MILWAUKEE — More than one year after closing its doors to gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, Milwaukee's Sherman Phoenix is reopening for public events Tuesday, June 15 with a grand reopening celebration.
The party, featuring free food, a photo booth, dance party music, and self-guided tours, will run from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
“The power of what we started and the embers of our unbreakable spirit has continued to glow. Now, on June 15, we will stoke our spirits into a burning swell of love as the Sherman Phoenix re-opens again,” said JoAnne Sabir, co-developer of the Sherman Phoenix. “The doors will be swung back open in a great celebratory fashion, and we are excited to welcome our community back in to renew themselves by being with us - and with each other!”
“The Sherman Phoenix has a special type of energy that can’t be duplicated. You can feel it as soon as you walk through the doors,” said Chandra Cooper, CEO of Queens Closet, a Sherman Phoenix tenant. “We are more than a marketplace and an entrepreneurial hub, we are hope and the future for the community.”
A feeling of excitement filled the Sherman Phoenix as things went back to normal for 27 small businesses and 55 community owners.
Funky Fresh owner Trueman McGee said restaurant sales decreased by 30% during the pandemic, and opening doors now is vital.
"Not having that destination where you can come in and eat has been tough on not only us but a lot of businesses," McGee said.
Business owners say the Sherman Phoenix will continue to prevail no matter the obstacles because it was born from the ashes of the unrest following a fatal police-involved shooting that took the life of Sylville Smith in 2016.
Days of protest led to the burning of the BMO Harris Bank, which is now the Sherman Phoenix.
"When Sherman Phoenix happened, it happened because of a reason," Salon Lavish owner Latrece Neson said. "The fire was burning around us and now I feel like that fire is burning inside of us."
The entrepreneurial space for small, Black-owned businesses means a lot to community members like BilliJo Saffold and her daughter.
"This is the hubbub of the community," BilliJo said. "This is where we come together to experience our culture, to be ourselves and to support each other."
"It's an opportunity for people to just meet, talk, congregate, fellowship with each other. It's really an invaluable space," Dr. Jacinta Saffold added.
Gov. Tony Evers also stopped by and toured the space, and said he was impressed by the vibe and atmosphere in the building.
"This is a really important part of Milwaukee. Seeing the number of entrepreneurs that are working so hard to make a living and make their communities better," Evers said.
For business owners, today is a great day to be back and get into the groove of things.
"The story goes on, the game continues," McGee said. "I'm just excited for the community to get back into the groove of things."
Here's some more information on the festivities, from the Sherman Phoenix:
• Self-guided tours: Haven’t been out in a year?! Come see how your old favorites - like Funky Fresh Spring Rolls - have pivoted and reinvented themselves. You’ll also find some new offerings that sprang forth during pandemic.
• Photo booth: for community to show that we are stronger than all that separates us - snap a picture of your positivity and advance your social media posts #werise #shermanpphoenix
• Free food: Until it’s gone - free BBQ brought to you, of course, by our own businesses
• Dance Party Music: The Sherman Phoenix is always a party, with arts and culture at our center. Come dance with joy with our DJ spinning just the right soundtrack for another family reunion.
The Sherman Phoenix also announced Monday that it would be launching a new nonprofit arm, "The Sherman Phoenix Foundation." The organization will be focused on "critically needed leadership, training and action by leaders of color on economic equity and empowerment."