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Inside the box

Photos by Dan Bishop

May 2014

Jaime Levine (left) and Jamie Berger.

Sometimes the best ideas are born in the strangest places. For Jaime Levine, part-time attorney and mom of three, it was her youngest sonís rocking chair. Young children, a law career and a husband might be an overly full plate for many, but Levine wanted to exercise her creative side. Her thoughts returned to an empty floor in a downtown building owned by her husbandís family. "I love lawyering, but I still have a creative flair. I thought, what can I do with this?" Levine says.

What does a mom do when she gets an idea? She tells a girlfriend. For Levine, that meant Jamie Berger, trusted friend and fellow entrepreneur with a creative spirit. Levine needed Berger to answer the question, "Am I crazy?" In April 2013 Berger and Levine ventured from their Mequon homes to check out the building.

Berger, a single mom of two boys, had a busy career in promotion and marketing in addition to a retail job. But upon seeing the space, Berger said, "This is amazing! I love this idea and I kind of want to do it with you. Donít abort this mission, this is going to be phenomenal."

So The Box was born. Berger says, "It was a combination of Ďif you build it, they will comeí and a strong business plan." But the space needed some updating. Levine says, "It had pink and red on the walls and ceiling, it was ugly and it needed love in every way." Berger adds, "We revamped the loft to maintain the integrity of the space and the classic Milwaukee feel." Levine says, "We hired the plumbers, electricians, painters, we oversaw it all."

"The space organically designed itself on so many levels as we were trying to keep the history of the loft, the Cream City brick, existing lights and floor to ceiling windows," Berger says. "It was just a matter of playing off those great bones."

"Thereís a safe thatís incredible and the door handle we were obsessed with, thereís a lot of charm that we wanted to keep," Levine adds.

Before construction was finished Levine and Berger scheduled a grand opening: Third Ward Gallery Night. Three to four times a year the Third Ward Association showcases local artists and designers at Gallery Night. The October 2013 Gallery Night at The Box featured five artists, three fashion representatives, cocktails and appetizers. But getting the space ready came down to the wire. "That day we were still finalizing stuff and hanging lights," Levine says. "But we were the hot spot. There were 75 people, a big turnout for a gallery night," Berger adds.

The Box can comfortably hold 100 people and is taking reservations for a wide variety of events. Every Monday night is Sparkle and Burn Hoop Dance class and The Box has also hosted nonprofit events, photo shoots, a pop-up retail shop, teen dances, weddings, even yoga classes. Berger says, "The space is whatever you want it to be!" Pretty impressive for an idea that began in a rocking chair!




This story ran in the May 2014 issue of: