Patronage and the Everyman

 

The Campus Theater in Ripon, Wisconsin was the first business opened by company founder, Ben Marcus.

The Medici Family were bankers from Tuscany, Italy. Their initial family monies were made in the textile industry and they were influential in developing the double entry bookkeeping system. During the renaissance they owned Europe’s largest bank.

I’m sure their advances in bookkeeping are fascinating but that is not generally why the Medici name has survived throughout history. The Medicis were great patrons of the arts and sciences. Artists so highly regarded we don’t bother speaking their entire names; Masaccio, Donatello, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, and even Galileo.

The first time I saw a concert in Summerfest’s largest amphitheater I was 15. The headliners were Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler, and Ziggy Marley. I won two tickets by being the 14th caller though a radio giveaway. I took a friend from theater camp, and it was the first concert I was allowed to attend without any parents present to shepherd the teenage flock. As I think back, oddly enough, I worked at a Marcus owned KFC at the time.

Yesterday evening the Marcus Corporation kicked off their UPAF fundraising campaign at the Pfister. It was a night of camaraderie, speeches, prizes, and fantastic food and drink. Employees were encouraged to donate to the United Performing Arts Fund, an entity of which the Marcus Family have been patrons for many years. UPAF’s current tagline is, simply, “Life’s better with the arts.”

Mr. Marcus spoke at the event last night. I type this with a bit of a chuckle because their have been three Mr. Marcus’ over the years. Ben Marcus started his company in 1935 by opening a movie theater in Ripon, Wisconsin. His son Steve took the company helm in 1988. In the past few years grandson Greg has taken over as CEO.

Greg Marcus referenced Oklahoma City, where the company operates a lovely historic property called the Skirvin Hotel. He said Oklahoma City recently invested a great deal in their infrastructure and arts and culture community. Mr. Marcus added that this was met with some grousing by the city’s long-time and retired residents. They didn’t view the expenditure as important as they weren’t certain if they’d see the fruits of their monetary seeds. During this dialogue within their city someone asked, in response, if those folks would like to see their grandchildren. The question was met with shrugging and head scratching. Greg explained that, “If you want to see your grandchildren a city needs to be somewhere your children can be gainfully employed and not desire to move to another city. But we can’t have jobs alone, a city requires an active culture worthwhile for residents spread their earnings throughout the community. So, if you don’t want to have to drive to Tulsa, or Dallas, or any other city to see your grandchildren, Oklahoma City needs to be the place your kids want to keep living.”

This type of conversation crosses my mind when I’m at Milwaukee’s Lakefront, one of it’s festivals, or one of our many county parks. These places don’t exist on accident, and we don’t have free and public beaches because the real estate is undesirable. Decades ago, centuries even, people decided that those areas were worthwhile to keep public to increase our collective quality of life. The idea of shared park space was relatively new, as European royalty often enjoyed exclusively any desirable land. Ken Burns’ documentary on the topic was titled, succinctly, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

I may be getting a little off the direct topic, but I see a parallel between patronage toward the arts and the coexistence of natural spaces for us to share. They both require the conclusion, whether by one person or many, that,

“This has value to me.”

Over the last six months, I’ve been able to gather the stories of people traveling through Milwaukee, native Milwaukeeans, and everyone in between. But years before that a few people got together and decided that there is a history, a contemporary living history, that is worth documenting. They decided that Milwaukee and the Pfister Hotel are worth it, and they’ve invited artists and writers in to actively chronicle our contemporary lives within this cream-bricked city. I’ve been lucky to capture a few of these stories, reassemble them, and hand the bouquet back over for you to experience. Whether you’ve been a reader, a hotel guest, a new friend with a story, a conscientious employee…you’ve all acted as patrons.

I look out from Blu’s 23rd floor windows. Summerfest is visible and far to the south in white lettering across a blue background reads The Marcus Amphitheater. The venue in which I saw that first concert the summer before my junior year in high school. Summerfest; that musical playground of my teenage summers. Which someone built just for me and everybody else.

A Wild Conversation On Wisconsin Avenue

 

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post I was able to see Wild Institute founder Chris Heeter speak during UW-Milwaukee’s Women Leaders Conference. Chris’ speech struck a chord with me on many levels and I knew I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to document a few of her philosophies for the blog.

Assuming her canine companion would like some grass respite I suggested we walk four blocks to the Lake Michigan lakefront. While walking I did the best I could to record our conversation, not trip on Tuu Weh’s leash (Chris explains her name), and not bonk Chris in the nose with the mic.

In the audio track below Chris begins by explaining her organization, Wild Institute. After that we discuss similarities between canine/human communication, and how it can be an effective analogy for group dynamics in the workplace. To listen to Chris’ fascinating observations and her excitement for the natural world simply click >Play below or download to listen on your mp3 player/intelligent phone/iPod, etc.

 

Getting to know Chef Brian Frakes

The Pfister has received countless compliments on their Marcus Celebrated Chefs series. Many of the compliments centered around the hotel’s Executive Chef Brian Frakes. People talked about how generous he was with his knowledge and always sent them home with extra food. Guests went home energized with new ideas of how to invigorate their home cooking.

