Within the last two weeks, a pair of Milwaukee bars—Y-Not III and Packy’s Pub—have experienced extensive renovations and thematic overhauls as a result of Bar Rescue coming to town. Now known as Nick’s House and Campbell’s Irish Pub, respectively, the only remnant of either establishment’s original form will be the first 15-20 minutes of some shitty show on SPIKE TV. Though televised transformations were unheard of around here until lately, the act of rebranding, remodeling, or just straight up changing something completely is nothing new to Milwaukee. While we await a local installment of Kitchen Nightmares or Pimp My Brewery to keep the changes coming, we look back at an octet of less famous instances of local rebranding.
1. Palomino remodels its interior (and menu)
In March of 2013, Palomino, a beloved Bay View southern-inspired restaurant that doubled as a junk food oasis for Milwaukee’s vegetarians and vegans, announced it would be closing to renovate, and adding new owners Adam and Valerie Lucks. Between the outstanding menu, the prime location, devoted customer base, and the pedigree the Lucks clan previously brought to Comet and Honeypie, the redressing could only yield good things for Palomino, right? That depends on who you ask. Without question, the polished interior is a significant upgrade, all while keeping the cowpoke motif alive and well. However, raised prices, charging extra for a la carte sides, major menu changes (most tragically the Toffalo Wings recipe), and ousting its all-you-can-drink Lakefront beer and rail cocktails birthday special irked more than a few regulars. Palomino’s Facebook reviews range from those who laud the restaurant’s changes to just as many who lament a distinct neighborhood gem marred by small plate culture. The A.V. Club Milwaukee’s review comments were approximately 80 percent negative, for the record.
2. Brewers strike out the ball and glove logo
The mid to late 1990s is one of the ugliest periods of baseball in Milwaukee Brewers history. In retrospect, it makes sense that the team dressed for the part. In 1978, the team replaced its wonderfully kitschy Barrelman logo with its “ball and glove”—widely considered to be among the best logos in all of pro sports. When Robin Yount retired after the 1993 season, the last vestige of Harvey’s Wallbangers was gone. So was the ball and glove. Perhaps it was an effort to usher in a new era; more likely, it was a distraction for fans cheering for a team whose ace pitcher was Cal Eldred. Either way, the Brewers donned uniforms with MB logos and that used hunter green for some reason. They were so ugly that you couldn’t help but love them. In 2000, a safer logo was implemented. Meanwhile, the Brew Crew semi-regularly adorns the ball and glove throwback these days, while only pulling out the gloriously garish MB uniforms on very very special occasions.
3. Pizza Man re-opens, another Italian restaurant closes
Pizza Man can’t be faulted for relocating from its unmistakable perch at the corners of North and Oakland Avenues. Blame that on a blaze that burned the historic pizza establishment to the ground in early 2010. After licking their wounds and scouting new locations, Pizza Man was res-ZA-rected as a new and improved two-story pizza palace on nearby Downer Avenue in July last year. It was hard not to love the Milwaukee icon’s redemption story…unless you were partial to what VIA Downer was doing roughly a block away. Within a year of Pizza Man opening, VIA Downer closed for good. It’s no secret the pizza game can be tough for a player, but it’s tragic that one semi-formal Downer Ave. Italian joint’s rebirth may have helped bring death to another. Technically, an owner leaving caused the restaurant’s closure, but Pizza Man’s pressure was no doubt a factor in the ownership’s decision to shutter VIA and focus on Transfer Pizzeria (which is at least a half-mile from any viable pizza place).
4. Alterra’s name change causes Colectivo confusion (at first)
With no warning to its employees or the public who fell in love with the brand, Alterra became Colectivo during a Sunday night meeting in July of 2013. Before Milwaukee could finish its first cup of Joe the next morning, much of the city had weighed in on the name, wondered why such an established local company would shed its namesake at the peak of its popularity, mourned Alterra’s departure, and made dumb jokes on Twitter (present company very much included). This wasn’t just a flight of fancy, though. We’d come to find it was a calculated and altogether wise way to sell its name and logo to Mars (which already stocked Alterra’s single-serve coffee packs throughout the world) and keep its local cred under a new moniker. Milwaukee Magazine’s Matt Hrodey does a much better job sifting through the corporate confusion than we can.
5. M&I Bank becomes BMO Harris
Marshal & Ilsley (or “M&I”) Bank has been a Milwaukee financial pillar for so long that it actually predates Wisconsin’s statehood by a year. After respectable growth since 1847 that saw the bank branching out into nearly 200 locations spread through seven states, M&I agreed to be sold to Bank Of Montreal in 2010. In 2011, M&I locations were quickly phased out and were replaced by BMO Harris locations. Some mourned the departure of a true Wisconsin financial institution (or, more often, bitched about having to get new checkbooks) in favor of a multi-national banking group with a name that sounds like a robot butler. Yet the differences between the banks are slight. BMO Harris remains
headquartered well represented in Milwaukee and has been more willing to slap its name on lakefront pavilions and outdated arenas than M&I ever was.
6. Fresh Cut Collective RE-FRAMEs its focus
Five years ago, Fresh Cut Collective was a certified hip-hop fusion project. It melded the rapping prowess of BLAX (Adebisi Agoro) with full band backing. When BLAX left Milwaukee, keyboard player Kiran Vee took over frontman duties and, in doing so, changed Fresh Cut’s trajectory to that of a happy-go-lucky pop and funk merger. Meanwhile, the rest of the band experienced tons of turnover, too. While their show schedule has grown exponentially after the shift, lots of FCC V 1.0 fans felt alienated by the drastic musical mutation. These days, Fresh Cut most often works with the likes of Klassik and WebsterX live…making both camps satisfied.
7. Evolution Gastro Pong: A different SPiN on Third Ward tables tennis
After ping pong-themed franchise SPiN—in all its Susan Sarandon part-owned glory—enjoyed three fruitful years in
Wrigleyville Jr. The Historic Third Ward, SPiN Milwaukee brass and New York-based parent company SPiN Galactic parted ways in February. The franchisee’s exodus granted the high-end table tennis club infinitely more freedom, including the ability to change its name. Unfortunately, they choose the shittiest fucking name imaginable. Evolution Gastro Pong took root in place of SPiN Milwaukee two weeks later, and has been making people laugh their asses off ever since. Business still seems to be booming, since anyone willing to spend $24 to rent a ping pong table for an hour likely thinks “Gastro Pong” is an acceptable thing to call a business.
8. Second (and fourth) time’s a charm for Marquette
No matter where you land on the increasingly divisive debate regarding the use of American Indian symbolism, tribe names, or flat out slurs for team names, you have to hand it to Marquette for being ahead of other teams in controversy-avoiding measures. In 1994, the Marquette Warriors became the Golden Eagles. Responding to complaints over the course of the first decade under the new name, a board voted to make the name Marquette Gold. At that point, even the most ardent Warriors supporter realized Golden Eagles was a hell of a lot better than Gold. There was a vote and it was switched back to the first replacement name.