Milborn-and-Raised: Episode 1

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#Milbornandraised is a campaign run by Milborn Advisors to reach out to the people that make Milwaukee great. This week, we interview Taylor Katz, a budding photographer who moved here from Chicagoland thanks to the support and convincing of her Renaissance Faire friends.

Interview and photography by Amy Lancaster.

I walked into La Finca in St. Francis on a warm and beautiful Sunday fall morning. The familiar aromas of Mexican coffee beans filled the air as Bjork and other calm new-wave music played in the background. The café was bustling this morning with young business women, tapping away on their computers; families with small children enjoying breakfast and hot chocolate; and older residents, enjoying their weekly ritual of seeing friends every weekend morning for current event chats over a hot cup of joe.

It was clear why La Finca was the choice of location for my interview with Taylor Katz; not only is it her favorite coffee shop, full of rich cultural history and uniqueness, but it symbolized what she loves about this city and the surrounding areas - the people are diverse, friendly, and have stories to tell.

After somehow missing each other and waiting at separate tables for about 10 minutes, I gathered my things and joined her for breakfast as we both laughed about our odd mishap. We chatted about goings-on in our lives - because I had met her through another friend of mine who I used to work with at the restaurant right across the street, we had our own rich history to catch up on with each other.

Eventually, we guided the conversation to her story about how she came to Milwaukee two and a half years ago.

Taylor Katz: It’s a long story. Um, I grew up in the Bristol Renaissance Faire basically. I made a lot of connections through the Ren Faire…I guess there’s a short version and a long version. (laughs)

Amy Lancaster: (laughs) As many details as you want to give - it’s all appreciated.

TK: Basically, I met a lot of people, I spent a lot of time there, a lot of people lived in the area, and a couple times that I have visited…I liked the way I felt. It just felt kinda right.

AL: Where are you from originally?

TK: I grew up in Plainfield, Illinois, which is a south east suburb of Chicago. And then I went to school in Indiana, and now I’m here. The Ren Faire is just in Kenosha, so it kind of…everyone kind of filtered in from the Chicago area and the Milwaukee area so when it came time to move, there were a lot of people from the Milwaukee area that I met through Bristol that were like “Hey, we can get you connections, we can be your references, we can give you more information”…so, I reached out to someone that worked in the area and literally just asked “Hey, is your company hiring?” (laughs) And it all worked out. I also had started dating someone that lived in the area, so I moved in with him and his parents when it was time to start the new job. Saved up for a year and then got my own place and…now I’m here! (laughs)

We drank a lot of coffee this morning. Perhaps this was why there was so much laughter.

We drank a lot of coffee this morning. Perhaps this was why there was so much laughter.

AL: So how do you spend your time in Milwaukee? What do you like to do in the city?

TK: When people come in from out of town, I always go to the brewery tours. It’s kind of the staple.

AL: What are your favorites?

TK: I’ve been to Lakefront [Brewery], like, ten times now. (laughs)

AL: Really? That’s awesome! I haven’t done that one yet.

TK: My entire cabinet at home, like all my drinking glasses are just pints from Lakefront. Honestly, it’s the only brewery tour I’ve done! (laughs) But I just keep going back. The tour guides are hilarious. They’re obviously like, theatre people or something. They’re great. The food is really good - their cheese curds are my favorite.

AL: I didn’t even know they served food.

TK: Oh my god! Yeah, they do Friday Fish Fry with polka music. It’s like family style seating where they just have long picnic tables and you just, you can sit next to a complete stranger –

AL: - and be their best friend by the end of the night.

TK: Yeah, it’s so fun! And then the beer itself is good. I’m not much a beer drinker, but…

AL: You’ll drink theirs.

TK: Yeah. It’s a good bang for your buck, it’s like 10 bucks for a tour and you get like 20 oz of beer.

Beer is, obviously, Milwaukee’s claim to fame. Despite the copious amounts of tours, however, it is common for people - tourists and locals alike - to have their favorite that they just keep coming back to.

TK: [I also like to go to] Brewers games…I’m involved with Milwaukee Symphony…I mean, it’s not quite free time because it’s a commitment, but there’s that whole thing.

AL: Kind of in the same vein, do you have any favorite places to go? Whether they’re businesses or restaurants or even just favorite outdoor areas in Milwaukee you like to go to?

TK: I have a couple favorites. This is one of them - La Finca. I like the atmosphere and the people, all that jazz. 42 [Ale House]. There’s also a really great place in Pewaukee that’s right off the river, lake, whatever it is. (laughs) Right off the water there’s a dock that goes out and you can sit out on the patio and it’s my favorite summer place to be and it’s called “Edgewater”.

