From the June 15, 2005 editions
of the Milwaukee
Find a New Home
With Third Ward rents rising, shops
start popping up in Walker's Point
by Benny Sieu
Holtz cleans furniture Tuesday in his store, 9th
Street Antiques, 602 S. 9th St. Holtz is part of
the exodus of antiques dealers from the Third Ward
to the less costly Walkers Point.
By Tom Daykin
The business of selling old stuff once
helped define the changing face of Milwaukee's Historic
Third Ward, where turn-of-the-century buildings originally
created for factories and warehouses began housing antiques
dealers and other artsy businesses nearly 30 years ago.
By the early '90s, with the neighborhood's
renaissance in full bloom, a Saturday afternoon in the
Third Ward typically included browsing booth after booth
of things from expensive furniture to cheap trinkets.
But a recent exodus of antiques dealers
now typifies a new phase of higher-end development in
the Third Ward, where boutiques, restaurants, nightclubs,
condominiums and offices are filling those older buildings.
It also is helping breathe new life into the Walker's
Point neighborhood, south and west of the Third Ward,
where several antiques dealers are surfacing.
"This used to be the antique district,"
says Steve Petty, co-owner of Relic Antiques, 207 E.
Buffalo St. "But everybody now is in Walker's Point."
Relic may soon be the only antiques store
in the Third Ward. That possibility arose with news
that the building that leases space to Milwaukee Antique
Center, 341 N. Milwaukee St., is being sold to a development
firm, which would convert it to condominiums and upscale
Milwaukee Antique Center owner Gary Gresl
declined to comment because the pending sale is not
But if the sale occurs, it seems likely
that the 29-year-old business, one of the city's largest
antiques dealers, will be forced out. That would come
just four years after another large dealer, Water Street
Antique Market Inc., shut down its Third Ward operation
at 318-324 N. Water St.
The latest changes are driven by continued
strong demand for housing, offices and high-end retail
space in the Third Ward. Building owners are cashing
in by selling their properties to developers, who often
boot longtime tenants to make way for more profitable
"The Third Ward has gotten so very expensive,"
said veteran antiques dealer Carla Johnson.
Johnson was manager at Water Street Antique
when it closed because of declining sales, coupled with
escalating rents. The building was later sold, and it
now houses marketing firm Hanson Dodge Inc., other office
tenants and street-level retail, including a soon-to-open
The possible loss of Milwaukee Antique
Center is "a shame," said Johnson. At one point, she
said, the Third Ward boasted four or five major antiques
Relic, which would be the sole survivor,
is a smaller shop that specializes in upper-end interior
furnishings. It doesn't have the wider assortment of
merchandise-such as clothes, toys and tchotchkes - offered
by other antiques dealers.
Most of Relic's customers are interior
designers, Petty said, instead of casual browsers. For
now, he'll keep the business in the Third Ward, which
is bordered by I-794, the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan.
Other antiques dealers, however, are finding
new locations in Walker's Point, bounded roughly by
the Milwaukee River, the Kinnickinnic River, S. 1st
St. and I-43/94.
The two adjacent neighborhoods both have
older brick industrial buildings that are prime redevelopment
targets. But space is pricier in the Third Ward.
The building that formerly housed Water
Street Antique was sold in 2003 for about $40 a square
foot, and is now assessed at about $53 a square foot.
Meanwhile, antiques dealer Wally Holtz
bought a Walker's Point building in 2003 for about $7
a square foot. That building, at 602-614 S. 9th St.,
near the neighborhood's western edge, is now assessed
at about $11 a square foot. It houses 9th Street Antiques,
which Holtz opened in November.
9th Street Antiques is three blocks east
of Blackhawk Antique Market Inc., which Jim Dieter opened
last summer at 633 S. 12th St.
Dieter bought his 60,000-square-foot
building in 2000. He spent four years refurbishing the
former factory, doing much of the work himself. Blackhawk
is just a few blocks from the I-43/94 National Ave.
interchange, making it accessible to customers from
both the Milwaukee and Chicago areas, said Johnson,
who manages Blackhawk.
Two other large, newer antiques businesses
operate in Walker's Point: Riverview Antique Market
Inc., 175 S. Water St., and Fox Skylight Antiques Gallery,
which is to open this week at 112-120 E. Mineral St.
Riverview, owned by former Water Street
Antique dealers Dave and Kathy Ippolite, opened in December
2001. Business has increased steadily since then, Dave
Ippolite said, with nearby condo residents among Riverview's
Fox Skylight is being developed by Tony
D'Acquisto, whose family trust bought the Mineral St.
building two years ago.
D'Acquisto's partners in Fox Skylight
include Joe Apollo, who operates Fox Riverwalk Antique
Mall in Waukesha. Apollo approached him with the idea.
The concentration of large antiques stores
in Walker's Point is creating a strong destination for
visitors to Milwaukee, said Ippolite. He said Riverview
draws a big share of its customers from northern Illinois.
But for Third Ward veterans, the dwindling
antiques scene also evokes a sense of loss. Petty, of
Relic Antiques, reminisces about a time when people
came to the neighborhood on a Saturday or Sunday and
spent hours browsing four or five different antiques
"That's what made things kind of quaint,"