VIA Downer is a pizzeria on Milwaukee’s Upper East Side that serves Italian-Mediterranean cuisine. Offering live music and outdoor dining, it’s located in a popular, high traffic shopping area full of small boutique-style stores, pubs and a nearby movie theatre.

The restaurant, which is in a limestone building built in the early 1900’s, boasts a great layout at its store front and unique architectural features such as wood beam timbers. It has 12’ of space between the restaurant and the curb, ample space for outdoor dining.

Here’s how Russell Russetto (VIA co-owner) described it: “Because we are located in the middle of a block, our location needed something extra to make it stand out and to give our patio more of a sense of presence. The canopy, with it’s bright red retractable drapery, accomplishes that and more. It adds a touch of class to our storefront and contributes to the sense of vibrancy on the street. Also, and perhaps most importantly, it allows diners to comfortably lunch outside protected from the direct rays of the sun. The patio umbrellas we had used in the past just did not cut it; 90% of the time, the shadow from a patio umbrella is cast to the side of the table!”

SAFETY FACTORS

Because of the limestone construction, the biggest challenge was related to structural engineering.  Our solution was to survey the building so that our structural engineer could assess the safety factors.  Typically, safety factors call for designing the canopy’s structure to withstand extreme conditions, such as 100 year storms.  This means the frame, supports and hardware have to be extremely durable.  During the structural analysis, approvals went very smoothly.

WEST COAST DESIGN INFLUENCE

Russell and I collaborated on the design.  During several trips to San Diego, I couldn’t help but notice how some street cafes had eye-catching, horizontal curtain canopies and thought we should bring some of these design ideas to the Midwest. VIA was the perfect opportunity for what we refer to as “swag curtain on rollers” construction.  Besides great looks, this design makes it easy for employees to open and close the canopies as needed.

NUTS & BOLTS

The 12’ x 29’ canopy consists of a Sunbrella material designed for boat covers, awnings and other exterior use.  It has a coating on it similar to ScotchguardTM that repels water and UV rays.  Our customers usually get 7 to 10 years out of the fabric. What’s really cool is the canopy helps support the restaurants brand by including its logo.

The rollers are made of nylon.  They’re the same one used in the tractor trailer industry, which can be an incredibly harsh environment.  They take very high loads and are designed to be out in the elements.  And things built to industrial standards can take more punishment!

We opted for aluminum tubing and plates for the frame.  Attachments are aluminum too except for threaded rods that penetrate the building, which are #2 galvanized threaded rod.

As of now, we didn’t create any lighting for the canopy, but future plans include mood / accent lighting, which will really enhance its dramatic look. The property owner did the permitting himself, using our drawings.

WRAP UP

Issues can sometimes creep up during the production phase of custom design projects such as this one. For some customers, this can cause anxiety.  So it’s on our shoulders to help them understand that we don’t have all the answers up front and that there is a little risk in that we may not know all of the potential issues until we get into production.

The owners of the restaurant picked us based on our ability to deliver well on previous signage jobs with them and after checking out our fabrication shop.  Their brand identity calls for very specific, custom requirements and I’m glad our team can help make it happen.

– Adam Brown

 “Sign Effectz is our go to resource for custom fabrication projects. We are always trying to communicate our identity through every one of our projects, Sign Effectz takes that vision and makes it a reality.” –Russell Rossetto, Co-Owner, VIA Downer Restaurant

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