The Sherman Phoenix held a public grand opening event Friday evening for a packed house of supporters.
The entrepreneurial hub in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood features storefronts for 29 black-owned businesses focused on everything from spring rolls to yoga classes.
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Spearheaded by The Juice Kitchen co-owner JoAnne Johnson-Sabir and commercial real estate developer Juli Kaufmann, the $3.5 million project gave new life to a BMO Harris Bank branch burned during civil unrest in the neighborhood in 2016.
“There’s a couple lessons here,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said at the event. “If you want to see something done right, have a woman do it. If you want to see something done spectacularly, have two women do it.”
Barrett asked the crowd to applaud Johnson-Sabir and Kaufmann for their determination and vision to overcome the challenge of renovating the damaged building into a community gathering place.
“You can see with the people here, all ages, all races, you name it. This is our Milwaukee,” he said. “I’m standing here as proud as I’ve ever been as mayor, because of what is happening with the small businesses, with the community organizations, with the individuals that believe in this neighborhood, that believe in this community, that believe in this city, and I want to thank them.”
Johnson-Sabir thanked the project’s supporters and encouraged attendees to think bigger.
“This is a point of possibility that needs to exist across our city,” she said. “This is Milwaukee. We do not exist in one single story. We exist in love and possibility. So let this grow. Let this be a significant step forward not only for Sherman Park, but for all of us.”