Sourdough pizza and scratch-made donuts will soon be the latest additions to the Third Ward food scene.Two local businesses, Donut Monster LLC and Brute LLC, are planning a shared brick-and-mortar location inside the Landmark Building at 316 N. Milwaukee St. The space includes a 300-square-foot retail and seating area on the first floor and 1,900-square-foot kitchen on the lower level. The location previously housed Holey Moley Coffee + Doughnuts, which permanently closed earlier in the pandemic.Once both businesses are up and running by mid-July, the storefront will operate as a donut shop by day and pizza place by night (for lunch and dinner).It's a second location for Donut Monster, which opened its flagship store in late 2019 at 5169 N. Elkhart Ave. in Whitefish Bay. The shop was only open a few months before transitioning entirely to curbside pick-up for its donuts, breakfast sandwiches and coffee. Donut Monster reopened for in-person service in early June.
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Business picked up amid the pandemic as Donut Monster's customer base grew beyond Whitefish Bay into areas like Brookfield and Milwaukee's South Side. The plan was always to have multiple storefronts, but part of the drive to expand into downtown Milwaukee was having better access to those cross-town customers, said Sara Woods, who owns Donut Monster with her husband Jackie Woods."We knew we wanted a centralized location ... What we were hearing (from customers) was, 'We love you, but driving 35 to 40 minutes is a lot every Saturday or Sunday morning,'" she said.Another draw was the community-oriented feel of the Third Ward, and the Landmark Building space in particular is well suited for a dual-concept operation, she said. Donut Monster's business hours initially will be 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.Brute is co-owned by Jackie Woods and Paris Dreibelbis, who came up with the concept early in the pandemic, soon after being laid off as chef de cuisine at Bacchus in downtown Milwaukee. Woods and Dreibelbis have a shared background in fine dining and once worked together at Ardent on Milwaukee's East Side. They decided to pursue a pizza concept after seeing how well that sector of the restaurant industry performed compared to others."All the restaurants closed but the majority of pizza shops stayed open," said Dreibelbis. "We didn't know what was going to come out of it - we didn't know if this was actually going to be something long term and lucrative or if it was going to be a means to an end through a pandemic."Brute launched as a pop-up concept before adding a mobile food trailer and pick-up and delivery service from Donut Monster's Whitefish Bay space. Dreibelbis sold the food trailer to purchase a professional pizza oven for the brick-and-mortar location, allowing the business to increase baking capacity and improve the quality of the product. So far, Brute has focused mainly on sourdough New York-style pizza, but when its storefront opens, the plan is to add Detroit-style pizza by the slice.Dreibelbis said sharing the space with another business helps cut overhead costs. Brute will serve lunch and dinner, and eventually extend operating hours to 9 or 10 p.m."The kitchen will be filled almost 24 hours a day," he said. With the majority of Brute's customer base in the North Shore, the move downtown has its challenges, but the concept enters the market on steady ground."I always had to turn away a ton of downtown Milwaukee and Third Ward deliveries or pick-ups due to the drive time," he said. "We're still 10 minutes away from the North Shore, so hopefully that doesn't hurt us too bad, but I think it'll be nice to have a delivery service downtown."Once Brute gets settled in its new market, Dreibelbis hopes to open a second brick-and-mortar location in the North Shore.