Last post I wrote about a local amazing store called oniomania that I had recently visited. While writing about that specific store and all the wonderful gifts they have, I got a great idea. One of the best gifts you can give is the gift of experience!
How do you give the gift of experience? Think of places you have just fallen in love with. In our city of West Allis, there are many local businesses that fit that description. With all of the hard times businesses are facing, why not give the gift of an experience at a local business?
There are so many ways to celebrate with friends while supporting local businesses. Margie and I love stopping at Westallion, the local brewery, to enjoy some very festive and unique brews. We often visit there with friends and family. West Allis Cheese and Sausage is a great place to not only take friends for breakfast or lunch, but has a great little store filled with delicious gifts to feed the stomach and the soul. For our more active friends we have Transaction Skate Shop, filled with everything you could need for skating.
If you can’t support a local business in person during the busy holiday season, why not purchase gift cards to give to others? You will be both giving the gift of a great experience to someone you care about, but giving the gift of a great holiday to local business owners and your neighbors they employ. The possibilities are endless! We have great places to eat such as Urban Joe Cafe and Peanut Butter and Jelly Deli, plus places to work it off like Peak Physique. Giving the gift of a great meal or cup of coffee? How about the gift of health and fitness? All well helping the business owners, their employees and all of their families enjoy the holidays more? It is a win for everyone!
Most times in our household when the question comes up, “What do you want to do for dinner?” my quick answer is “Pizza!” To me, a bad pizza is still a better dinner than one without a pizza. My first choice, of course, would be to enjoy some of my lovely lady’s culinary creations, but if the question is asked, chances are we are going to go out. In most households, pizza, burgers or something similar is usually a quick answer.
This past Monday evening, after having put a new battery in my car, I was keen to try something different. In most towns there are plenty of wonderful independent restaurants that deserve your patronage. Especially during these tough times with the pandemic, I encourage everyone to support such places as you are able and feel comfortable doing. In our small town of West Allis, Margie and I love to frequent locally owned establishments. We stop for coffee and breakfast at Urban Joe’s Cafe and visit our wonderful friend Curtis. If we feel like a beer we head to Westallion Brewery, where our friend Kim can be found serving some of their wonderfully created in house beers.
This night we wanted to not only support a local business, but try something fun and unique. We decided to visit a local Peruvian restaurant called Chef Paz. We see on social media that the establishment as well as the owner is very involved in the community and we like to see that. When you walk in Chef Paz you will notice the cozy and quaint feel of the place. The decorations are fun and you do not have to wait to be greeted. On this night it happened to be quite cold and the gentleman working even turned on a small heater by our table to make it more comfortable for us. This made us feel valued. There was even a fun little sign on the table letting you know it had been cleaned. We felt it necessary to use it as a photo prop.
As food from the wonderful nation of Peru is not something we normally enjoy, we found the options and flavors wonderful. This isn’t one of my food reviews so I will not get into great detail about the dishes we chose, other than to say they were delicious. What I will tell you is that it was fun to take our taste buds on a little journey. It may be difficult to travel these days, but you can explore some of the culture of different places through their food. Trying new dishes and local places is a great way to add a little variety into your life. Here in West Allis, winter is setting in and it is the perfect time to find and explore new joys with the ones you care about.
Another great thing about giving your business to locally owned establishments is the pride and care they show when dealing with their customers. You could really tell Raul, the gentleman who helped us this evening, was dedicated to that goal. He explained the flavor of lots of the dishes and even made a few recommendations. To him, we were just not another table. To locally owned businesses you are guests and supporters. The service we received at Chef Paz was friendly and welcoming.
We ended our evening enjoying some delicious rice pudding for dessert. There are certainly more dishes we would love to try and will return again another evening. Leaving Chef Paz that evening, we felt good about supporting a wonderful local business. We also felt like, if for just a moment, we escaped the cold confines of West Allis and found ourselves in the city limits of Lima, Peru. I encourage you to explore local shops and restaurants in your community. They will appreciate your business during these trying times, and you will enjoy being treated like a valued customer.
Let us talk grocery shopping, shall we? Usually, my grocery shopping will find me in such stores as Meijer or now Aldi as Margie has become a huge fan. I look at the ads or the app to see what is on sale. Often, when I am at the store I compare brands and prices to find the best deals. I imagine that is not that much different than what happens in most households on grocery shopping day.
