My place of “residence” for the Writer-in-Residence Program is “The Branch” at 1501 Washington Ave. Owned by Kristina Campbell, it is a beautiful event space and cafe. Built in 1923, the Branch is a former bank, with two floors of table space and a cafe/bar on the first floor. The original bank vault is at the rear of the main floor, visible from the entrance. It served as a bank until the 1980s. Did I say it was an amazing space?
Kristina, a Kenosha native who lived in Milwaukee for 14 years, and now lives in Pleasant Prairie, opened the Branch two years ago. It is used for many different types of activities. It provides a space for people to work during the day as well as a “community space.” On the third Wednesday night of every month, for example, there is an open book club and a book swap. On weekends, the Branch is reserved for special events such as weddings and bridal showers.
Campbell did a survey recently and asked people what they most wanted in the area. The #1 thing was food trucks. #2 was community events. She aims to satisfy both needs.
Why did a Kenosha native open a venue in Uptown Racine? She had looked at many places in kenosha and Racine, but when she walked in the Branch and saw the vault. She was sold. “It has a unique feel. It has a lot of character it worked perfect for what I wanted to do.” A cafe was not part of the original plan. But, she wanted (or rather needed) a beer and wine license for events. So, she opened the cafe in order to get one. She had to wait a year for the liquor license.
Revitalization of Uptown was not part of her original plan either, but after being here for a while, it become her “fifth child.” I really want to see it [Uptown] grow. I grew a passion for it.” She sees much potential in Uptown that she thinks isn’t being tapped into. “I want this to be a vibrant area that has people hustling and bustling around.” Her vision of Uptown is where there are “places for people to go in and out of, and shop, and eat and drink; where it is welcoming and inviting.” Hopefully, Kristina will be joined by others in the uptown area and make that vision a reality.
According to my calculations there are 13 weeks in the months of April, May, and June. As my first blog was basically a description of my duties and not a “content” blog. I will not count it. I will consider this the first one, for accounting purposes. This means I have 12 more to do (I may do more). I have two general topics that I want to write about. The first is write about organizations, events, people, and places that are important to Racine in general and/or Uptown in particular. I am thinking of organizations such as the LBGT Center, the Racine Literacy Council, or What’s Up Racine?; events such as the food truck extravaganza on May 15 or the Artist Mixer on May 16; people such as artists or entrepreneurs, and places (such as the Branch). My second general category of blogs will be ones related Racine (or Wisconsin) history. In my book “Wisconsin and the Civil War” I wrote about several Racine related Civil War subjects. As I am a nonfiction writer who plans on doing nonfiction for this blog, I think they fit perfectly.
Also, I am open to suggestions. Feel free to suggest any topic that you think would be a good fit.
[Below: A view of the cafe counter at The Branch. The featured of Kristina courtesy of Varitay Studios]