AL: Ok! I’ve heard of that!

TK: I love it so much! (laughs) And the whole Pewaukee beach area is really nice. I didn’t go this summer, but I kept telling [her boyfriend] Bryan I need to take him – “Let’s go to Edgewater! Let’s watch the sunset!”

AL: Are there places in Milwaukee that you’ve heard about that you want to go to, that you haven’t tried out yet?

TK: Yes…the Axe bar sounds really fun. You pay for time to go in and throw axes. So, you get to drink and throw weaponry around.

AL: (laughs) That sounds really dangerous!

TK: (laughs) It sounds really dumb, but it also sounds like a blast. What else…this is kind of a cliché place but I’ve never been to Discovery World. I don’t ever really think I’ve walked around in the Calatrava…the art museum? I get lunch there, it’s one of my favorite lunch places. Their food is so good, but in terms of walking around and looking at the art –

AL: It’s really cool! They do a Lakefront Art Festival every year –

TK: I went to that this year! But again that was all outside! (laughs) So yeah, actually going in and walking around in any of the museums I haven’t done. I’m sure there’s a million and ten restaurants.

AL: Yeah, the restaurant industry is booming right now here.

TK: Yeah, there’s a lot of different places, lot of variety.

AL: So would you say Milwaukee is one of your favorite cities? And why?

TK: I like that it has the perks of being a big city – the diversity and the different theatre and music and food and people and all of that. It has the perks of being a big city, but it has the comfort of being a small town. That’s really it. I mean, I came from the Chicago area and I’d go to downtown Chicago and I always felt like I had to look over my shoulder when I’m walking around. I don’t have that feeling here. I’m very relaxed, it’s very comfy.

And then, of course, I had to ask the question.

AL: Why do you feel at home here? Why are you Milborn and Raised?

TK: I think it really boils down to the people. Anywhere you go, the people are what make it a home versus a place you’re just living. And in general, there are very few people that I’ve met here that I don’t like in some vein. Everyone’s temperament is a little calmer. (chuckles)

AL: Even like, in comparison to a suburb of Chicago?

TK: Yeah. I came from stereotypical white picket fence, every-house-is-the-same-model-with-a-different-shade-of-beige kind of neighborhood. So, that in itself has its own issues, being a poor girl in a wealthy suburbia. (chuckles)

AL: I know the feeling. (chuckles)

TK: There’s more walks of life around you up here, and so there’s a lot more understanding. There’s a lot more people you can relate to. It’s also one of those cities where whatever you need at the time, you can get. You can go to the beach, you can go into suburbia, you can have that downtown, metropolitan feel.

AL: It has a little bit of everything.

TK: Yeah, and it’s all within 20 minutes of each other. You can go to a dive bar, you can go to a Brazilian Steakhouse.

AL: What advice would you give to those who are looking to move here, or, if they’re already here, get more out of Milwaukee?

TK: I think some of my best interactions and experiences, not just at 42 [Ale House] but everywhere is talking to people at bars? (laughs)

AL: Just be friendly to people at bars! (laughs)

TK: I’ve met someone…I’m like a half hour away from my apartment right now. I met someone at 42 [Ale House]. She sat next to me at a bar. Just kind of casually started talking to me. I found out she lives in the building next to mine. And now we’re, like, good friends! We hang out, she’s my neighbor. It’s one of those…I don’t know. I went on a date once where the guy I went out with, he and I spent more time talking to other people at the bar than we did to each other but it was a really good date. It was fun! There’s just something about just chatting with people, and so many people are willing to actually have that casual conversation when you’re out and about, and I think some of the best experiences I’ve had around here have been just from talking to strangers. (laughs)

AL: So be open to meeting new people, I guess, because…they might end up being your neighbor! (laughs)

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The morning progressed closer to noon, and our cups slowly became empty. After having a heart-to-heart and excitedly dishing our future plans to each other, it was time to say our goodbyes. Taylor made her way across the street to her favorite bar, and with that, I felt a stronger connection akin to what she mentioned earlier - in order to get the most out of this city, take your time to know the people who live in it. Whether they are a stranger, an acquaintance, or a close friend, any conversation you have with a tried-and-true Milborn-and-raised individual will be well worth your time.

Would you like to be interviewed next, brag about your favorite city, and gush about how you’re Milborn-and-raised? Fill out our contact form with the subject #milbornandraised to be considered!