A fast-food chicken-wing restaurant won't be coming to the East Tosa business district, citing a negative reception in the neighborhood and from the city.
But Dairy Queen, the old-line fast-food establishment that planned to close and make way for it, might instead try to stay.
Wing Stop has pulled out of plans to occupy the property at 6520 W. North Ave., the property owner says, but his current tenant is now rethinking his plans to give up his Dairy Queen franchise and depart.
In the meantime, though, landlord Jerry Mehring listed the property for sale – although he's not feeling pressured to sell now that DQ isn't pressing to leave.
Mehring, who spoke to Wauwatosa Patch from Honolulu, where he and his family were celebrating his granddaughter's first communion, said he would have to sit down and talk to his tenant when he returns later this week, but for now he has both a property broker and a tenant and is keeping his options open.
Owner now in no rush to sell
"Wing Stop did pull out, because of the negative comments from the city and from people in the neighborhood," Mehring said. "Before that, at one point, he (the Dairy Queen franchisee) thought he wanted to give up his franchise."
"But since then they've had a meeting, and his manager talked about how they could try to build up the business, so now they are thinking about staying."
"At this point, it's a Dairy Queen and is staying a Dairy Queen," Mehring said. "But we're evaluating it, and the propery is listed. It's available, let's say, but we're not selling to just anybody who makes an offer. I'm working with Dairy Queen to see if we can keep it there."
When things seemed completely up in the air – his tenant wanting out, his expected new tenant walking away – Mehring, an astute businessman, read the tea leaves of East Tosa and looked to where it's been heading.
Mehring hired as broker for his property the one man who has probably done the most to push the East Tosa/North Avenue milieu forward – Kristian Sydow, who arranged transactions for Juniper 61 and the BelAir Cantina.
"I understand that this wasn't in Jerry's plans," Sydow said. "It's listed. It's on the market. But it's entirely up to him where it's going."
Mehring can't lose by keeping a longtime tenant in place, but, he said, he's letting Sydow "test the waters" to see who might react to his property.
"We'll see," Mehring said, "what anybody offers."
The wing stops here
Wing Stop put in its application for a business permit earier this year when Dairy Queen was planning on pulling out. On the heels of its application came Ald. Joel Tilleson's proposal in February to prohibit new chain restaurants from the district.
Wing Stop would not have been barred, because its application came in before Tilleson's proposal, effectively grandfathering it.
But the negative response to another fast-food establishment just as effectively drove the proposed new franchise away.
Ald. Bobby Pantuso, Tilleson's 5th District colleague, said he had received far more communications against the Wing Stop than for it. But, he said, Common Council members had no means or intention of trying to halt it.
One source, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing real estate negotiations in the district, said that large numbers of neighborhood residents had made it clear they would not patronize a Wing Stop restaurant.
Pantuso said that if Dairy Queen opts not to stay, or if Mehring gets an offer he can't reject, he'd like to see a mixed-use development on the Dairy Queen site.
"I'd like to see something like what's proposed for the Fire Station site in the Village," Pantuso said, "but without the controversy.
"It would be welcomed here. I'd like to see total redevelopment of the property."