‘I love alternative medicine, but a lot of these beverages taste like dirt.'”

The menu currently focuses on on-tap, iced teas with Blood Orange, Brain Booster and Peachy Keen available. The drinks are made without sugar, but patrons can request they be sweetened.

Nowaczyk said he hopes the place becomes a neighborhood hub. “There is really nowhere to just come in and hang out,” he said as he described a series of sit-down restaurants and stores in the area.

Customers sitting in the cafe can see through a window to watch the production process in action. The business currently has two full-time employees and five part-time employees with plans to grow.

Urbal Tea is currently open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. UPDATE: After publication the business expanded to offering the same hours on Saturday and Sunday.

In addition to the cafe, Urbal Tea’s bagged teas are self-distributed to wholesale customers including Sendik’s Food Markets and Beans & Barley.

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