From sliding garage doors in Wauwatosa to an open view of the bakery at Bay View, each Colectivo cafe has unique features that sets it apart. Or maybe you’ve noticed the gargoyles over Prospect’s door, the skeletal structure over the patio at Humboldt, or the repurposed wooden tables in the cafes. Ever since the beginning, Joe and Janice Niedzialkowski and Jay Richardson have been the minds and hands largely responsible for the signature look that sets Colectivo spaces apart.
The story behind the work is 30 years in the making: it all started at the Grand Ave. Mall, when Paul Miller, co-founder, met Joe Niedzialkowski, who was designing displays. Paul was floored by Joe’s talent and soon found out that it spanned much wider than displays – painting, drawing, sculpting, and even mechanics.
When Alterra was founded, Joe was one of the first on board with the co-founders. The first cafe at Bayshore Mall featured many of his designs, but also unique free-standing art – like a statue of a newspaper man, papers in hand, bowler hat on, bulldog by his side. His hand is on a big part of the business…initially a lot of the packaging and merchandising and art,” Paul said.
When Joe married Janice, the company was privileged to enlist her talent as well.
“Hers is a world of color and incredibly subtle tones,” Paul said. She sees “the beauty in wildness, the color in time…as things decay they become more interesting,” Paul said.
If you’ve noticed the faded colors, the painstakingly worn-looking furniture, or the rustic light fixtures in our cafes, you’ll see Janice’s talent.
This design team would not be complete without Jay Richardson, who has been working with Joe on the cafes for the past 16 years. His talent in carpentry and mechanics is immense – he designed his house and built it himself out of wood he milled.
This trio’s skills are deeper than simply aesthetic – their work enhances our value of sustainability. The rustic feel of the cafes is due in part to their use of recycled materials. Joe in particular works with raw materials, turning them on their edge and juxtaposing them against the new to create an unpredictable vision.
Colectivo’s relationship with the Niedzialkowskis is much more than a business transaction. Watch our Colectivo on Prospect video to hear Joe tell a personal story about the last time he was up on the Prospect scaffolding. With the change of our name and redesign of much of our cafe signage and features, the relationship has come full circle.
Paul keeps much of Joe’s art in his office, as awed by his talent today as he was 30 years ago. “His card says ‘juggler and display artist’ but that is so understated for the immense talent that he is,” Paul said.
It is thanks to the vision and hard work of Joe, Janice, and Jay, that the Colectivo cafes are what they are today. Add the graphic design talent of Kevin Callahan, and we at Colectivo feel truly humbled to have so much creative talent in our midsts. We’re excited to see what new projects are in store, and are grateful to have such a special relationship with these artists.