Then there is once a month that all of that is thrown out the window. Once a month I visit two local stores to do a little grocery shopping. The selection there is smaller and the prices tend to be a little higher. What might cost you one price at the larger chains may cost you a few cents to a dollar more at these locations. In addition, you have less items to select from. You might have 7 flavors and 6 brands of oatmeal at the large stores and only 4 flavors and two brands to choose from here. Both stores do have specials that tend to be very good deals to take advantage of, but as a general shopping experience you would say yourself some change at the larger chains. So why do it? Why would someone who searches out the best deals and coupons willingly shop somewhere with less selection and higher prices? Let us look at each store individually and examine why.
The first is Piggly Wiggly. It is a national chain that has 530 stores in 17 states. This is according to their website. I have not personally visited all of them. The local store here, however, does a good deal to benefit the community. I am not sure as to what extent they do that today, but I recall selling hot dogs there to raise money for the West Allis Charities. Another great thing about this store for me is the memories. Both of my grandparents shopped there. I recall going there as a young child and learning all about the joys of not only shopping but cooking and food in general.There are a few unique products here that you can find nowhere else. They also have a mascot of sorts, Mr. Pig, who always seems to be in a great mood. They also feature fun logo products with his likeness on it. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a smiling pig?
The second store is Rupena’s Fine Foods. Located a mere 10 city blocks from my house. Again, here the prices seem to be a tad higher and due to a small store size and limited shelf space, selection can be small. What makes this store great? Once again, community involvement. Not only do they have a stand at our state fair that serves amazing deep-fried stuffing balls, although sadly I heard that may end, they are often seen throughout the community. Another thing that makes this store stand out is its quality. Their deli and meat department are some of the best in the city. When cooking a meal for the ones you love, quality can mean a lot more than saving a dollar or two. They also have custom seasonings that add a little something special to any dish. My favorite thing about shopping at Rupena’s Fine Foods is the atmosphere. From the second you enter the store you are taken back in time. Back to a day when you knew the neighbors that you met in the grocery store. Back when cashiers not only made eye contact with you, but they engaged in meaningful conversation as well. For most of us these are things of the past but a quick visit to Rupena’s and you will find they are still alive and well.
A thing these two stores have in common other than logos featuring very happy members of the pig family, is they are brick and mortar places that provide good jobs to people in the community. They offer an alternative to the big box grocery stores. They offer a shopping experience where you feel like a valued customer and not just another number in the bottom line. If quality products and community involved businesses are important to you, than you owe it to your city to shop at places like this. You do not have to do so every trip, but at least once a month or so you should. The extra dollars you spend there are not just helping those employees that work there, but helping the community as a whole. Through the events they sponsor, the storefronts they keep filled and the sense of community they provide. Those extra dollars are not just an expense, they are an investment.
Above is a picture of the local diner named Michaels Family Restaurant. Nestled in the fabulous community of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. This is not so much a food review as it is a value review. Michaels is, as the name suggests, a warm and friendly family restaurant. As my lovely Margie enjoyed a well-deserved weekend away with her daughter, I took my mom out to breakfast here. Although our hostess was a tad sunshine challenged, our waitress, Julie, could not have been more friendly and helpful. What makes this place a destination I feel compelled to write about is the local aspect at work. In an age where Wendy’s has recently joined McDonald’s and Taco Bell to start serving breakfast, it is far too easy to make our morning meal an after thought of something we do along the way. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. As I write this I just enjoyed a ham and swiss sandwich at Starbucks. This might be good for being both efficient and productive, but does not give us an amazing life. Yes, being efficient and productive can be part of an amazing life but at the sacrifice of being present, it can leave us wondering what happened to the morning. In this post I am going to advocate taking at least a few morning to sit down and enjoy a breakfast without being rushed. Why do it at a place like Michael’s? I will give you a few good reasons. First, this place is a great value. Virtually the same price you would pay for some reheated breakfast sandwich at a chain or fast food place, you can get a warm, home-cooked meal served to you by one of your smiling neighbors. That leads us to the second reason to visit Michael’s Family Restaurant in the morning, it is supporting a local business. There are plenty of opportunities for you to save a few cents here and there by giving business to the chain establishments. That is ok too as they employ a lot of our friends and family. That being said, there is something special about a locally-owned family restaurant that has been there for over 30 years. Some of my first memories include going there with my grandfather when I was young. He understood the importance of supporting a local business and seems to still be teaching me long after his passing. I have enjoyed several mornings catching up over breakfast with Margie, the love of my life, as well. All the way up to yesterday when my mother and I shared a nice meal to start the day.
