Our History   |   Our Founding Members   |   Our Board

Our business alliance is made up of independent, locally owned businesses and non-profit organizations. Local First Milwaukee defines “local” as a business or non-profit that is privately held and located within the five-county metropolitan Milwaukee area (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington and Racine counties). Our 200+ members have no corporate or national headquarters outside of Wisconsin.

The owners of Local First Milwaukee member businesses live and work within the metropolitan Milwaukee area.Our business members participate in community activities and assist local charities. Local First Milwaukee members create a difference not only through their presence but also through their actions, helping to preserve Milwaukee’s unique character and make it a great place to live!

Local First Milwaukee's History

In 2006, a small group of like-minded independently owned Milwaukee businesses met to discuss how to make Milwaukee a more sustainable community and how to highlight the unique character of our local businesses. A commitment grew from those conversations to create a network that could advocate to the community all of the benefits of choosing local businesses first. The founding members named their group Our Milwaukee because they felt the name demonstrated the pride they felt about their City.

The network grew quickly and by 2011, with more than 200 member businesses and non-profits, a name change to Local First Milwaukee helped strengthen both our identity and mission.

Part of our advocacy work is to demonstrate how dollars spent locally  effectively impact the local economy. Studies show that every $1 spent at a locally owned business, more than 68¢ stays local and impacts the local economy. Compare that same $1 spent at a chain store and only 43¢ remains in Milwaukee.

Locally owned businesses strengthen the local economy and create benefit for everyone!

Board of Directors

As a membership organization Local First Milwaukee has a board of directors made up of volunteers from our member businesses. The board’s work is to guide the organization’s decisions in the areas of membership, communication, finance, and marketing. Elections are held annually to fill board seats and each member of the association has one vote to elect their representatives.


Stephanie Melnick
Melnick and Melnick, S.C.

Vice President

Molly Sullivan
Miss Molly's Cafe


Seeking Member


Evan Gillmore
Associated Bank


Founding Members

The Local First Milwaukee founding group came together with a vision to make a big difference for our community. They each bring their own individual talents and knowledge to the city we call home. Our founding members each have been successful in their own way & we think it’s important they become recognized for their success.

Recognizing the need for strong, quality coffee in Milwaukee, Colectivo Coffee (formerly know as Alterra) opened its first café in 1994. Now with eleven locations in the Milwaukee area, Colectivo provides high-quality coffee, tea, baked goods, brewing equipment and accessories to a range of coffee lovers. The company roasts beans for over 400 wholesale customers as well as its own cafes, keeping the vintage Probat roasters that serve as a café backdrop running almost constantly.Watch the coffee-making process at our Riverwest café – from beans to brew – while sipping the results of relentless attention to strength, consistency, and quality.

Beans & Barley is an institution on Milwaukee’s East Side. The 35-year old business is known both as a social hub and a seller of wholesome, homemade food.As a neighborhood “specialty” grocery store for the East Side and greater Milwaukee, they offer everything from fresh produce to “fresh” greeting cards. From its beginnings as a Hippie health food store, it has carried full lines of vitamins and supplements, as well as homeopathies, books, and body care.

The “all-homemade” deli, with a large selection of hot and cold foods to go, includes a full menu of carry-out food from the restaurant menu.

The restaurant itself seats eighty-five people indoors, in addition to summer patio seating, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. The menu includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian specialties, beer and wine.

Laacke & Joys is Wisconsin’s local outdoor store carrying clothing and outerwear, footwear, lifestyle accessories, camping gear and paddlesports including canoes, kayaks and standup paddleboards. Alpine and nordic skis, snowboards and winter accessories. Outdoor patio furniture is available year-round.Laacke & Joys was founded in 1844, before Wisconsin was a state. Our store is located in Brookfield, WI.

Founded by the Brewery Workers Union in 1934 Brewery Credit union has evolved into a community development financial cooperative serving anyone living or working in southeastern Wisconsin.Brewery Credit union offers a full range of financial services including small business loans, mortgage banking and a payday loan alternative. In addition the credit union offers the convenience of a full service branch with extended hours inside Outpost Natural Foods located in Bay View.

If you’re from Milwaukee, chances are you know good beer and that Lakefront Brewery brews it!Located along the Milwaukee River near downtown Milwaukee, Lakefront Brewery began in 1987 with only sixty barrels of production sold exclusively to taverns within rolling distance of the brewery.

If you love fresh, natural, local and organic foods, Outpost is the place for you! Outpost Natural Foods Co-op is a full service grocery store with lively cafes and juice bars, proud to offer the largest and most diverse selection of organic and local foods in the greater Milwaukee area. Local isn’t just a label, it’s our business model and why we’ve been building lasting relationships with local farmers, vendors and shoppers since 1970. Our 22,000 local co-op owners invest in Outpost to ensure our 4 community-focused, eco-friendly stores continue to provide healthy food and a fun place to meet neighbors. Everyone is welcome to shop the co-op, you don’t have to be an owner to shop, but anyone can become an owner!

The Pabst Theater, built in 1895, was restored to its original splendor in 2001 and presents a wide variety of live concerts and entertainment events featuring local, national and international artists. The Pabst Theater believes Milwaukee and its surrounding communities deserve premiere entertainment experiences at an affordable price – right here in Milwaukee. The Pabst Theater actively partners with locally owned businesses and organizations.The Pabst Theater is the 4th oldest continuous operating theater in the United States. The theater has been designated as a City of Milwaukee Landmark, a State of Wisconsin Historical Site and is listed as A National Historic Landmark with The U.S. Department of Interior.

The Pabst Theater management also manages The Riverside Theater, as well as the historic Turner Hall Ballroom.

Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops was founded in 1927 and closed in 2009. At the time, Schwartz was Milwaukee’s oldest and largest independent bookshop with four retail locations.Until the end, the bookshop prided itself in a broad selection of titles and the kind of personal service found in a good, old-fashioned bookshop. During the 90’s hundreds of authors shared their work annually with Milwaukee readers. The Schwartz Gives Back Program donated over nearly $350,000 to local nonprofit organizations.

The late A. David Schwartz, son of the founder, was known for his bookselling credo, which included: The true profit in bookselling is the social profit; the bottom line, the measure of the impact of the bookshop on the community.