Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm
Brothers Corey and Gaulien "Gee" Smith are planning three new upscale developments along North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive just south of Milwaukee’s Bronzeville district.
Both brothers say their businesses – a coffee shop-martini bar and a restaurant operated by Corey and a barbershop owned by Gee – will be high-end developments and will draw customers from the neighborhood, nearby Brewer’s Hill, the East Side and beyond.
The restaurant and barbershop will be developed in 2213 and 2215 N. King Drive, respectively. The coffee shop-martini bar would be located across the street in the 2200 block of N. King Drive.
The location near Bronzeville and just south of West North Avenue along King Drive is an ideal location for the new businesses, the Smith brothers said, because of the mix of customers in the area.
"It’s a melting pot of Milwaukee," Gee said. "There’s a mix of middle-class people moving to the area, and it’s one of the main thoroughfares to downtown."
Corey’s investments in the King Drive area will range between $650,000 and $1.25 million, while Gee’s will be between $200,000 and $250,000.
The coffee shop-martini bar will be called Blend. Corey plans to open Blend in about 2,000 square feet of space in an office building in the 2200 block of North King Drive. He is negotiating a lease for the space now. If he is not successful in negotiating the lease, Corey said he is not sure if he’ll pursue Blend in another location on King Drive.
Blend will likely be open within four months, Corey said. He currently owns Cup-A-Java, a coffee shop with one location in Menomonee Falls and another on Brown Deer Road in Milwaukee.
"Blend can be a coffee or it can be two businesses together," Corey said. He’s also considering trying to incorporate elements of an upscale comedy club into Blend.
The restaurant that Corey plans to develop will be called Sash. It will likely open within the next six months, he said. The restaurant will occupy about 3,000 square feet of space. The single-story building has an equal amount of space in its basement. One of the designs Corey has in mind would create a balcony effect on the main floor, where the bar would be. That design would have diners eating around the balcony, with a bar in the basement area.
Although he designs the interiors for his coffee shops, Corey is working with Flux Design for Sash. Flux Design has created interiors for high-end restaurants such as Sauce, Twisted Force, Eve and Roots.
"I’ve always had a passion to open an upscale eatery," Corey said. "Opening the coffee shops was a stepping stone to learning aspects of the food business.
Gee is planning to open a high-end barbershop named Gee’s Clippers at 2215 N. King Drive on June 1. He has operated Gee’s Clippers at 4323 N. Fond du Lac Ave. for 10 years. The high-end barbershop regularly attracts customers from the Milwaukee Bucks, Brewers and other sports teams visiting Milwaukee.
The current location has about 1,600 square feet of space. The new shop will have 3,200 square feet.
Both shops will have sports themes. The original Gee’s Clippers has a floor designed to look like a basketball court. The floor of the new shop will be designed to look like a football field. Work stations at both shops will feature lockers and will be decorated with sports memorabilia including signed jerseys, balls, shoes and photos.
"All of the Wisconsin sports will be there, the Packers, Bucks, Admirals, Wave and Brewers," Gee said.
Gee’s Clippers on Fond du Lac Avenue has 15 employees. The new Gee’s Clippers on King Drive will have 17 employees, Gee said.
Aside from hair care, the barbershop will also offer manicures, pedicures, massage, skin treatments like facials and drop-off dry cleaning service.
"It’s going to be a pampering place for men," Gee said.
The employees and the clientele of the new businesses will reflect the diversity of the adjoining neighborhoods, Gee said.
"We want them to feed off of each other," Gee said. "We want to be trendsetters in that area, and change the face of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive."