State group gives awards for Baltica Tea Room work, creation of new website
The renovations at Baltica Tea Room and Gift Shop and the website operated jointly by Port Washington Main Street, the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council received Main Street Awards from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Friday.
Also honored were Jill Kirst, Port Main Street’s volunteer of the year, and Marcia Endicott, board member of the year.
Baltica Tea Room and its owners, Urzula Cholewinska and her husband Dan Micha, received the award for best interior renovation project.
The project, which converted a dated jewelry store into a bright restaurant and shop, was honored for the attention to detail and the historic nature of the renovation, Main Street Director Sara Grover said.
“They researched and researched the building, and they were very careful to observe the history of the building as they renovated it,” she said.
The project also had a green aspect to it, she said, noting that the couple reused as many pieces of the original building as possible and also recycled items not used, such as the Vitrolite panels that were on the front facade.
The renovation was originally nominated in another category, Grover noted, but the judges moved it to the interior renovation division to ensure the work got the recognition it deserved.
“We’re so excited about it,” Cholewinska said. “It’s been a fun journey. When we bought the building in January 2011, we knew we had an 1854 Italianate-style building. We uncovered a lot of architectural details and clues to its history. “
The clues included the original tin ceiling, which had been hidden under a false ceiling, and old paneling that was used as inspiration for similar panels in the front and back of the shop, Cholewinska said.
“We had a great vision for it, and we had a great crew who supported it,” she said including architect Vince Micha, contractor John Sauermilch Jr., Joe Lawniczak of the Wisconsin Main Street program, Port Main Street and the City of Port.
The couple’s decision to cover the facade while renovating the building also helped to build excitement about the project, Cholewinska said.
“That created immense curiosity,” she said. “When we finally unveiled it, many people walked in in awe.”
The excitement is continuing throughout downtown as more buildings are being occupied and renovated, Cholewinska added.
“Getting involved in all that’s happening in Port Washington is a dream come true,” she said. “I think the excitement is building. We’ve talked to a lot of business owners, and they feel it too.”
The website www.visitportwashington.com was lauded by the state in large part because it is a joint venture between Main Street, the Tourism Council and Chamber of Commerce, Grover said.
“We are unique to the state,” Grover said. “We’ve worked together to provide all the information citizens and tourists want and need. We’ve done our homework to make sure it’s visible and people are able to use it easily.”
The site’s mobile app will be a significant asset for tourism, she said, noting many visitors are not planning ahead but instead stopping in communities on the spur of the moment.
“The app gives them a constant source of information,” Grover said, as will the QR code to scan.
“This really portrays Port Washington as a destination.”
Tourism Executive Director Kathy Tank concurred, adding that the site provides information not only for visitors but for people who are looking for a location to open a business, businesspeople who want to network and residents in need of services.
It is especially gratifying to know the state organization will use Port’s site as an example of community collaboration, Tank said.
Kirst was recognized for the many roles she has played with Main Street since it was formed in 2008, Grover said, especially as volunteer coordinator for Maritime Heritage Festival.
Endicott has worked on a number of initiatives, including the BIZ breakfasts and is chairing a masquerade ball planned for fall.
Image Information: BALTICA TEA ROOM in Port Washington and its owners, Urzula Cholewinska and her husband Dan Micha, received an award for the best interior renovation project by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp last week. The couple’s son Jakub, who stood next to his mother, showed off the award Tuesday. The project was nominated for the award by Port Washington Main Street. Photo by Sam Arendt