Milwaukee’s iconic ‘Bear on a Tightrope’ statue returns to The Avenue

Professor Stein, also known as "Bear on a Tightrope" is returning to The Avenue after 17 years. Photo credit: Milwaukee Public Market.

The Avenue development at the former Grand Avenue Mall in downtown Milwaukee is once again home to a piece of the city’s history: a 7-foot bear riding a unicycle on a tightrope.

Professor Stein, also known as “Bear on a Tightrope,” is being relocated to The Avenue’s soon-to-open 3rd Street Market Hall, after residing at the Milwaukee Public Market since 2013, according to a news release Wednesday.

“We’ve been proud to offer a temporary home to Professor Stein for the last nine years at the Public Market, where we’ve curated other relics that engender a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for our city,” said Paul Schwartz, executive director of the Milwaukee Public Market and Business Improvement District #2.

The figurine has been around for about 40 years, first created as part of the traditional German influences adorning Grand Avenue Mall, which was developed in 1982 by The Rouse Company. Professor Stein became a tourist attraction and is fondly remembered by those who visited the mall in its heyday. When Northwestern Mutual redeveloped Grand Avenue in 2004, the figurine was taken down and stored away before later being installed at the Milwaukee Public Market. Professor Stein will now return to its original home after 17 years.

“The homecoming of Professor Stein celebrates an iconic period of Milwaukee history,” said Omar Shaikh, owner and operator of 3rd Street Market Hall. “The intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and 3rd Street will once again return to its prestigious roots. Professor Stein’s returned residency at 3rd St Market Hall will remind visitors and Milwaukeeans alike of its past while cementing its future.”

The food hall is slated to softly open soon after much delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent supply chain disruption. Some got a sneak peak last week at a fundraiser event benefitting the United for Waukesha Community Fund.

So far, its vendor lineup includes Dairyland Old Fashioned Hamburgers and its off-shoot Mid-Way Bakery, Super Nova Coffee & Doughnuts, Anytime ArepaMiddle East SideBrew City BrandStrega, Amano Pan, MaKE Waves, Green House, and Dawg City. A few of those concepts will occupy miniature vendor spaces, or hawker stalls, managed by Dairyland.

The market hall will also feature a 50-seat, full-service central bar and several entertainment amenities such as Top Golf Swing Suites, shuffleboard courts, snookball, a selfie museum, old-school arcade games, and a turf area with yard games and seating. A grand opening event will be held in March or April when most of its vendors are up and running, Shaikh said.

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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