Every night the notes of renowned jazz, blues, and R&B performers echo through the glimmering walls of 88 Keys Piano Martini Lounge, where martinis and small plates meet beneath mood-setting blue lights in West Allis’s downtown stretch. The relaxed spot was conceived by co-owners Greg Barczak and Suzy Ball who, as West Allis Now reporter Mark Schaaf notes, “hope the city is turning a corner and want to make something more of the downtown” by attracting a younger crowd and lending the area an intimate, upscale nightlife option.
Inside the low-lit lounge, glass windows open and close to bathe guests and performers in a cooling breeze. Artwork and Wisconsin gangster memorabilia, including John Dillinger photographs and high-school report cards, beam down upon pots of fondue and gourmet pizzas. Behind the glowing bar, master mixologists blend a lengthy list of 28 specialty martinis and fill glasses with wine and beer.
Creative Fire Art & Pottery Studio has a roomy workspace where adults and kids can learn the craft of clay. The facility hosts day and evening classes. There’s also open studio time, where students can come and go as they please to finish building a piece or see if their clay pigeon has morphed into a real pigeon. In party packages, you and a group of friends can get a room to yourselves to work with clay under the advisement of an instructor. It’s also worth it to stop in Creative Fire Art & Pottery Studio’s gallery, which feature a number of original pottery pieces.
Established around 1937, American Science & Surplus, a science-related hobby store, equips curious customers with gadgets that fulfill educational pursuits. For customers working on science experiments, the shop carries lab supplies and equipment such as burner stands, microscopes, and petri dishes. Tinkerers can pick up spare parts for their projects, such as power adapters or wheels to help with building model cars or turning TV remote controls into cat toys. The shop's inventory also includes robot parts, school and art supplies, and home accessories such as flexible chopping mats, cheeseburger-shaped kitchen timers, and desk toys.
The Exclusive Company—a Wisconsin-bred music-and-movie retailer—has given the gift of song since 1956, earning a Best of Milwaukee award from Shepherd Express readers in 2011. Passionate staffers guide visitors toward sprawling collections of rock and jazz and bins brimming with DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, and loose 8mm slides from Kenny G's summer vacation. In addition to peddling new vinyl releases such as El Camino by the Black Keys and Revolver by T-Pain, the shop functions as a trading post, helping to find loving homes for preowned films and music. All used discs are carefully buffed into shape before meeting their new owners, and each comes backed by a money-back guarantee, which promises store credit if a preowned item exhibits biting tendencies. Most used CDs, DVDs, and vinyl cost less than $20.
At Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, families and friends can explore 185 acres of scenic wilderness and wander along 6 miles of hiking trails. The myriad perks of membership entitle patrons to unlimited year-round access to the center as well as more than 140 partner centers across North America. Both adults and children enjoy discounts on educational jaunts and the chance to dominate the center's resident eagles and owls in aerial stunt challenges. Guests often ascend the park's 60-foot observation tower to observe hikers and cross-country skiers traversing the flora-laden premises. Invitations to exclusive events allow members to wine and dine with other nature lovers and included membership in the Schlitz Audubon Bird Club grants knowledge of the secret handshakes of local talons.
Since opening in the early 1990s, Manhattan Textiles has dazzled guests with its large assortment of reasonably priced, designer-inspired fabrics. Fueled by a passion for fine textiles, owner Judy and her two daughters traveled the globe in search of distinctive fabrics worthy of display inside their expansive show room. In addition to fabrics, they hand select trims, create custom bedding, and hand loom rugs from a variety of yarns, dyes, patterns, and magic-carpet blueprints.