She may have grown up in Lake Country and has not actually lived in Wauwatosa Village, but for the area has always felt like home to Kelly Cannizzaro.
“I probably know my way around the Village better than the block I grew up on,” she explained.
That’s mostly thanks to her fond memories spending time in the Village with her siblings while they were growing up. Her father owned a small plumbing business in the Village, so it wasn’t uncommon for her and her sister to sneak off for a scoop – or two – of ice cream goodness at Baskin Robbins while their father was on calls elsewhere in the area.
And now, some 30 years later, she owns and operates ARTE Wine and Painting Studio in the heart of the village right in front of where she enjoyed those sneaky cones all those years ago.
The journey has not been without its fair share of challenges, but it’s clear that everything that has happened along the way has led Cannizzaro to where she is today, a happy and successful owner of one of Tosa Village’s favorite entertainment destinations.
“There could not be a more perfect location for me to be following my dream of running a business of my own,” she said, of ARTE Wine and Painting Studio, which has been open for about three years.
The local hotspot features a full-service bar, featuring craft cocktails that change seasonally, in addition to an extensive wine list, beer menu and variety of non-alcoholic beverages. In addition to providing painting lessons and Ladies Night fun, ARTE hosts kid’s birthday parties, a monthly fundraiser that is open to the public, corporate team building, bachelorette parties and more.
The Reserve at Wauwatosa Village recently had the opportunity to hear Cannizzaro’s story, as she offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the studio and how it’s evolved into what it is today. Here’s what she had to say:
The Reserve at Wauwatosa Village: How would you describe a moment when you paused and realized this is WHY this is what you're doing in your life?
Kelly Cannizzaro: There have been award nominations, newspaper articles with rave reviews, record breaking numbers of painters for the day, etc. But there is one moment that did bring a joyful tear.
A mother brought her son with special needs into our Open Canvas area one night and she was struggling with helping her son paint. I noticed them when I was leaving for the night but was not in a hurry to get anywhere so I pulled up a chair and helped guide him and show him on a separate canvas how I like to paint. He took a real liking to me and the two of us really had a blast.
We painted nighttime sky scenes and splatter painted stars all over the canvases. At the end of the night, the boy's mother pulled me aside to thank me over and over again and said that she has never seen him enjoy an activity that much! They have been back since. That was the moment that I knew this is what I was supposed to be doing at this stage in my life.
The Reserve: What is the biggest challenge you have encountered as a small business owner and how did you overcome it?
Cannizzaro: There certainly is not one single challenge that stands out. Day 1, a couple hours after I closed on the purchase of ARTE, the toilet broke. It didn't end there. That very same evening all the power went out in The Village. To say that I wasn't 100% convinced that I had made a huge mistake signing the paperwork that morning is an understatement, no doubt. There have been countless furnace breakdowns, broken ice machine nightmares, a front door that was shattered, leaking roof, no AC on a 90 degree day, etc. But in all honesty, there was no real impact on the business operations with these catastrophes.
As stressful as each issue was to deal with, by the time we were in full swing with customers for the night, everything seemed to fall into place. We have now had 3 power outages over the past few years and the guests have a blast with it. We whip out the outdoor canvas clip on lights and put them on everything, and it's like a Ghost in the Graveyard blast from the past for everyone. As challenging as the situation may be, ARTE really has a wonderful team of staff that really pulls together to make the best of every situation.
The Reserve: Why choose Wauwatosa Village for your location?
Cannizzaro: Well, this one wasn't a choice as it was an existing business that I purchased; however, I would not change a thing about the location.
We are on the corner of Underwood Avenue and Harmonee Avenue. Literally, a block from Cafe Hollander, Jose's Blue Sombrero, Le Reve, Ristorante Bartolotta and Lucky Joe's makes ARTE Wine and Painting Studio the perfect entertainment destination to park once and party all night.
We have a map of The Village posted on the location tab of our website that clearly outlines many unknown public parking lots in the area to help those that are less familiar with The Village of Wauwatosa.
The Reserve: Who inspires you and why?
Cannizzaro: My mom has always been the backbone of our family and I will never understand how she has juggled all of our hectic lives to keep each and every one of us on track. Growing up, she worked full time with my dad. The two of them put in countless hours yet she still managed to raise three kids. She cooked, cleaned, cut the 3 acre lawn, shoveled a ridiculously large driveway, along with an endless list of other necessary household duties. What gets me, though, is she also had time to do the stuff that kids could only dream of having their working parents be a part of
The memories that stand out the most are the years of her coaching my siblings and I in various sports. There is no greater feeling as a child than to excel in sports and have proud parents on the sidelines. Even better is when that parent is the coach and you are their star athlete! Those years in soccer, basketball and softball are filled with proud moments that most kids will never have the opportunity to experience. I can still remember full conversations on the rides home from tournament wins. I will never understand how she managed to balance so many things over all of the years.
My first year owning ARTE Wine and Painting Studio she ran straight to City Hall and got her bartending license. You know, just in case! She has never skipped a beat in helping with whatever might need her assistance. These days she works as a full time nurse and fills her off time helping raise my 3 nephews. I would have hit my breaking point forever ago had I been in her shoes. Those 3 boys have the greatest, truly inspiring Oma in the world, and I know they will grow to appreciate her just as much as I do.
The Reserve: What advice do you have for other small business owners in the area?
Cannizzaro: I'd say it's as simple as reminding anyone going through a tough spell with running their business that, "This too shall pass!"
When things get tricky, it is so easy to throw the towel in, but if you just keep at it, the rewarding feeling that comes along with beating a stressful time cannot be matched. It is also so important to get out there and meet your neighbors!
It's very common for area businesses to be in competition with each other, but around here everyone seems to really support each other! It's always an amazing end to a long day to hop across the street to Lucky Joe's and grab a drink while seeing groups come from ARTE talking among themselves about how much fun they just had painting. The community around here is really like a close knit neighborhood. We don't necessarily borrow eggs from the neighbor but ice and mint leaves are commonly passed around.
The Reserve at Wauwatosa Village: Welcome Home
At The Reserve at Wauwatosa Village, we embrace opportunities to support local businesses, artisans and makers.
To us, these are the people who make up the foundation upon which our neighborhood is built. And for that, we are so very grateful.
In addition to offering only the best service to current and future residents, The Reserve offers resort-style amenities, including a pool area and fitness center. And the spacious and open concept one, two, and three bedroom homes are finished with every detail.
To learn more, or to apply, call (414) 475-7700 or visit us online.
AT A GLANCE:
WHAT: ARTE Wine and Painting Studio, 1442 Underwood Avenue, Wauwatosa
WHEN: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday (Closed Monday)
CONTACT: (414) 810-6095