MILWAUKEE — Giving the perfect gift is a great feeling.
A new restaurant owner in Milwaukee, Rosetta Bond, got a gift that’s setting the table for big success.
Rosetta is the Turkey Leg Queen.
“I’m known for my stuffed turkey legs, I sell them every Thursday,” she says. “They come with various items, I have alfredo, Cajun rice, macaroni and yams.”
Rosetta has been running her soul food business – 1700 Pull Up – from her home for a couple of years. Now, she’s ready to move out.
“Right now I’m renting a full duplex and that’s my storage,” Rosetta says. “So I have the upstairs and the downstairs and I need it all for storage.”
So as she and former Tandem restaurant owner Caitlin Cullen walk around a new restaurant space, you might just think the pair are partners. But their relationship is so much more special than that.
Caitlin is giving Rosetta everything in the restaurant – thousands of dollars in equipment and furniture and even ingredients – for free.
“If I had my license today, I could come in here and say, ‘hey, lets eat,’” Rosetta says.
Caitlin says she’s had a lot of help, too.
“It’s not mine to sell off,” she says. “I feel like it would do a disservice to everyone who has given something to us to try and profit off of it.”
It’s part of a spirit of community Caitlin has always wanted for the space. Right away, she wanted to hire young people from the surrounding Lindsay Heights neighborhood.
“I was able to get jobs in kitchens all over the city and get paid to learn how to do something as a career and that opportunity is just not afforded to the young people that look different than me in the city,” Caitlin says.
For a lot of her employees, working at Tandem was their first job.
“It gave young people a community of like-minded individuals who came from the same situation,” Caitlin says. “When you have community like that, I think it’s a lot easier to rise up together.”
Like most restaurants, Tandem struggled during the pandemic. But Caitlin and her staff wanted to give back to the neighborhood that had built them up.
They took what they had in the kitchen and made 185 meals to give away.
“They were gone in 2 hours,” Caitlin says. “I felt like I had made a promise and so we doubled down, and we kept making more and making more.”
Caitlin says she was ready for a change from restaurant work – but she’ll still be dealing with food. She took a job with the Riverwest Food pantry as the Food Center Director.
Now that Rosetta is taking over the lease, expect her to be just as generous with her food.
“If I have food left from yesterday, if I know someone with a group home, I’ll give it away all the time,” she says.
Rosetta says her family loves putting on breakfasts with Santa and providing free meals. Having a brick-and-mortar restaurant just gives her more opportunities to give.
“The tradition will continue.”
Rosetta is also excited and proud to be a Black business owner in the neighborhood. Her grandmother was one of the first African American women to own a business in Lindsay Heights.
“For me to come to 53205 and have a business in the same area code that my grandmother started in, it’s significant for me,” Rosetta says. “It’s big for my family.”
It’s one of the main reasons Caitlin chose Rosetta.
“She’s lived here a long time, she’s been here long before I ever knew what this neighborhood was,” Caitlin says. “And did I say her food is really good?”
She’s looking forward to sitting at the other side of the bar and enjoying what Rosetta has to offer.
“I want people to feel at home, just like they got my meals and they were able to be at home,” Rosetta says. “That’s the same feeling I want it to be in here.”