[caption id="attachment_143821" align="alignright" width="399"] Wolf Peach restaurant in Milwaukee.[/caption]
Farm-to-table restaurant Wolf Peach, located near downtown Milwaukee, will close by the end of March as its Brewer's Hill building is taken over by a new owner.
Wolf Peach, located at 1818 N. Hubbard St., opened almost six years ago. Owner Gina Gruenewald announced in a news release today that she will soon close the restaurant. She also announced the recent closure of her East Side restaurant Supper, which is located in the ground level of the Shorecrest apartment building at 1962 N. Prospect Ave.
Gruenewald, along with building owner Tim Dixon, opened Wolf Peach in 2012 following the closure of Roots, the restaurant that previously inhabited the space. Dixon, principal at Milwaukee-based Dixon Development, LLC developed the multi-level building a couple years prior to Roots' 2004 opening. He said he built the space specifically to bring a restaurant to the neighborhood.
Roots closed after five years and Gruenewald-- then the restaurant's general manager-- approached Dixon with an idea for a new establishment, he said. Dixon said he invested $250,000 to rebrand and reopen the restaurant as Wolf Peach, maintaining Roots' employees. When it opened, Dixon said, Gruenewald owned 45 percent of the restaurant, with Dixon also owning 45 percent, and Joe McPherson, former general manager of Stack'd Burger Bar in Walker's Point, owning 10 percent.
However, Dixon said he backed out of the restaurant's ownership-- and the partnership with Gruenewald-- last year when the restaurant's lease was nearing its end and, according to Dixon, Gruenewald was struggling to pay rent for the space on time and was not paying off the loan from the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp.
The two could not negotiate a new lease agreement, which is why, Dixon said, he decided to put the building on the market in January.
"I told her she needed to find a new partner or a buyer for the building, but she didn't do that," Dixon said. "Wolf Peach is being closed because Gruenewald is not paying her rent or her MEDC loans."
BizTimes Milwaukee contacted MEDC to request access to Gruenewald’s loan application, but it was unable to provide the document. However, MEDC president David Latona said Gruenewald has paid the loans for both Wolf Peach and Supper.
“Supper and Wolf Peach loans with MEDC are current,” he said in an email. “As for partners in Wolf Peach, Ms. Gruenewald was the 100 percent owner."
The property sold last month to Carl Tomich, owner of Stonefire Pizza Co. in New Berlin. He will officially take over the building in April. Dixon said the sale was negotiated by brokers at Milwaukee-based commercial real estate firm Boerke Co. Inc. Tomic could not be immediately reached for comment.
"The buyer's intent was to buy the building, buy the restaurant, and keep all the employees," Dixon said.
According to the news release, Tomich wanted to purchase the Wolf Peach brand from Gruenewald, but she declined his offer. The two also discussed a possible partnership, but later decided against it.
“Wolf Peach is so personal to me and because I put so much of myself into the restaurant, it just doesn’t seem right for someone else to carry on the brand," Gruenewald said in the release. "While Carl’s original intentions are noticed to keep the staff and brand, we just don’t share the same vision for what Wolf Peach is.”
Gruenewald's decision to close sister restaurant Supper, after almost three years of operation, was prompted by complications and stress from the real estate deal and resultant closure of Wolf Peach, according to the release. Additionally, both Dixon and Latona said the restaurant was not making enough money.
“I believe Gina has been upfront in the less than expected performance of Supper,” Latona said.
Gruenewald said in the release she does not currently want to be a part of the restaurant industry, but she expressed interest in the concept of pop-up restaurants.