27 small businesses at Sherman Phoenix, many under a year old, forced to close due to COVID-19

MILWAUKEE -- Business and restaurant owners and staff are adjusting to a new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Sherman Phoenix rose from the ashes of the Sherman Park unrest in August 2016, and its 27 businesses are facing new challenges due to COVID-19.

"Every day is an adventure here," said Taj Pearsall with Buffalo Boss.

Pearsall and other owners of young businesses at Sherman Phoenix are facing unprecedented challenges.

Taj Pearsall

"It's definitely been less foot traffic," said Pearsall. "We're trying everything we can to stay alive in these trying times."

The coronavirus changed the way restaurants operate. Governor Tony Evers ordered bars and restaurants closed except for carryout or delivery.

"We'e done curbside and online deliveries, which has really spiked a little to help to balance out the traffic flow, which has diminished," said Pearsall.

The more than two dozen small businesses at Sherman Phoenix were forced to close, losing tens of thousands of dollars. Developers asked for donations to help.

Clyde Anderson

"For them to being hit right now with this sort of blow, it could be devastating to some," said Clyde Anderson with Sherman Phoenix. "We're dong all we can to make sure they're staying empowered. We want to take business online. We want to create innovate ways, so our tenants can continue to share what they know."

"Now is the time for everyone to chip in, and be Milwaukee strong, and be in it together," said Pearsall.

Below is a letter shared with the community by Sherman Phoenix officials Monday, March 23:

Dear Donors,

On March 18th, the Sherman Phoenix made the difficult decision to close our doors to the public to protect the health of our community. This means that our 27 small businesses are reeling to cope with the sudden loss of customers. Many of our businesses are only a year old, and the unexpected loss is having a staggering impact. In a matter of days, these small businesses have lost tens of thousands of dollars in sales, cancelled contracts and perishable products.

Our entrepreneurs are responding in real time to the rapidly changing world to restructure their business models. Some, like Funky Fresh Spring Rolls and Confectionately Yours have created freezer meals for porch delivery. Others like Buffalo Boss and Sauce & Spice are operating through curbside service. Still others – like our barber and beauty shops, wellness providers, massage therapists, art bar, and retail stores -- have closed their doors altogether.

With the closing expected to last many weeks, we have launched an urgent campaign for emergency funds. Our first priority is to provide immediate rent relief for all 27 tenants. Secondly, we want to provide support to our entrepreneurs as they pivot to new e-commerce platforms. At the same time, we are pivoting online to play a continued role as a trusted voice in the community for information on family and community wellbeing. Emergency funds will help ensure that businesses can reopen, rebuild, and rehire, and the Sherman Phoenix will remain a vibrant community hub.

The Sherman Phoenix is resilient by its very nature. Just over a year ago, we rose from the ashes to become a beloved community space offering inspiration, innovation, and love. We are incredibly grateful for your generosity – together, we can help the Sherman Phoenix rise again.

With gratitude and prayers for Milwaukee’s wellbeing,

JoAnne Sabir and Juli Kaufmann
Co-Developers of the Sherman Phoenix