From Motorcycles to MOXIE
Ex-Harley-Davidson employees open Whitefish Bay restaurant
“It was a gift in disguise. An opportunity to reinvent ourselves, our lives and our landscape. It was an amazing opportunity to infuse our dreams with our values, and create a vision of a liberated, artistic future. How often in life do you get a chance like that?” says Tamela Greene of MOXIE Food + Drink (501 E. Silver Spring Drive), the new Whitefish Bay restaurant she is launching with Anne Marie Arroyo. MOXIE is scheduled to open Nov. 30.
Greene and Arroyo were long-time Harley-Davidson employees and devotees; both held key positions at the company, from operations management to business development and customer experience design. Both were continually promoted in what was and still is considered a male-dominated industry—a true novelty for gay women.
They wore, spoke, rode, promoted and grew the company in their respective roles, expecting to retire from Harley at the end of their successful careers. And, on their way, they found one another, which made their Harley experience even more unconventional, falling in love and marrying in Massachusetts in 2014, and bringing their sons together into a home that represents the new and expanded meaning of family. The boys get along famously, or as well as 10 and 13-year-old brothers can, and they complement each other as rowdy residents of their home in Whitefish Bay.
The Turning Point
Within four years of moving together to Whitefish Bay, Greene and Arroyo were faced with lay-offs from Harley.
“Anne Marie came home on Monday, poured a glass of wine and said, ‘I lost my job,’” recalls Greene. “The next day, I lost mine. We remained in a sort of shock for a couple of weeks and then sat down to figure out next steps.”
And that, they did. Greene and Arroyo began surveying the neighborhood, asking residents what they were looking for and what was missing. The brief survey, first sent to maybe 40 neighbors, was shared and forwarded until Greene and Arroyo wound up with more than 200 responses that clearly pointed to an additional local restaurant as the residents’ foremost wish.
Then they took a look at their collective skills, Arroyo has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from UW-Milwaukee, along 15 years in the food service industry working in casual to fine-dining establishments. After graduation, she gained valuable experience working as a leasing officer at a local bank. That experience prepared her for success as she moved on to Harley.
Greene has a Master’s Degree in Communications and a background in advertising and marketing. She worked at Pittsburgh advertising agencies before being recruited by Harley-Davidson in 1999 to help design and start-up their rider education business at H-D dealerships around the country.
Greene and Arroyo learned the importance of taking a customer-led approach to business development and design. Accordingly, they possess the unique ability to build relationships with diverse customers and understand their individual needs. They are both very relationship-driven.
With the development of MOXIE, Greene and Arroyo seek to contribute to the community in new ways. “In addition to being a great place to eat and drink, we will be an establishment that drives activation and helps to enliven Silver Spring Drive, supporting a major strategy in Whitefish Bay’s recently completed Master Plan for Silver Spring Drive development,” says Greene.
They reached out for assistance from the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative, consolidated and cashed in their assets, and they dove in head first—hoping not only for success, but also to be strong and courageous role models for their two sons.
Then, things began falling into place. A gift store on the corner of Silver Spring Drive and Diversey Boulevard (just a few blocks from the couple’s home and right in the center of Whitefish Bay’s retail street) closed and was available for leasing. Branding expert Michael Stodola, formerly of the local advertising firm Boelter + Lincoln, heard about their project and called to offer pro bono services for everything from branding workshops to menus and website design. And then, much to their amazement, renowned Milwaukee Executive Chef Tony Evans called to communicate his enthusiasm for their endeavor and to share his expertise.
Tony brings 25+ years of combined experience in general management, sales, and marketing for full-service hospitality operations to MOXIE. A former executive chef at Saz’s Hospitality Group, the Bravo/Brio Restaurant Group, and Brew City Bar-B-Que, he is a recognized catalyst for change and performance improvement. He knows how to consistently increase service standards, quality and profitability. And, most importantly, he is a great chef with culinary acumen and dexterity. (It also doesn’t hurt that he rides a Harley!)
MOXIE will serve American comfort food reinvented—classics revamped with new perspective and attitude. The core menu is short and will be revamped often. And will be daily specials featuring food sourced from local growers and farms.
With an upscale-casual atmosphere, MOXIE has a full bar with both classic libations and craft cocktails. The restaurant’s primary focus is on delivering an excellent dining experience through inspired epicurean food and outstanding service, in a cozy and intimate setting. MOXIE also offers catering and special event space rental—a great new option for hosting parties.
If you are a foodie, or someone just looking for a new place to explore the delights of the culinary community, stop in at MOXIE for dishes rich with local flavor, innovation and trend-setting presentation. After all, you never know what is possible, what purpose or reinvention awaits you, until you venture to taste the future.