Iconic Downer Wine & Spirits Purchased by Two Neighborhood Customers, Continuing Liquor Store Legacy of 90 Years on Historic Downer Avenue

Former Co-Owner to Serve as General Manager of Popular Beverage Retailer

Milwaukee, Wisconsin (March 4, 2024) — Boss Babes, Inc., recently formed by business partners Tonit Calaway and Sarah Zimmerman, has purchased Downer Wine & Spirits from brothers Mark and Steve Nord, the new owners announced Monday.

The two women are longtime residents of the Downer Avenue neighborhood and have been customers of the store, 2638 N. Downer Ave., for years.

“This neighborhood has always been so important to me and my family, and the store is a mainstay of the Downer Avenue corridor,” Calaway said. “It’s important to Sarah and me that it continue to thrive, as well as the neighborhood and the other businesses on Downer Avenue. As longtime customers ourselves, we are excited to get to know our customers and understand how to meet their needs.”

A wine and liquor store first operated as Downer Wine & Liquor Co. at the same location in 1934 – 90 years ago – and wine and liquor stores have continued there under similar names and various owners. The Nord brothers have owned Downer Wine & Spirits for nearly 18 years. Their sale to Boss Babes closed on Friday. Steve Nord will continue as the store’s general manager.

Neighbors and customers will not see any immediate changes to the store experience or product offerings, although Calaway and Zimmerman said they bring a passion for wine exploration and plan to host tastings of a range of wine selections. The new owners hope to build on the personal interaction and knowledge of customer preferences fostered by the Nords during their nearly two decades of ownership.

“The perfect bottle of wine or bourbon can make a night with friends or family truly memorable,” Zimmerman said. “We are excited to help make that happen for our customers.”

Calaway and Zimmerman said that they learned separately when shopping at the store that the owners were planning to sell the business. The topic came up unexpectedly in conversation between the two friends, prompting them to consider buying the store together. It was a good fit for both. Calaway travels extensively and is knowledgeable about wine, and Zimmerman’s family has a long history in brewing in Milwaukee going back to the original Schlitz brewery. Both said they have a desire to learn everything they can about the beverage industry.

“It’s not that we were looking to start a store – it’s that we love this store and this neighborhood and want to see them continue to thrive,” Zimmerman said.

Ald. Jonathan Brostoff, who represents and lives in the neighborhood, said, “I’m thrilled that Boss Babes is going to carry on the fine tradition of excellent service to the community that Downer Wine & Spirits embodied. This is a big win for the neighborhood.”

Downer Wine & Spirits is a fixture of the historic Downer Avenue retail district, a distinctive two blocks packed with a wide range of businesses including a grocery store, book store, hardware store, gift shop, dentist, dry cleaner, jeweler, eyewear boutique, drug store, bank, fitness studio and bread store as well as coffee shops, restaurants, salons, physical therapists and medical offices.

“The Downer Avenue commercial district is unique and historic, and we want to continue to serve and be part of this vibrant neighborhood,” Zimmerman said.
Downer Wine & Spirits is known for offering a carefully curated selection of wines, spirits and beers and in-store tasting events. The store launched a new Wine Club rewards program Friday. Customers can sign up and learn details at the store.

Calaway is executive vice president, chief administrative officer, general counsel and secretary at BorgWarner Inc., one of the world’s largest auto suppliers, and is a venture investor in entertainment and hospitality.

Zimmerman is a former attorney who serves on several local nonprofit boards, including the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Lynden Sculpture Garden and the HAPA Foundation, in addition to overseeing Astor Street Foundation as its president.

Learn more about the store at downerwine.com and follow @downerwineandspirits on Instagram and Downer Ave Wine & Spirits on Facebook for info on new arrivals, sales and events.

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