A WEST ALLIS HIDDEN GEM

Do you enjoy a great coffee shop? Maybe a cafe with healthy and delicious food is more your thing? Are you looking for a relaxing place with craft beer and hand-crafted cocktails?

What if I told you there was a place you could find all of these under one roof and they would all be served with the most amazing customer service?

This does exist and you can find it closer than you think. Click the link below to read my review of one of the most unique and amazing places I have reviewed yet!

CLICK HERE TO DISCOVER YOUR NEXT FAVORITE PLACE

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?


I have always been a big fan of Mr. Rogers as most of you know. I find his teachings of personal and relational fundamentals good for both children and adults. Another thing I enjoyed about that television show was the neighborhood. Not only did most of the people make an effort to get to know each other, but they seemed to work even harder at treating each other with kindness, dignity and respect. One couldn’t help to walk away from an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood without thinking how great it would be to live in a neighborhood like that.
Whether you were watching that show, Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet or countless others where they left their doors unlocked and people regularly greeted each other in passing on the street or in the grocery store, you couldn’t help but feel a little sense of envy. I am sure we all wished we lived in communities like this. The problem is short of moving every couple of years to stay ahead of the spread of crime and anonymity would be difficult to do from a financial standpoint. What other solutions are there? I always strongly advocate doing our best personally to make our neighborhoods better. That means working to get to know your neighbors. Be helpful and friendly when the opportunities present themselves. Be a part of the solution instead of the problem.
Still, individual efforts can only take us so far. Wouldn’t it be great if these individuals had a place to gather and work together to transform their neighborhoods into something better? I am here to tell you there is and they are called – Neighborhood Associations. In West Allis Wisconsin where I live we have a few of them. I proudly belong to one called the East Allis Neighborhood Association. There will be more information on how to join this fabulous group in a moment. First let me tell a little bit more about Neighborhood Associations.
A Neighborhood Association is a group of neighbors who get together to share their ideas, thoughts, feelings and work cooperatively to make their neighborhood a better place to live and work. In the specific example of the East Allis Neighborhood Association, they recently transformed a plot of land into a butterfly garden. This not only improved aesthetics of the neighborhood, but give a home to all-important pollinators. This spring they worked with another group to hold an Easter egg hunt at a local park. It gave the children a safe and enjoyable outing and allowed the parents to meet and develop a sense of community.
This Neighborhood Association is a not-for-profit organization run by residents and business volunteers only. The dues and donations help fund events and projects, like the ones mentioned above and so many more, to better the neighborhood and community. How much are the dues to be a part of this great solution to help make our neighborhoods a better place for all of us? They are a mere $10 for residents and $20 for businesses a year! What a better way to show both your neighbors and your customers that you care for the community you are in and want to work to make it even better?
If you want more information on joining this fabulous group feel free to email them at EANAWestAllis@gmail.com or call Robin at (414) 617-8357 or Jon at (414) 430-0282. If your neighborhood does not have an Association, perhaps talking to neighbors and setting one up could help improve your community. Personally, I am both happy and proud to belong to an organization the provides so many ways to volunteer and improve your community.

LOVE YOUR CITY, LOVE YOUR LIFE

I am always on the lookout for ways to promote the great city I live in. Most of us can be unaware of many of the great things the cities we live in offer. The news and social media may highlight areas that need improving, but if you dig just a little bit deeper you will find a host of reasons to love your city. I am going to show you how to capture these as well as how to use them to create fun and exciting moments with your family. Further more we are going to look at how doing this can transform other areas of your life as well.

The above picture was taken at an event called Beecher Street Bash. The event is held in my hometown of West Allis Wisconsin. The event was created by a gentleman named Mark Lutz. Mark owns a business called West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shoppe. For those of you who read my food reviews on Chow Down in Milwaukee you already know what a wonderful place this is. For those of you who might have missed it, let me assure you if you are looking for a great place for brunch or to pick up some locally produced gifts for others or yourself you would be hard-pressed to find a better location.