You can make memories in a chain restaurant or even running around trying to accomplish everything on your to do list but you deserve to give yourself a few minutes at a local establishment supporting your neighbors while enjoying their company. If you are in West Allis Wisconsin, I recommend stopping by Michael’s Family Restaurant. If breakfast isn’t really your thing, that’s ok. They also serve lunch and dinner with the same warm community spirit. Unable to make to the fine city that I live in? That’s ok too. Find a local restaurant in your neighborhood and enjoy some time with those you love.
Here is a snapshot of a festival in my city of West Allis Wisconsin. As you can see it is a street festival where a lot of people, and dogs, came out to enjoy the nice weather. It not only was a great chance to find some good deals and enjoy some great food and refreshments, but to get to know some of our neighbors as well. We had the great pleasure of running into friends we already knew including our friend Curtis and his wife Dani (not to mention their charming son and fun-loving dog) and our friend Regina, but we also had a chance to meet some new neighbors. There were new business we had not stepped foot in that we got to see. There were also several stands we enjoyed such as a food vendor named Pigtailz and a business that sold specialty rice krispy treats. The point here is that it not only gave us a great time but lead us to developing closer ties with many in our community. I recommend attending such festivals in your neighborhood. If they do not exist, encourage leaders and business owners to start one. If you have the chance not only get to know but support local businesses when you can. It not only helps them make a living, it also gives them a sense of pride and strengthens your community. As far as that goes, I am very excited for the steps forward my community of West Allis has taken recently and is poised to take in the future and I am going to do my best to continue to be a part of that.
By clicking on the link that follows, you will be able to read my review on Chow Down in Milwaukee of a hidden culinary jewel located just blocks from my house. If you enjoy an airy and sunny atmosphere, amazing food crafted from local, quality ingredients you owe it to yourself to read this review!
Would you like to know of a local establishment that sells not only the largest variety of select local food and can ship your purchases to all 50 states? Then you need to read this review!
Do you enjoy patronizing an establishment where you know the owners are involved in giving back to and promoting the community? Then please, read this review and you will find a place that does all of this and more.
Your taste buds will thank you. Your friends and loved ones you give gifts to will thank you. Most importantly, you will be helping local businesses and the community. Click on the link below and you will be let in on one of the greatest dining secrets in West Allis!
Here is a picture of the local July 4th celebration in West Allis Wisconsin, where I live. I believe the group is called ‘The dancing Grannies’. I think it is awesome that seniors continue to be active and it was even better to hear people applaud and cheer for them as they went by. In this country July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day, or the day in which this country began its self-rule.
Here is me enjoying the parade with my mother and her husband. I had such a good time and do not remember enjoying a parade that much since I was a child. It got me thinking about individual freedoms we either take for granted or choose not to take advantage of. Such as who we share our time with. Ideally, this picture would have included my lovely Margie, not only would that have added to the joy I was feeling, it would have added beauty to the picture as well. Alas, she was not able to join us due to prior obligations. I could have watched the parade by myself, or even with any of the great friends I ran into. I chose to watch it with my mother because lately we have been going for walks in nature and sharing some great conversation and fun times. The freedom of who to spend your time with is a very important one to exercise.
Here are pictures of the food truck and the tasty treats that I enjoyed from it. Do you realize how many more options we have when it comes to what we eat? Only 100 years ago small local grocery stores carried a handful of options. Now, we have stores that have thousands of items to choose from. Some from halfway around the world! We can choose to eat healthy or we can choose to eat…well…pizza. Even when cooking at home recipes and even videos guiding us through how to make exotic dishes are at our fingertips.
These are pictures of the party they held at a local park after the parade. There were things to eat as you saw in the above paragraph, as well as a band, children’s games and beverages. This brought up one of the most important freedoms of all. In a world that has headlines dominated by terrorism, racism, hate and violence, a lot of people are afraid to walk the street. Sadly, that is exactly what those committing violent crimes wish for. It is my belief that one of the best ways to combat a world that seems filled with division is to get out and meet your neighbors. Holiday celebrations are a perfect place to do so. On this day I met great neighbors such as Kristin, the mayor of our fine city, my neighbor Dan and lots of others. Do yourself a favor. As you are enjoying that hamburger, sweet corn or even that frosty beverage, take a second to introduce yourself to neighbors. If you happen to see Margie and me out enjoying the holidays, feel free to introduce yourself to us.