Photo by Dan Sheldon  |  flickr.com/photos/sheldn

The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.

Seven Pillars

Waukesha Business Profiles

Joan Skimmons/River’s End Gallery

Why does Joan Skimmons, a canvas of twinkling eyes, easy smiles and hearty “hellos,” work at her upscale River’s End Art Gallery late into the evening?

The answer lies in Joan’s energetic passion for all artistic endeavors, especially painting.  Joan’s earliest work was in oil, when she was nine. At 14, Joan went to work and had to put aside her brushes but promised herself that one day she would re-spark the artistic fervor that is her life’s expression.

Fast forward to today and discover that Joan has kept that promise. She and her husband, John, have nine children and 21 grandchildren, and she manages a career at Fiserv as senior vice president of sales. Yet, Joan’s drive to return to art prompted her and John’s 2006 purchase of an existing downtown art gallery.

A variety of distinctive artists skilled in acrylics, oil or glass has molded River’s End into one of the premier galleries in the Midwest. Downtown Waukesha is proud to call Joan one of its own and hopes her success will continue as her talents expand to surrounding communities.

 

 

Michael Greguska/Discount Liquor

Michael and Frank Greguska Jr. acquired the old Sears store on Barstow Street in 1978, and it didn’t take long for the word to spread about the new liquor warehouse in downtown Waukesha with its great prices, products and service.

Adjacent to the Fox River, Discount Liquor still is among the oldest and most successful anchor stores in downtown Waukesha. Michael Greguska comments about how far the “spirits” industry has come, with the advent of the varietal wines from across the world, home-made brew masters turning their hobbies into businesses and flavored vodka’s that titillate the taste buds of even the mildest Bloody Mary drinker.

With three check-out lines ringing up sales day and night, keeping track of inventory becomes a wonderful and challenging problem to have. When asked about the growth of the business Michael laughs and suggests that he knows he is busy when his customers suggest they can’t find parking even though Discount Liquor is sandwiched between two parking lots. Michael loves downtown Waukesha and feels that it the city is good for his business and family. He invites other entrepreneur’s to bring their start-up operations to the downtown neighborhood.

With three check-out lines ringing up sales day and night, keeping track of inventory becomes a wonderful and challenging problem to have. When asked about the growth of the business Michael laughs and suggests that he knows he is busy when his customers complain they can’t find parking even though Discount Liquor is sandwiched between two parking lots. Michael loves Downtown Waukesha and feels that it the city has been good to him and his family. He invites other entrepreneur’s to bring their start-up operations to the downtown neighborhood.

 

 

House of Guinness/Joe and Jeff Philips

What guy (young or old) doesn’t have the dream, to one day own a bar”

Joe Phillips almost fell off of his chair in his dorm room at Carroll University. He was in his senior year at Carroll when he found an Irish bar in Downtown Waukesha that was for sale. His dream upon graduation had always been to open an Irish bar in his hometown of Barrington, Illinois. Here, in front of him, was an established business, in a great downtown location that was already integrated into the community. He knew the area well and couldn’t wait to discuss the opportunity with his parents.

His father Jeff Phillips, a successful entrepreneur himself was a bit skeptical, his mother was less than ecstatic when Joe explained the exciting opportunity he had found.  Joe prevailed and he and his dad bought the House of Guinness (called the HOG) in 2010.  His Carroll University friends became his best customers. Joe describes himself as an inexperienced business owner but one willing and eager to learn. The best part of the business for Joe is definitely the people that come in to the bar.

Joe describes his first few years in business as a bit like college. A new learning experience every day.  He suggest that “the people in the downtown have been very kind to us even though we were a new face.” He thinks that the friendliness has made whole experience a lot easier.