Once a year Mark, along with the other business owners, close down the street in front of their businesses and throw what amounts to one amazing customer appreciation block party. There are offerings to be had for a mere $2! This year included delicious food such as brats, meatballs, spicy watermelon and chicken wings. There was also a band named AcousticClowns entertaining the crowd. Despite my unique fear of clowns, the music was quite fabulous. Neighbors mingled about including the mayor, members of the common council and other business owners. It was a great chance to enjoy some great weather, food and company.

This is just one of many great events that the city offers. I am going to share with you something my beautiful lady Margie and I do that helps us make the most of the few months of good weather as well as our busy schedule. Once a month we sit down and look at all of the events happening around the city. We learn about them through the city newsletter, recreation department catalog as well as social media outlets such as the group West Allis News, Events & Stuff. We compile a list of places we would like to go and things we would like to try. We have a great new brewery in town called Westallion Brewing Company that offers tours on Saturdays and puppy playdates on Sundays. It seems every month there are new places opening to eat. There are live concerts in the park and classes on everything from Yoga to making things out of clay.

In your city there are probably similar events as well. With a little digging such as subscribing to news letters, looking on social media and checking your local library you too can compose a list of amazing things about your city. After a few months of doing this you will not only get to know many new places and faces, but start to really develop a love for the city you live in. Margie and I are already looking forward to trying the new beer gardens as well as the new old-fashioned butcher shop as soon as that is open.

Here is a little secret for you to use. As well as this works for falling in love with your city, it will work for any other area of your life. Looking to increase the love between you and your spouse? Once a month create a list of things you are grateful for them and things you are looking forward to, or would like to try with them. Want to dread your job less? Once a month compose a list of things you are grateful for at your job, or good things that happened there, even just a kind word from a coworker. You would be surprised at how taking a few minutes once a month can help you discover all the wonderful things in your city and in every other area of your life.

A STRONG COMMUNITY SERVED A LA CARTE!

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.

SOMETHING WILD IN WEST ALLIS!

Below you will find a link to my latest restaurant review. Wild Roots is located in the eastern corridor of West Allis and is unlike any other place the city has to offer!

Find out what makes this place so unique and what rare dishes you can find. You will also discover the one quality ingredient found at Wild Roots that is not listed on the menu. I can’t wait for you to read my adventure at one of the newest dinning options in West Allis!

CLICK HERE TO READ MY REVIEW OF WILD ROOTS

THE 1 QUESTION TO ASK TO IMPROVE YOUR CITY

I recently filmed a video at the West Allis city hall explaining the one question you can ask to improve your city.

No matter what your complaint about your city is, asking yourself this one question will go a long way to improving it.

Click the link below to watch the video. You will not only discover what the question is, but more importantly how you can use it to improve the quality of your city.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO

SUCH AN AMAZING COMMUNITY


I seldom pass on an opportunity to brag on my community. This I do for two very important reasons. First, no matter where you live, there is always enough bad press. It seems like if people have a compliment they tell someone, but if they have a complaint they tell everyone. I guess I can understand that, negative experiences seem to impact us intensely. When we have a great experience it tends to be appreciated and quickly forgotten. I like to capture and share all the good things that happen inside of a community that everyone may not know about. I encourage you to do the same for your community. Growing a feeling of positivity can give all of your neighbors something nice to talk about instead of what is not working in the community, unless of course it is to come up with solutions.
The second reason I enjoy sharing what is great about the city of West Allis, where I live with my beautiful lady Margie, is there are quite a few people who need to get a fair share of credit. Case in point, the subject of this post. This morning I attended ‘Coffee with the mayor’. For those of you who did not see my last post about this amazing event, allow me to give you a recap. Our mayor, Dan Devine, takes time out of his busy schedule roughly once a month to meet with the citizens of the city. This is an informal gathering that anyone is allowed to attend. The mayor informs you of events happening in the city and you are free to ask questions. It is very informative and interactive. It is one of the many impressive things our mayor does to make our city great.
Today, however, there were even more reasons to be grateful for attending such an event. First on the list was the venue. It was held at a place aptly called “West Allis Cheese and Sausage”. This restaurant is owned by a gentleman named Mark Lutz. Mark has invested in his community in many ways. First he purchased several properties in the area including a restaurant he leases across the street, a butcher shop that will be open this year and he has just purchased the building next door. Last I heard he planned to use this for catering, but I am not certain. Mr. Lutz also invests in the community with his time and organizational skills. While we were there I counted no less than 3 events they are a part of that benefit everything from food pantries to the coming dog park. Mark Lutz is a great pillar of the community.
Next up was Jon Cervantes. Jon is the head of the East Allis Neighborhood Association. It is a neighborhood group that I am proud to be a member of. In addition to various projects throughout the neighborhood, that association is a catalyst for those looking to better get to know their neighbors. To that end, Mr. Cervantes hosts monthly coffee gatherings of his own and parks and other places in the neighborhood where people can meet and share stories of the neighborhood.
Lastly, in attendance was my good friend Alice Behnke. Alice runs the Facebook group, ‘West Allis News, Events & Stuff.’. It is all things West Allis. She keeps it both informative and positive. There is news of whatever is happening in the city, with a rule to make sure there is no negative bashing of the city. Alice works tirelessly to interview businesses, communicate with elected officials and share news to keep everyone informed.
In addition to these amazing people, there were lots of concerned neighbors filled with both curiosity and questions. Margie, my mother and I all enjoyed a great meal and learned a lot of information about the city.

