Building Resilience through Relationships
David Boucher, owner and operator of Amaranth Cafe, found himself working and living in Washington Park while studying at University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. Knowing that he was going to be in Milwaukee for a while, he thought it would be a good idea to buy a house. Faced with high interest rates and on a graduate student income, he found the opportunity to become a home owner and landlord in the multi-unit Villa Urhig. After moving into the neighborhood in the 1990’s Boucher and his wife Stephanie purchased (in 2000) the building that houses Amaranth Cafe and began to rehabilitate it. Having little or no experience as bakers, Stephanie’s interest in the biology led her first to sourdough baking. Boucher's work as community planner and housing specialist helped build relationships with many contractors and handymen.
Boucher's reach into the community extends past the doors of Amaranth Café. He owns the building next door, which is occupied by Express Yourself Milwaukee, a youth center focused on the Arts, and the building across the street, which is occupied by Muneer Bahaudeen, a local ceramics artist. Boucher also manages one of the community gardens in the neighborhood and rents the upstairs of his cafe to Ko-Thi Dance Company and Tabal Chocolate. His experience as a neighborhood planner and his familiarity with residents and areas of the community have allowed him to construct relationships during his time in Washington Park.
Relationships are as important as buildings and infrastructure when talking about neighborhood resilience. Boucher is focusing on building up the neighborhood by creating relationships and encouraging others to do what they do well. The relationships that he is building in Washington Park are making his community stronger by creating the social capital that brings community residents together to focus on opportunities and work against the isolation that poverty in the neighborhood has caused. His relationship with Muneer Bahaudeen and Dan Bieser of Tabal Chocolate has helped to stabilize the area by encouraging artistic expression in the neighborhood and focusing on small business development on Lisbon Ave.
David Boucher, interview by Matthew Honer, Tessa Begay and Juliana Glassco, June 2014.
Boucher walks around the neighborhood.