Downtown’s old Cosby Hotel (circa 1881) was set to be demolished before redevelopers took it over a couple of years ago.
Now a deli, pizzeria and bakery are scheduled to open on the first floor in the next few weeks, and the upper floors are set for office suites using the original hotel layout.
First up will be the Milwaukee Delicatessen Co., scheduled to open in mid to late August. It will serve a variety of deli sandwiches, entree salads and Pizza 51 pizzas produced there.
Jon Gerner is managing partner of the new deli along with Jason Pryor, owner of Pizza 51 and Pizza 51 West, and two minority partners. The deli will be open daily for lunch and dinner.
Gerner spent 16 years with Grand Street Cafe and also has worked as a bartender at the West Side Local. He has spent the last two years working on the Cosby building while continuing to work one night a week at each of the two restaurants.
For the deli space, he took out the dropped ceiling, taking it back to its original height of two stories and in the process exposing painted murals and unique moldings — some with basketlike weave, some of cattle skulls. Once the linoleum was removed, he took the floor down to its original marble blocks. A second-floor room overlooks the deli through three archways.
Another Milwaukee Delicatessen also operated in the space at 101 W. Ninth St. According to newspaper reports, the German owner first took a job in the cafeteria of the New York Life Building across the street, and company employees liked his food so much that they convinced him to open his own place. Around 1908, he did, opening Milwaukee Delicatessen, naming it after the city that supplied his sausages. Al Jolson and Sophie Tucker were said to have stopped in.
That history — along with all new plumbing and wiring — gives the building the best of old and new, Gerner said. But after two years he is more than ready to trade in his renovator title for that of restaurateur.
Next up in the Cosby building, Jeremy and Michelle Schepmann plan to open Sasha’s Baking Co. at 105 W. Ninth St., next door to the deli and pizzeria.
The retail space will be dominated by a massive crystal chandelier and sell such items as European-style breads, croissants, sandwiches, pastries, cinnamon rolls, strata, quiche and cookies. It also will serve bottled beers, wines and spirits, and a variety of cheeses.
Sasha’s dining area will seat about 25 people at a long farmer’s table and on benches and a couple of stools at the bar. It also will have an outdoor patio. It plans a late August or early September opening.
“I think this is what is left to fill in. We need some local businesses down there,” said Jeremy Schepmann, who had worked at West Side Local with Gerner.