Some East Tosa advocates have been saying for more than a year that the day was coming when business people would be climbing over one another to get into reviving North Avenue before commercial real estate prices skyrocket.
No one much listened until the popular Mojofuco Restaurants group announced it was buying the former Aqua Terra tropical fish store property at 68th and North to rehabilitate it as a trendy Cali-Mex restaurant called BelAir Cantina.
Now, Shepherd's Sports Bar, at 6715 W. North Ave., is being sold to another east side Milwaukee restaurant owner who is quickly buying in to the property with a business plan that's down the road and, so far, all in his head.
Martin Beadoin, owner of the Red Dot, 2498 N. Bartlett Ave. on Milwaukee's east side, said that he will continue to operate what is now Shepherd's as is, but under the new name Sherbrook, until his long-range plan is developed.
One thing is clear: He's got an inspiration.
"There's going to be some kitchen work, and we'll probably take out all the pool tables," Beaudoin said. "We're leaning more toward restaurant, but we'll definitely still have a bar in there.
"It'll be an extensive restoration – similar to what the BelAir Cantina is going to do, but a different business model."
Beaudoin said the property sale, which closes Dec. 19, includes a neighboring laundry, and he intends to incorporate it into an expanded Sherbrook restaurant and tavern.
Beaudoin had come before the city's Legislation, Licensing and Communication Committee to request the transfer of Shepherd's liquor license to him under the name Tosa Foods LLC, which passed unanimously.
The beginning of a tidal wave of business?
Ald. Bobby Pantuso of the neighboring 5th District on the north side of The Avenue, as some are starting to call it, has been preaching like a prophet that commercial values would be going up and those who got in early would be winners.
"People are looking at BelAir and saying, 'What do they know that I don't know,'" Pantuso said. "Once they figure it out, that this is the new east side, no one is going to want to be last. It's going to be a tsunami."
Ald. Joel Tilleson, also of the 5th District, has said that he's been contacted by plenty of people wanting to know what was going on with North Avenue – and what properties were available.
Whether Beaudoin will win remains to be seen, but the Shepherd's and Wauwatosa Laundry properties represent a substantial chunk of a block in the heart of the renaissanance.
The upcoming BelAir Cantina is less than a block away, the newly refurbished Rosebud Cinema is one door beyond that, and across the street from them is the new Parisian-inspired Rocket Baby Bakery.
A bit farther to the west is pioneer Cranky Al's at 69th and North, and just beyond it is Il Mito, also a North Avenue pioneer and the first fine dining restaurant to take hold since Jake's left.
The trend continues, especially in the 7200 block of North, where Fattoni's set up on the north side of the street, taking over from Venturi's without a hitch, and where North Avenue Grill and Signature Sweets have opened this year.
Lady in Red, an upscale "gently used" resale shop will open Dec. 1 in that block.
Well to the east of the soon-to-be Sherbrook is Juniper 61, and of course no one should forget that the big Blockbuster property didn't stay shuttered long before it reopened as a new O'Reilly's Auto Parts store – not everyone's first choice, but a solid, long-term business that has already been accepted, along with its 15-year lease.
All in all, long-term vacancies are disappearing and any vacancies are being snapped up in East Tosa.
Shepherd's-Sherbrook, like Blockbuster-O'Reilly's, is the latest example of a non-vacancy – a property turning over, overnight, and reopening as something potentially better.