It turned out I’d met Brian briefly when I first came on as narrator. Concierge Peter Mortensen was giving me the introductory tour and we walked downstairs by the kitchen. Brian and I briefly shook hands and exchanged greetings. There were so many people and although good with faces names have never been my strong suit. We were in the kitchen but his manner was so welcoming it didn’t occur to me he could be the hotel’s chef. Most of the chefs I’ve observed in the past exude a territorial bravado (and, to be fair, it’s possible I’ve clicked the television past too many “reality” shows where the chef is always yelling about something), and Brian didn’t carry himself this way. He has a calm confidence and an “ask questions first, then respond with an informed answer,” way about him.

It’s quite possible that is why Brian’s events have translated so well. Yesterday Brian and I sat down and talked about his start in the business, his experiences in the kitchen, and how he ended up in Milwaukee as the Pfister’s Executive Chef. Listen in to give your ears a little taste of his experience and philosophy. Either click play below or download the track to listen later.

 

Getting to know Executive Chef Brian Frakes by Ed Makowski

BREAKING NEWS: Marcus Theatres Mascot Missing Over Weekend

generic Marcus Theatres” src=”http://blog.thepfisterhotel.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Screen-shot-2011-11-07-at-5.40.11-PM-300×264.png” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”264″ />Stubby, the mascot for Marcus Theatres, click was discovered missing from the Majestic Theatre on Saturday morning. Several unverified sightings were reported throughout the day.

According to reports, Stubby was seen from I-94 in the parking lot of the theatre where he was driven away, cialis possibly against his will, in an unidentified vehicle. He also was seen that afternoon at The Pfister Hotel, incidentally, also owned by Marcus Corporation, receiving services at the WELL Spa, sipping on a cup of Starbucks and taking a dip in the pool. This was reportedly followed by a famous Pfister Mary in the Lobby Lounge.

“He seemed to really be enjoying his time here,” says a Pfister employee. “It’s just my opinion, but it didn’t seem like he was being held against his will.”

Hotel employees say Stubby received a key to the Heritage Suite and enjoyed a restful afternoon nap before heading to the Milwaukee Wave game. At the game, Stubby high-fived fans and went onto the field and tossed t-shirts to the crowd. According to sources, his final action was leading the crowd in a spirited rendition of “YMCA.”

Stubby mysteriously returned back to the Majestic Theatre by Sunday evening. It was reported that he was heard muttering about the Business Journal’s Brand Madness contest. “Marcus Corporation’s Theatre Division was up against its own internal rival, the Hotel Division’s Pfister Hotel. One modest hotel against a massive 700+ theatre division.” Sounds like Milwaukee’s own David and Goliath story. “I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog,” he reportedly mumbled.

Rumor has it Stubby voted in the Brand Madness contest while perusing a complimentary-use iPad in The Pfister’s Café. Only time will tell if he voted for his home team, or if he switched sides, supporting the historic hotel—the little guy.

Stone Crab Fishing with Chef Mark Weber

Mason Street Grill has always been committed to provided the freshest seafood possible. As a testament to Mason Street Grill’s commitment, Executive Chef Mark Weber was invited along on a stone crab fishing excursion in the Gulf of Mexico with our new crab distributor. Read along as Chef Weber tells us about his first day at sea.

Wow what a great day of fishing!

I was on the boat at Marina at 4 a.m. to help load bait and meet the crew. They ventured off to visit a few of their trap lines set close to shore as we waited for news of stone crabs via radio. The crab harvest was light near shore so the boat headed up to Clearwater to check traps up there. About 9 a.m. they started really hitting good crab traps and called us to come out. We hopped into a 1050 HP 35 foot Kingfishing boat and sped off to their location. We had a reporter from Newswatch channel 9 with us and our videographer.

When we got to the boat, they were about 18 miles up the coast and a few miles off shore. The wind and the waves were very choppy and made it really hard to take photos. We got some really good action shots from our boat and then transferred over to the fishing boat.

The crabbing went well with lots of good sized claws and multiple crabs in most traps.

After lots of filming, playing with crabs, and pigs feet, we loaded up about 150 pounds of crab and headed back. That Kingfishing boat does about 75 mph on the water! We got in after about 40 minutes and unloaded the crab.

Back at the dock we took some more film and loaded up the crabs to take back to the processing plant for cooking

We got back to the processing plant and went through the HAACP process for handling the “green” claws from start to finish. Its crazy, the green claws are packed in sea water and they are still alive. If you touch them they will still close and try to pinch you! After a couple of hours of weighing, cooking, sorting, and re-weighing, the claws were ready for restaurant delivery. All of the claws we brought in were delivered to local restaurants.

I am going over to the processing plant this morning to see how things are going. They have crab lined up for processing all day and all night so I would like to see how they handle this volume.

[VIDEO] The Pfister Recommends: George Watts & Son

Peter Mortensen, tadalafil the Chef Concierge of the Pfister Hotel is full of amazing recommendations. See what he has to say about our neighbor to the north, treatment George Watts and Son and their second floor gem, cheap Watts Tea Room.

The Pfister Recommends: George Watts & Son from PfisterHotel on Vimeo.