Unite and succeed
Kondas promote passion, business presence in downtown Waukesha

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Sept. 1, 2015

 Llazar and Alyssa Konda outside Meli on Monday. Llazar runs Meli and Alyssa runs Reaching Treetops Yoga a block away on Grand Avenue.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA -The faces of business owners Alyssa and Llazar Konda have become so familiar in downtown Waukesha in just a few months that people are constantly waving at them and it takes Alyssa about 20 minutes to walk from the front of the restaurant to the back during meal time because so many people stop her to talk. But this is exactly what the couple was hoping for when they opened a yoga studio and a restaurant in downtown Waukesha.

“It’s a real neighborhood in downtown and we feel comfortable here,” she said.

Llazar said downtown Waukesha reminds him of a small city in Europe where people can walk everywhere.

Alyssa Konda opened the Reaching Treetops Yoga at 820 N. Grand Ave. in May, which was the second location for Reaching Treetops Yoga. Its original location inside the Badger Health Center, S31-W24757 Sunset Drive, remained open, but the Grandview Boulevard location closed and was relocated downtown. At the time, Konda said she “wanted to be in the heart of the community.”

A few weeks later, Llazar opened Meli bar and restaurant in the former Generations at 5 Points location at 294 W. Main St. with business partner Nicko Sifnaios.

“(Waukesha) has a big city feeling in a small environment,” he said.

This past Friday, the two businesses held grand opening celebrations, but their owners made sure their presence was felt in the downtown community from the start. Success of a small business is dependent on passion and presence, Llazar Konda said.

Finding their way downtown

The couple was attracted to downtown Waukesha a few years ago when they were apartment-hunting, and they liked the idea of being able to walk to shopping and dining. After opening up her first Reaching Treetops Yoga location, Alyssa was invited to demonstrate aerial yoga at Friday Night Live as a different form of entertainment. When the right location opened on Grand Avenue with high-enough ceilings for the aerial exercises, Alyssa and Llazar decided to take the step and become downtown business owners.

While Llazar is working full time at Meli, Alyssa has a full-time job for a pharmaceutical company. The couple also has two children - ages 5 and 2 - and have since moved into a house in Pebble Valley. Even with their busy lives, Llazar and Alyssa remain committed to being at their businesses so they can provide great customer experiences and continue perpetuating a neighborhood feeling, which they say is vital to the downtown’s economic success.

“We work very hard at what we do. We get up early in the morning and work as hard as we can,” Alyssa said.

Striving for future success

What also helps businesses succeed, especially in a downtown area, is offering unique services or products. Alyssa wants to expand her offerings to include aerial hoop, aerial silks and aerial chains and have some more circus-oriented training.

“We’re taking aerial up and beyond at this point,” she said.

Llazar hopes to make Meli the best restaurant in the area. He is also working with downtown Waukesha business owners, including Jeff Barta of Nice Ash, to form a hospitality group that would partner to promote the dining and drinking establishments.

“I think we need to be a little less afraid of our community and adapt more to it,” Llazar said.

Now that downtown regulars have gotten as familiar with the Kondas as the couple is with the area, it’s reminding Llazar more of Greece, his home country. Before leaving Athens to come to the United States, Llazar was a well-established business owner who was used to being recognized and greeted.

Downtown views

Alyssa said downtown Waukesha is still somewhat divided, but that is to be expected when there are politics involved. She said she always strives to be courteous to people who live downtown because she recognizes it’s not solely a business district.

She continues to believe in the future of downtown despite opening her yoga studio when there was significant turnover at some well-known businesses. The growth of the farmers market and its increased attendance as well as the number of people Friday Night Live draws downtown are huge successes, she said.

Alyssa said it’s key for businesses to have their doors open and to welcome patrons during these busy times. Waukesha is missing the mark, she said, in regard to so many businesses being closed on Sundays. She does recognize it is often a day of rest for business owners, but she knows there are people who live downtown or come specifically downtown to frequent the businesses on Sunday.

“People want that charm back. They want that recognition point of a downtown,” Alyssa said.



Email: kmichalets@conleynet.com