Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea opens on Milwaukee’s East Side

Company says it will open one or two more area locations in 2020

Fairgrounds Coffee is located on the ground floor of the new Vantage on the Park Apartments on Milwaukee's lower East Side.

Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:38 pm

Chicago-based Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea opened its doors today in Milwaukee’s Yankee Hill neighborhood, vowing to bring something new to the local coffee shop scene.

“I think consumers in Milwaukee will appreciate choice, which no one’s ever had before in the coffee and tea space,” said founder and CEO Michael Schultz.

While most cafes serve only their own roasts or source products from a single vendor, Fairgrounds offers a rotating selection of craft espressos, cold brew coffees and teas from businesses across the country, including Milwaukee’s own Colectivo Coffee and Rishi Tea.

Varieties of rotating espresso roasts, matcha green tea and cold brew on tap can be ordered by the cup or by flights of three, giving customers a chance to expand their taste, Schultz said. Not to mention a selection of year-round and seasonal elixirs, including Voges Hot Chocolate, Golden Milk Latte, fall-themed Sweet Potato Latte. 

Fairgrounds in Milwaukee occupies a 2,800-square-foot space on the ground floor at the new Vantage on the Park Apartments, formerly the Park East Hotel, at 916 E. State St. The building was purchased last year and recently converted into 96 luxury apartments.

Fairgrounds has four (soon-to-be five) locations in the Chicago area and two more, in downtown Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

The company’s new Milwaukee cafe is its first step into the Wisconsin market, but Schultz considers the area almost local to Chicago, especially when the commute north from an Illinois suburb is often faster than driving into downtown, he said.

Plans are in the works to open one or two additional Milwaukee-area locations in 2020, but Shultz said he could not yet disclose details for those stores.

The brand’s name pays homage not only to fair trade and equal business practices, but also to America’s fair or festival culture. The East Side cafe is decorated with brightly colored accents, vintage posters and light-up marquee signs as nods to that theme.

Fairgrounds serves all-day breakfast, lunch and “bites,” all made in-house. The menu includes breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads, avocado toast and fair-themes snacks such as funnel cake fries.

“Whether you’re a coffee drinker, a tea drinker, an expert, you’ve been drinking Folger’s, or you just like to eat, whether you’re 80 or eight, there’s something here for everybody and that diversity is really what is beautiful about it and I think that’s reflected in the community here in Milwaukee, Shultz said.

Starting Wednesday, Fairgrounds is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer started as an intern reporter at BizTimes in summer 2015. She currently covers entertainment, sports, tourism and restaurants. In May 2017, she graduated with a journalism degree from Marquette University where she worked as an in-depth projects reporter for the Marquette Wire and Marquette Tribune.

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