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February 2017

Photo by David Szymanski

Tamela Greene and her wife, Anne Marie Arroyo, named their new restaurant Moxie, but they could have easily called it Serendipity, as the divine seems to have touched them at almost every step of their path to restaurant entrepreneurship. The two were both laid off — one right after the other — from their corporate jobs at Harley-Davidson as part of 2015’s downsizing. But instead of wallowing or wondering, the couple decided to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams (Arroyo had 15 years of restaurant experience before going corporate.) Here the duo explains the mojo and magic of Moxie.

How did you decide on a restaurant?

Greene: We were talking to friends, and we had different ideas of the businesses we could start. Ultimately people kept saying, “There aren’t enough good restaurants (in Whitefish Bay).” So we did a survey of 40 people, but we got back 200 responses. All of that data ultimately went into this restaurant — how it looks, how it feels. A few things stood out, including great customer service. They also wanted a restaurant with a great bar and a great wine list.

Arroyo: Customer experience is No. 1.

How did you develop your restaurant idea?

Greene: We took a fact-finding trip to New York City to see what was trending. The bar’s peninsula is one thing we saw. We also had an amazing grilled romaine salad at another restaurant (and that’s on Moxie’s menu).

Arroyo: We were in New York, and we hadn’t even signed a lease when we got a Facebook message from chef Tony Evans’ wife: “Are you looking for a chef?” We knew of Tony (Evans was formerly the executive chef at Saz’s Catering and several other restaurants). He’s an unbelievable asset for us. He’s a gift.

Greene: Our children (Evans’ and theirs) attended Highland Community Montessori School. We knew of the Evanses, but we never dreamed that he’d be interested in working for us. He believed in us every step of the way, and we make an amazing team.

How would you describe Moxie’s cuisine?

Greene: Inspired American comfort food. We serve lunch, dinner and brunch, with mimosas by the bottle. I love the Tomahawk pork chop and the butternut squash ravioli.

Arroyo: The short rib Bolognese with rigatoni (is my favorite).

Photo by David Szymanski

Some dishes — like the whitefish piedmont — have rice flour, which means they are gluten-free. But that’s not marked on the menu.

Greene: I love that Tony comes to the table if you have any dietary restrictions. He wants to ensure that our guests are safe. We have a son who has allergies, so this is important to us.

Arroyo: We want to build relationships with our customers.

Tell me about that gorgeous painting on the wall.

Greene: That was a gift from Michael Stodola, who has done all of our branding pro bono. It’s the (blue) hood of a 1972 Cutlass Supreme, and that is a portrait (of Diana Ross) from her “Blue” album, which was recorded in 1972. If you look closely, that’s not paint — it’s rust (chemically caused).

Arroyo: Diana Ross has moxie. She’s a powerful woman, and she’s done so much.

Michael Stodola is just one of the many people who are in your brain trust. Tell us a bit more.

Greene: Michael Fritz has been our mentor. He’s helped us believe we could do this. Also, Amber Miller of the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, (and) Jim French, our architect.

Arroyo: People started coming out of the woodwork to help us. The greatest advice is don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s been pretty magical. I’ve read about things like this happening, but until now, I never experienced it happening. When we were starting, Michael Stodola sent us this quote: “Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

What do you want to tell others about Moxie?

Greene: We’ve put our hearts and passion into every single decision about this.

Arroyo: We are all in.


This story ran in the February 2017 issue of: