Just seven years ago, Dan Nowak was processing retirement accounts for a large Milwaukee bank and doing some cooking on the side for friends and family.
Today, his business, Tall Guy and a Grill Catering LLC, has outgrown its East Tosa space at 7227 W. North Ave., prompting a move to West Allis.[caption id="attachment_323129" align="alignnone" width="770"] Tall Guy owner Dan Nowak and his wife, Amanda Nowak.[/caption]
Nowak recently purchased a 4,800-square-foot retail office building at 6733-6735 W. Lincoln Ave., with plans to renovate and expand the company. The larger space will enable the group to add three new full-time employees and up to seven part-time positions.
“We’ve been (in Wauwatosa) for four years and couldn’t find a spot big enough,” Nowak said. “East Tosa has been a hot spot for a while. But from our standpoint, we don’t need to be in a retail space. Catering is more like manufacturing.”
Nowak wasn’t intending to purchase a building, but said the space was perfect for his needs because it offers a good amount of storage and room for delivery trucks to get in and out.
The building has four units; Tall Guy will combine two, using about 2,700 square feet and giving the company enough space for an office, a commercial kitchen and a tasting room for clients.
The remaining space will be leased, Nowak said.
A real estate affiliate of Tall Guy and A Grill received a $40,000 economic development loan from the West Allis Community Development Block Grant Program to assist in purchasing the property on Lincoln Avenue.
The city worked with Equitable Bank and Wisconsin Business Development Finance Corp. to obtain SBA-backed financing. The goal of the loan was to create the three full-time positions over the next three years, said Patrick Schloss, manager of community development for the City of West Allis.[caption id="attachment_323130" align="alignnone" width="770"] The Tall Guy team setting up for a wedding earlier this year at Rustic Manor 1848 in Hartland.[/caption]
Another benefit to giving Nowak the loan is the property will now be owned by city residents, Schloss said. Dan and his wife, Amanda, live in West Allis.
“When you meet them, you can feel their enthusiasm for their product and the business,” said West Allis Mayor Dan Devine. “They have a very good reputation, and we’re excited to continue adding to the food scene in West Allis.”
In recent years, West Allis has welcomed several new restaurants, including The Farmer’s Wife, 6533 W. Mitchell St., and the reopened Crawdaddy’s, 9427 W. Greenfield Ave. The city’s first craft brewery, Westallion Brewing Co., 1825 S. 72nd St., opened in April.
Nowak has always been drawn to the restaurant business.
A cook, bartender and server through college, Nowak continued working part-time in the business even after landing a job in the financial field when he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2004.
In 2009, while working at BMO Harris Bank, Nowak launched Tall Guy and a Grill in his home, renting a commercial test kitchen near General Mitchell International Airport.
Nowak cooked for friends and family while Amanda managed the events.
“We got a lot of referrals from friends and family, and it began to snowball,” Nowak said. “We got to a breaking point where we either needed to stop, or I needed to quit my full-time job.”
That is what he did in July 2013, when Tall Guy and a Grill became Nowak’s full-time gig. He has also hired a catering manager, executive chef and a handful of part-time people.
This year, the company is on track to cater more than 65 weddings and another 100 events. It caters lunch daily for area businesses.
Moving into the new space means not having to turn away business, which was beginning to happen in Wauwatosa.
“I would like to say we’ll be in West Allis by September, but realistically, it’s probably October,” he said. “We’re just excited to have some room to grow.”