Theresa Nemetz, founder of Milwaukee Food and City Tours, has made it a mission to share the riches of Milwaukee history and culture, offering a variety of walking and bus tours focusing on Milwaukee neighborhoods and cuisines.
One of the most popular, the Churches and Chocolates tour, takes participants on a tour of churches, highlighting their architectural and historic significance to the community. The tour also includes stops at chocolate shops.
“Milwaukee’s nickname is the ‘City of Steeples,’ so we already knew Milwaukee had this great culture,” Nemetz said.
Nemetz and her husband Wade conceived of the idea for a Milwaukee tour company after taking a food tour in New York City. What started in 2008 as a part-time hobby has become a successful business.
“Nine years later, we do walking tours and bus tours, we go year round, and it’s our full-time company,” Nemetz said.
On her first tour, Nemetz received feedback from participants that they would be interested in learning more about the churches they passed. One of these churches was St. Hedwig, part of Three Holy Women Parish in Milwaukee, where Nemetz and her family have since become parishioners.
In developing the Churches and Chocolates tour, Nemetz paid special attention to the different immigrant populations that shaped Milwaukee through the building of churches.
Nemetz’s grandparents, Guiseppi and Rosa, immigrated to Milwaukee 100 years ago from Santa Flavia, Sicily. On her tours, Nemetz highlights stories about Milwaukee’s cultural traditions from Italy, Germany, Ireland and Poland.
“That’s really the basis, not only of our Churches and Chocolates tour, but of all our tours, is the immigrant history. We love to make that connection for people,” Nemetz said. “Here you have these neighborhood churches that were really based around that faith and that ethnicity, and now through the years, as populations have changed and downtown has changed, you’ve really seen these churches come together and unite.”
Catholic churches frequently featured on the tour include the Basilica of St. Josaphat and the St. Joan of Arc Chapel onthe Marquette University campus, both in Milwaukee. Other featured churches include Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Grace Lutheran Church, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, all in Milwaukee.
Nemetz said St. Francis of Assisi Church in Milwaukee is one of her favorites to include on the tour. Built in 1869 to house a community of Capuchin Franciscan friars, it is the oldest standing Capuchin structure in the United States.
The Capuchin community at St. Francis of Assisi began by ministering to the German immigrant population. Today, the parish is culturally diverse, and offers Mass in Spanish as well as a Mass featuring the music of a Gospel choir.
“Fr. Mike (Bertram) over at Francis of Assisi does a beautiful job talking about the community and the changes in the
|The next Churches and Chocolates Bus Tour is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 20 at 9:30 a.m. To learn more about Milwaukee Food and City Tours or to book a tour, visit www.milwaukeefoodtours.com or call (800) 979-3370.|
neighborhood and the history of the church. I just think he does a wonderful job promoting the Catholic faith and the community as a whole,” said Nemetz. “He’s very approachable, and sheds such great light on the whole history of where the church has been, and where the church has gone and how they’ve really kind of reinvented themselves. That’s the reason we take groups to that location.”
In addition to the Churches and Chocolates tour, Milwaukee Food and City Tours offers walking tours of a number of Milwaukee neighborhoods, including Brady Street, the Third Ward, Bay View, Cedarburg and Wauwatosa. They also offer tours focused on a particular Milwaukee food favorite, including a Friday fish fry tour, a historic bar tour and a custard tour.
“Three hours of eating custard – it’s my dream come true!” Nemetz said.
Neighbors Eric and Denise Schuppert, Barb Jobidon and daughter Dominique, attended the tour on a recent Saturday in December. Natives of the Milwaukee area and residents of Oak Creek, they wanted to learn more about their hometown and thought a tour of churches would be a great activity for a group of neighbors as part of their Christmas festivities.
After touring the Basilica of St. Josaphat, they were enthusiastic about learning more about Milwaukee churches built and shaped by immigrant communities.
“Polish immigrants basically built the church by hand,” Eric Schuppert said of the basilica.
When asked what she was most looking forward to about the tour, Dominique, 10, had a simple answer.
“Chocolate!” she said.