MILWAUKEE – As the world begins to reopen, some people are realizing that they enjoy working from home. It is estimated that only about a quarter of workers returned to the Milwaukee office. This change in mentality is already changing the heart of the city center.
Mitz Erickson has made a lot of soup over the years, as a co-owner of the Soup House near the corner of Michigan and Milwaukee. She owns the restaurant with her daughter Ruby.
“Actually, the very last soup I make is soup that I’ve never made before, just because it was the last in the pile, I guess,” Erickson said.
On April 28, Erickson made his very last soup: a coconut curry recipe. Her mother cut the recipe down from a newspaper years ago, but she got lost in the hubbub of a busy business.
“Every day that dining room would be full and come back again, and that’s only in a three hour period,” Erickson said.
Surrounded by office buildings downtown, the Soup House was selling soup almost every day until March 2020.
“Just like that, it all stopped, and everyone was gone. It was like a ghost town here for almost a year,” Erickson said.
Milwaukee opens. The order of health, which includes the mask’s mandate, will expire on June 1. However, that doesn’t mean people are coming back to work.
“There were a lot of things we didn’t like about being in an office, being in a cubicle all the time. Now we can be very deliberate in the way we come together and communicate and really take advantage of the flexibility that remote working offers, ”said Erin Bloom.
Bloom is the Head of Culture and Community at Aquent. The recruiting company once had an office in the city center along Water Street. The company let its lease expire earlier this year, deciding to make working from home permanent.
“After a few months, we realized that we were spending a lot of money on wasted office space because people were thriving from home,” Bloom said.
Aquent is just one example of how downtown has evolved. There are “available office space” signs throughout.
It is estimated that only about 25% of workers in Milwaukee have returned to the office, but Beth Weirick is optimistic. Weirick is the CEO of Milwaukee Downtown Improvement District BID # 21. She expects 50% of workers to return by fall.
“We all see September as a very big comeback, not only here in Milwaukee, but also with my colleagues across the country,” Weirick said.
The return of Milwaukee is not fast enough to save the soup kitchen.
Mitz and Ruby served that last post of coconut curry soup on April 29. After 21 years in business, they decided it was time to move on.
“It was all exhausting. All the back and forth, the loans. Do people come back? Aren’t they coming back? The frustration of it all just takes its toll where maybe it’s something that says your time is up, ”Erickson said.
Loyal customers lined up outside on the 29th to try and get a final taste.
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“You could see it coming. We’ve been downtown since June, but a lot of offices haven’t been. It’s really sad to see a place go that has been a favorite haunt for downtown employees. city, ”said customer Celia Kasten.
Soups quickly started to sell. Only about an hour and a half after opening, the very last bowl sold.
The Ericksons’ hope that someday someone else will find success in the corner of Michigan and Milwaukee.
“I think if people come back to work I think it will revitalize again, but I don’t really see that for at least two years,” Erickson said.
It’s unclear how many years this return will take, and the Ericksons can’t afford to wait.
“Definitely out of the soup game for now,” Erickson said.