Cable shows put Milwaukee, area businesses in national spotlight

Commentary

I sat down to watch TV the other night and I had to decide…do I watch “Milwaukee Blacksmith” on the History channel, “Harley and the Davidsons” on the Discovery channel or do I watch Marcus Lemonis try to help Milwaukee-based The Soup Market on CNBC’s show “The Profit”?

That’s right, there were three Milwaukee businesses featured on three national cable television programs at the same time. The channel surfing was surreal.

Set in early 1900s Milwaukee, “Harley and the Davidsons” was a three-night miniseries about Harley-Davidson founders William Harley and brothers Walter and Arthur Davidson and the excitement and challenges of the early years of what is perhaps Milwaukee’s most iconic company.

“How great it is that there’s this amount of interest in the history of Harley-Davidson and that people all over the world from all walks of life have an intrigue with this great brand,” Bill Davidson, vice president of the Harley-Davidson Museum and great-grandson of Harley-Davidson co-founder William A. Davidson, told BizTimes media partner WISN-TV Channel 12.

“Milwaukee Blacksmith” shows off the city with a mix of skyline shots and grittier industrial scenes true to our manufacturing roots and the blacksmith shop itself, located near the BizTimes offices in the Historic Third Ward.

“Milwaukee is a blue collar town built on hard work, good beer and American values,” says the intro to “Milwaukee Blacksmith.”

The drama of the show is the tension of having four siblings, ages 17 to 23, working for their dad in the family business.

“I want to build it into something that I can hand down, so my kids don’t have to spend their lives trying to figure out what to do,” Milwaukee Blacksmith owner Kent Knapp says on the first episode of the show. “But I want them to work hard for it, because I believe that hard work equals happiness.”

“Milwaukee Blacksmith” showcases the incredible creative talents of Knapp and his kids. It also celebrates the value of locally-made, hand-crafted, unique products consumers increasingly are seeking.

“The Profit” episode on The Soup Market also put Milwaukee in a good light with great shots of the skyline, the Milwaukee Public Market and the city’s Bay View neighborhood.

“Milwaukee has some of the best food and drink in the country,” Lemonis, a Marquette University alumnus, says in the intro.

But the show goes horribly wrong for The Soup Market. Lemonis makes a $315,000 investment for a 50 percent stake in the company, which has five locations in the area. Owner Dave Jurena wants to grow the business, but is resistant to Lemonis’ ideas to improve it. The two clash throughout the show. And then it is revealed that an employee has filed a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC against Jurena.

At the end, Jurena and Lemonis end their business relationship and part ways. Not every TV show has a happy ending.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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