Voyageur Book Shop

One morning on my day off, I was wandering down Kinnickinnic Avenue just after grabbing a cup of coffee from Stone Creek.   I figured I would check to see if there was anything new on the main street when I stumbled across Voyageur Book Shop, a hidden little book store at the end of the block with an impressive collection.  I thought that surely I must have walked by this place a thousand times, but after walking in and talking to co-owner Blaine Wesselowski, I learned that he and Jeremy Mericle just opened the shop in spring of 2016.

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Blaine and Jeremy met while working at Renaissance Book Shop a few years back.  Once the shop closed, they bought a large collection of the books and art (now hanging on Voyageur’s walls) in order to open their own place.  Blaine, originally from Kansas and Jeremy, originally from Wisconsin are a perfect match for going into business together.  They both have a love for rare books and a knack for finding unique copies.

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So how does one acquire books to fill a small book store?  Well, you have to do your homework.  Blaine explains that it’s about knowing the right type of places like certain estate sales or specific library sales.  “Often you get referrals from people that have a library they want to sell out of” and those can be gold mines.  But there’s more to it than simply finding the books, you also have to know your customer base and carry the books that people will buy.  Popular authors like Edgar Allen Poe always sell out.  “The earlier in life people experience the author, the more broadly known they are,” says Blaine.

You might be wondering what book shop owners Blaine and Jeremy are currently reading so lucky enough, I thought to ask.  Jeremy is deep into  The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God by George Bernard Shaw while Blaine just finished a biography of Lewis Carroll and has now moved onto Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick.   And yes, conversations with these two are as unique as their book choices.  So take a stroll over Voyageur and venture through the boundless collection of stories.

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Three Sisters Farm

Three Sisters Community Farm is a young organic farm run by Kelly Kiefer and Jeff Schreiber. They recently started their farm in 2011 using Kelly’s family land where she grew up and additional land nearby.2016_10_15_csaf_066_2e

The name Three Sisters is unique because it has two meanings: Kelly is one of three sisters and there is a group of three crops that support each other when grown together which native groups called the three sisters. These three crops are corn, beans and squash. The corn grows tall providing a trellis for the beans to climb while the beans create nitrogen rich soil, needed to make plants healthy. And finally the squash grows on a vine which provides ground cover for the soil around the other plants. “We liked the picture of this synergistic combination of plants contributing to the greater benefit of the whole system as a metaphor for how we build relationships with our community of supporters,” mentioned Kelly.

I recently visited their farm in the fall while they had volunteers helping plant garlic and prepping the tomato plants for spring. While having the privilege to speak with Kelly and Jeff, I was able to gain some insight on how much work they do both on and off the farm. Working on the land is not easy and farmers often spend 10 or more hours working on their land every day. But owning a farm also means owning a business. Winter is their opportunity to catch up on calculations for the season, taxes and all of the less glamorous pieces of running a business.

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Kelly and Jeff stay connected to their supporters in multiple ways including volunteer opportunities and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). One of their goals is to build community relationships and create a welcoming sanctuary at their farm so if you are interested in volunteering, I hear they pay in vegetables. For those of you who don’t know, becoming part of their CSA means that you subscribe to the farm for the growing season and Kelly and Jeff deliver fresh produce to a location near you every week. The produce you receive every week depends on what is in season so you get a chance to discover all kinds of new vegetables that you never knew existed. Three Sisters Farm is unique because they actually allow you to pick some of the vegetables that go into your box each week on their website.

So you if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, a CSA to join or just two genuinely welcoming farmers to talk to, look up Jeff and Kelly.

www.threesisterscommunityfarm.com

Mobcraft Brewery

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Mobcraft Brewery brings a new business model to small breweries: crowd sourcing.  Anyone can go on their website to submit an idea or recipe for a beer.  Every month, the top ideas go on to the website and anyone can vote for their favorite by pre-ordering their choice.  The voting closes after a month and the brew master Andrew Gierczak perfects the recipe.  Mobcraft has a new beer featured every month that is chosen by their customers.

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Once the new building opened in Milwaukee last year, I met with the founder Henry Schwartz to photograph the brewery. It is a large beautiful building with top-of-line brewing equipment, but the brewery didn’t start this way. Before Mobcraft was even a business, it started as a few friends home brewing in Madison. They would brew beers based on requests from their friends. They soon realized that this would be a great idea for a business and officially started the company in 2012.

Now that they are located in Walker’s Point, I can’t stay away. I subscribe to their monthly beer subscription and frequent the brewery for their bustling atmosphere and local bands that often play. Check out their website and drink up!  www.MobcraftBeer.com