The 3rd Street Market Hall is a newer concept in downtown Milwaukee that is still growing and expanding!
Where did the idea come from and what’s still ahead?
WTMJ’s Libby Collins sits down with restauranteur Omar Shaikh to discuss that and more on this week’s episode of WTMJ Conversations.
Listen in the player above.
A portion of the conversation was transcribed below, courtesy of eCourt Reporters, Inc.
LIBBY COLLINS: You’ve had such amazing success with restaurants. Why did you decide to move on? And not that you’ve moved on from restaurants but move on to other things. You took over the development of the 3rd Avenue Marketplace, and I know when that was announced, there were a lot of naysayers, there were a lot of people saying, “This isn’t — this isn’t going to work.”
OMAR SHAIKH: Yeah.
LIBBY COLLINS: “What’s he thinking?”
OMAR SHAIKH: Well, I wanna — I wanna just go back to you saying I was very successful in the restaurant business, I closed more restaurants than most restauranteurs okay, so I wasn’t incredibly successful in restaurants, just to speak frankly. We grew too fast and kind of a house of cards, if you will, but I’m a much better one-restaurant kind of guy, right. That’s what I prefer, to be honest.
And I — I’m not — I didn’t take over that whole development, that’s really Josh Krsnak and Toni Janowiec, they bought the Avenue, and then they developed a lot of that and they — Josh has bought a lot of property all around it, right. And so, it was really his vision, I jumped on later on as a consultant but then, you know, proved my value through, you know, a little bit of influence and help them raise some money and bring in tenants. And so, I’m a partner with him, and it’s been great. So, I can’t sit here and take credit for all that development, I’m not a big developer, I’m a junior developer, and I’m learning. But I would like to become more into development, be more involved in developments for sure.
LIBBY COLLINS: What’s the concept of that food hall, and what — how did you come up with it and how does it compare to other places?
OMAR SHAIKH: We traveled. We traveled as a team and, you know, we’ve got — we’ve got a lot of great people that — a great team, right, around it. And so, we went to probably 70 food halls in America and, you know, got behind the scenes tours of what is working, what isn’t working. Spent a lot of time through the pandemic, Josh and I did, both called — calling a lot of food halls saying, hey, Josh is my financier and I’m the restauranteur, I want to take my concept to your food hall, please share with us all your agreements, what’s working, what isn’t working. So, we got, on borrowed time, got a lot of — did a lot of market research. And so, we’re very proud of the product that we came up with, but it’s still evolving. I mean, we still have so many ideas, it’s only in its first phase, I think we have three or four phases for it.
So, what we wanted to create is — I mean, this is in the center of downtown, and so, with the convention center expansion, which was in large part my project that I worked on, and everything else from the symphony, Milwaukee Tool moving in, the Bucks building a hotel, the Fiserv, everything happening west of the river, we knew that that was central, and something had to be done there. And I think Josh looked at it as — he came up with the idea of a food hall. And more so Josh and Toni, and I say more so that that — originally, they wanted it to serve as an amenity to the building, because you can get more tenants in there by having such a vibrant food hall, right. And we were able to lease up the whole building because a lot of people look at that and say, hey, we can attract and retain young people because of this, right. But now it’s evolved into even more, like, hey, this is — we’ve got something going here, this is really cool, and we can continue to evolve it.
LIBBY COLLINS: Explain the difference between a food hall versus a traditional food court that you’d see in a lot of malls.
OMAR SHAIKH: Yeah, I mean, they have some parallels, but it’s really a food hall is more hyper local, right, I mean, you’re going with all local vendors. It’s more than just a food court, a daytime lunchtime-type food court. So, a food hall a lot of the times is a representation of chef-owned sourcing of local ingredients within that 100, 200 miles, a lot of Wisconsin products. And it’s a little bit nicer, right. A lot of times it will have bars and other amenities within the food hall. And it’s just more — I would say more chef driven and more locally driven. And with ours, like, you know, we’ve got a 50-person central bar, we have 15 restaurants, going to have 17 to 18 within a month, we have a top golf, two top golf bays with a private room there, selfie museum, you know, for families. And then we have — we’re building out also private banquet spaces, because we’re getting a large demand for corporate events and parties. That’s certainly starting to come back.
LIBBY COLLINS: Well, I know you said that you’re only in phase one, what’s phase two going to be?
OMAR SHAIKH: Phase two is building an indoor/outdoor space, a banquet center holding up to 300 people. So, we think we can capture weddings, large-scale corporate events, and subdividable that has indoor and outdoor space along with it.
LIBBY COLLINS: Where will that outdoor space be?
OMAR SHAIKH: That will actually be the alleyway outside of the large hall that we have just outside of the food hall.
LIBBY COLLINS: And what about phase three?
OMAR SHAIKH: Phase three is, we’re looking at a couple options potentially downstairs — well, it’s going to be downstairs. Potentially an adult crazy version of Putt-Putt, like they have, like Urban Put in Denver and San Francisco, and then that with maybe a speakeasy or something like that. Just something that people — you know, something to do downtown. And so, I know it was important to Josh, Toni, and I for the food hall is, like, we wanted something also for families. You’ll see on the weekends a lot of millennials, a lot of people that will come to the bar and drink and eat all the food, but you’ll actually see a ton of families there on weekends, too. And so, you know, we’ve got shuffleboard courts, we’ve got snookball, we’ve got bag toss, we have a selfie museum. And we wanted something for families to come down to to enjoy in Milwaukee, and it’s working. I mean, you see so many families there, and it’s what we wanted. And Mom and Dad go to the bar and let the kids play.
What’s crazy though too is seeing kids and these families. I have three teenagers and it’s like this is lame, let’s get out of here, right, but a lot of the kids don’t want to leave now, whether they be young, toddler, like, teens, and Mom and Dad have to stay there and have a couple more drinks.
LIBBY COLLINS: What about phase four?
OMAR SHAIKH: Phase four, TBD, but I’m sure there’s going to be one. We’re looking at a potential rooftop, we’re looking at all different types of ideas.