IT MAKES YOU THINK

Today I looked down in my car and what did I find? A DVD I had rented from the West Allis Public Library on Bob Marley that was supposed to be returned days earlier. As I happened to be out driving around, I decided to return the movie and take care of any fines that may have accumulated. As a dedicated life-long reader, I absolutely love going to the library. You have access to almost every piece of information you can desire and it does not cost you anything. Unless of course you forget a Bob Marley biography in the back of your car for two weeks, and then it runs you $5.

My point is that the library is a goldmine when it comes to individuals seeking knowledge of any kind. The library I use in my hometown of West Allis Wisconsin is particularly amazing. They have a separate floor just for children’s learning. They have several computers you can use to access the internet, print documents or anything else you may need. There are also conference rooms available to rent, educational programs on a wide variety of topics not to mention the volumes of different media available to rent, including an amazing book called A Happy Life for Busy People.

On this day, however, I learned something far more important. After paying the fine for my forgetfulness I was on my way out of the library when I noticed a mother and son behind me. I stopped to hold the door for them. It was then I noticed the young man had down syndrome. His mother was leading him by the hand informing him it was time to go. “We have had enough learning for one day.” she informed him. It was his reply that stopped me in my tracks. “I love to learn mom!” he reminded her.

It was then I began to think of all the different students of life the library caters to. I must confess I had not stopped to consider those with special needs and how eager they thirst for knowledge. It was then I felt a great sense of appreciation and respect for those who spend their time and have the patience to bring the world of knowledge to those who may have extreme difficulty in assimilating it. This mother had taken her son to the library and helped him increase his knowledge and expand his mind. Which happened to be the same reason I was there. I thought of the patience it must take parents and special education teachers. They are helping empower those others may cast aside. They are not only helping them learn, but giving them reasons to be proud of themselves. I know how great it feels to learn something new and obviously, this young man felt the same.

It gave me a great sense of pride to have such a brave and hard-working young man as a part of my community. Last post we spoke of not giving in to your limits and this young man was doing just that. It made me so happy and proud to have amazing parents, teachers and young men like him in my community. It also made me appreciate the Public Library in yet another way. If you know a parent or teacher of a child with special needs, please take a moment to thank them for their work and dedication to make the world a better place.

EARNING MY BUSINESS


In several industries with the blur of different options it can be hard to see a difference. That holds quite true in the grocery industry. In my city alone there are giants such as Walmart, Meijer and a version of Kroger. In bigger box stores such as these, speed and cost cutting seem to be the focus. Customer service tends to be an afterthought, if even a thought at all. The Walmart in my neighborhood has me thinking they are doing their best to push people out of their stores with their service. There was one moment I recall where items in a locked cabinet were all facing backwards making it impossible to see what they were. When I brought this to a managers attention her answer was, “It makes it easier for us to do inventory.” In other words, they knew the customers were not able to see the products and that was ok.

Purchasing items such as books, media and other such items has largely switched to an online affair. I must confess to ordering a good deal of stuff off Amazon myself. The advantage here is there is little or no option for bad customer service, the prices are more reasonable and you don’t even have to leave the house. During a Wisconsin winter this can be worth its weight in gold. There is this great book on happiness you can order to make your winter a little brighter as well.

That is why the 2 experiences I am about to share with you stand out so much. The first is one I had at a local grocery store. I had looked for a seasonal surprise at some of the larger grocery stores in town, but they did not have what I was looking for. It was suggested that I try Rupena’s. A small, independent grocery store located not far from my house in West Allis. When I entered the store I was greeted right away and asked how I was doing. After replying that I was living the dream, the conversation continued with some discussion of gratitude and an inquiry as to what I was looking for. I was directed to the section of the store where the product could be found. Sadly, they were sold out by this time of the evening. The lady in that department offered me samples of other products that might interest me. Then, finding some other items in passing I returned to check out with the lady who greeted me. She asked if I found what I was looking for and apologized I had not. She also gave me other suggestions and shared some humor with me.

A few days later, I decided to use a gift card I had received for Barnes and Noble. While there a friendly young lady in a giraffe shirt saw I was looking lost and asked if she could help. I told her the book I was looking for and she looked it up and then lead me to it. On a side note, it happened to be right next to my book on the shelf which felt kind of cool. Then when I went to pay for my books, the lady at the cash register joked with me and her coworkers as the transaction continued. I left happy with my purchased as well as entertained.

In both of these examples I left with something more – a desire to return. Great customer service is something that will never go out of style. From the small grocery store a mere 10 blocks from my house, to the brick and mortar book store, there is opportunity to retain and gain customers. The price point might be a little higher, and it does require leaving the house, but the opportunity to be treated to a little extra humor and good service is priceless.

A WAY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE


Recently, I entered a poetry contest for my city of West Allis, Wisconsin. First of all, I would like to say that I thought this was a great opportunity for citizens to become involved with the city. In previous posts I have mentioned the mayor and the good programs he has put forth. This program came from the West Allis Public Library Board of Directors and I am so humbled that they chose me as a winner. There are two points that this event made me think of and I wanted to take this opportunity to share them with you.
The first is that this is just another example of the steps that West Allis is taking to improve both the city and the quality of life for its citizens. It shows a commitment to excellence and resurgence for a city that many left for dead when manufacturing jobs began to disappear. It is a good reminder not to give up on your city. With some forward thinking, and creative initiatives a city can begin to become vibrant and full of vitality again. It is also a good reminder to search out and get involved in programs your city might offer. If you cannot find programs such as these in your city it presents a great opportunity to speak with elected officials to begin to set some up. Elected officials are not just the only ones to turn to either. There are community groups, senior centers, clubs and organizations that have many chances to become active in your city. Contests and activities like this foster a sense of community. In doing so they help neighbors get to know each other which can reduce crime and increase a safe atmosphere in which to raise a family and spend your days.
The second point that this contest brought to mind was an opportunity to both inspire my fellow neighbors as well as promote the good things that happen in the city. A quick glance in the newspaper or on social media will supply you with plenty of reasons in which you may NOT want to visit and/or live in a city. It is always a good idea to balance those out with promoting good events that are happening as well. In my city there is a neighborhood walk to encourage physical fitness, a monthly coffee with the mayor in which citizens can relax with a cup of coffee and hear exactly what is happening in the city from the mayor himself. There is also a new dog park being planned and built as well as roughly $200 million worth of new developments in various stages. There are what seems like a thousand other great things I could mention here that are going on as well.
Maybe your city is not as fortunate as mine, but truly there is something great going on in your city as well. Make it known. Get the neighbors involved. Like in my poem below, it is by becoming the best citizens we can that we create the best cities possible. I encourage you to promote all the good that is happening in your city. While you are reading this, feel free to check out my winning poem, along with the other 5 winners that I am honored to be joined by. At a future date all of these poems will be placed in concrete to honor the authors. Still another great event to look forward to in West Allis.