New businesses open doors in downtown Waukesha

By Katherine Michalets, Freeman Staff

June 6, 2015

Bringing sweetness to downtown Waukesha 

When Llazar Konda was brainstorming on what to call his new bar and restaurant, he decided on the name “Meli,” which means honey in Greek. He felt that with the transition occurring among some longtime downtown businesses, he wanted to bring some sweetness to the area he loves.

Llazar Konda and Nicko Sifnaios stand in Meli.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

“I believe in Waukesha. I believe in downtown Waukesha,” he said. Meli opened this week in the former Generations at 5 Points, 294 W. Main St., with limited hours. Konda intends to increase the hours to include lunch starting Monday.

The sign for Meli says it has American and Mediterranean food, which Executive Chef Eric Weber said gives him a lot of flexibility in creating dishes. His sous chef is Ethan Greene.

“I’m passionate about people trying new foods and foods they normally wouldn’t try,” he said.

Weber comes to Meli after working at the University Club in Milwaukee for almost 13 years. In Greece, Konda owned a restaurant. His business partner, Nicko Sifnaios, also has restaurant experience — his family owns Christina’s Family Restaurant in Waukesha and he operates Tuscan Hall Banquet Center.

“Llazar and I had a synergetic vision for the city. Homey and comfortable Mediterranean-style food,” he said.

Like Konda, Sifnaios has a deep appreciation for Waukesha.

“Giving the city the loving it deserves and liveliness it deserves,” Konda said.

They also want to bring in vegetables and fresh ingredients from the farmers market. Meli offers a full bar and creates infused tequilas and vodkas. There are 30 wines on the menu that go up as high as $32 per bottle.

“I want people to feel comfortable. I want people to walk in the door and not think twice,” Konda said of the prices.

Starting Monday, Meli will be open for lunch and dinner seven days per week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and Sunday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. Until then, Meli opens at 4 p.m.

High 5 Gear brings boldness to clothes and downtown 

Scanning the front retail area of High 5 Gear, owner Todd Molbeck said it feels good to have everyone under one roof instead of spread out between two locations.

Todd Molbeck with some of the new golf shirts High 5 Gear produces. 
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

High 5 Gear specializes in bowling and golf shirts, although it’s continuing to expand its products. The business moved into the former Restyle Studio space at 401 E. Main St. on May 1 and has its offices in back and a retail store in front.

Molbeck said the business is a product of the recession. He didn’t want to lay off employees at his other company, Transcendent, an information technology business in Hartland, so Molbeck began to create a bowling scoring system for high schools. That then led to selling bowling shirts, which really took off.

High 5 Gear has since expanded into golf clothing, but it all bears the company’s bold take on designs and color.

High 5 Gear is the official shirt maker for the Professional Bowlers Association.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Molbeck said the company has continued to grow at about 70 percent year over year, but it’s hard work growing a brand. He sells his bowling shirts internationally with Japan being a top area because the Japanese will pay more for items made in the United States. High 5 Gear also creates shirts for collegiate bowling and for the Professional Bowlers Association for the past two years.

Going forward, High 5 Gear may expand into tennis and yoga apparel.

About 80 percent of the High 5 Gear bowling shirts are made in the United States, including Wisconsin, while the golf shirts tend to be made in China, Thailand, Colombia or Vietnam.

For those looking to purchase a bowling or golf shirt, shoppers can stop into High 5 Gear from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

POPping up some flavor 

POParazzi is adding pizzazz to plain white bags — not only by filling them with flavorful popcorn, but by adding customers’ photos to them, free of charge.

The name POParazzi is meant to reflect that photography aspect. The photos of obliging customers will even end up decorating one of the business’s walls.

POParazzi features picture bags with photos of customers on them. 
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Jack and Mackenzie Metcalf own the business at 271 W. Main St., but their mother Joleen Metcalf is using her business background to help get them started.

POParazzi opened its doors downtown on Memorial Day, but has been serving up popcorn and lemonade for a few weeks at the Waukesha Farmers Market. Every day, the store will sell its white popcorn as well as a flavor of the day, such as white cheddar, barbecue, ranch or jalapeno.

Also on the menu are specialty iced coffees, iced tea and popsicles. Prices range from $1.50 for a small white popcorn to $4.50 for an extralarge flavored popcorn.

The popcorn comes from a vendor in Portage and the coffee from Metcalf’s friend in West Bend, who has a roasting business.

Having grown up in Portage, Metcalf was familiar with the line of popcorn.

“It gets such rave reviews,” she said.

Metcalf and Dan Paige also own Design Build Group, which they moved into a space behind POParazzi. She said she wants to help her children use the skills they were learning in college with their own business so they opened the shop.

Jack, 22, and Mackenzie, 19, will be working in POParazzi this summer although they have been involved while at school. POParazzi will allow Jack, who is pursuing youth studies, to help kids find a safe place. Mackenzie is studying math.

POParazzi will generally be open from about 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.