Seeing East Tosa success, ‘Mid Town’ seeks its own brand

A mock-up gives an idea of what North Avenue might look like with “Mid Town” banners, which have not yet been designed or decided on. Image submitted by Alderman Jeff Roznowski.

A mock-up gives an idea of what North Avenue might look like with “Mid Town” banners, which have not yet been designed or decided on. Image submitted by Alderman Jeff Roznowski.

June 25, 2015

Under East Tosa banners from 60th to 76th street on North Avenue, vacant buildings have been scooped up left and right as restaurants, bars and retailers covet the drag.

Just last week in East Tosa, Indulgence Chocolatiers and Tosa Bowl and Bun celebrated openings, while Benji's Deli announced plans to start its third location in the area.

Having watched the success of the eastern end of North Avenue, Alderman Jeff Roznowski said he and other alders are hoping to extend the high energy west to an area they would like to brand as "Mid Town." It includes about 50 businesses west of East Tosa on North Avenue.

"A lot of this is motivated by what they have done. They're setting the example," Roznowski said. "We are learning what we can emulate and how we can be unique."

Roznowski said many Mid Town businesses are now exploring how they might organize, whether it be as a business improvement district like the Village, or more likely as something less formal like the East Tosa Alliance. The goals include addressing traffic and safety issues, organizing community events, and collaborating on marketing.

Medical and retail center

As Mid Town looks to establish its own identity, the group may seek to highlight its focus on wellness. Located near the Milwaukee Regional Medical Campus, about a quarter of the businesses in the Mid Town corridor are health-related, Roznowski said.

The common interest in health issues could play into community events like a wellness fair, and drive a focus on bicycle and pedestrian accessibility. The group has already been weighing in on a traffic study of North Avenue by Ayres and Associates.

Being close to Mayfair mall, retail is also a natural focus. Cindy Seemann, owner of Design Vision Optical, said she hopes Mid Town can find ways to benefit from excitement around Mayfair as it opens new stores like Nordstrom and the Container Store.

"We want those people to spend their money at Mayfair, but also Midtown, and we need to give them a reason for that," Seemann said. "And we want to be that gateway to East Town and help our neighbor."

By building on each other's successes, Seemann said she hopes businesses will find more ways to give back to the community.

"By getting us all together, we can support each other and become stronger businesses, and then you have more resources to support your community," Seemann said. "A lot of our business comes from within a several-mile radius so we need to give back to citizens of Wauwatosa."

Plans for outdoor movie

Hoping to get collaborations rolling in Mid Town, Tosa Pediatrics owner Tim Richer is planning an outdoor movie night in his parking lot, 8651 W. North Ave., about 8 p.m. (or when it gets dark) July 16. The movie, "Cars," is open to the public, not just patients.

After emailing other Mid Town businesses about the event earlier this week, Richer said several owners responded the same afternoon with ideas to tie in their own promotions with the movie. Details about the event will be available on fliers at Tosa Pediatrics and Ruckus & Glee, and online on the Facebook page for Ruckus & Glee.

Richer, whose business has been in Wauwatosa for 10 years, said he hopes the event is the first of many to draw attention the area.

"I grew up on 89th and Clarke and even I, sometimes when I'm walking down the street, I'm like 'I didn't know that was there,'" Richer said. "This is an opportunity for people to see your places and learn what you're all about, and get to know your neighbors and clientele better. I think we stand a better chance of doing that when we do it together."

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