Milwaukee’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood is now home to The Retreat, a space that serves as “both a position and a place.” Located at 2215 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and owned and operated by Milwaukee change leaders, Dasha Kelly Hamilton and Kima Hamilton (who is also an 88Nine DJ), The Retreat was created as a “space for ideas to plan and play, and a place for people to gather and grow.”
Boasting an event space, meeting rooms, and a podcast studio, The Retreat can be utilized in a variety of ways – from a way to break out of your normal workspace to gain clarity on a project, to a place to grab bottomless cups of coffee (my dream come true), to a spot to meet fellow writers, you’ll find a little bit of everything for your creative soul.
Along with rentable meeting spaces, The Retreat hosts a variety of spoken word events, author talks, poetry slams and real-talk conversations inspired by both creative works and practical skill building. They even have a podcast studio designed specifically for podcast beginners, offering how-to instruction ranging from audio editing to uploading tips.
In a recent interview with Dasha, she stressed the “why” behind the space. “[The Retreat] is encouraging the energetic space to talk, to figure it out… to not be afraid. And sometimes it’s not being afraid about being afraid, about being uncertain, about needing to let these really ugly or undefined or uncomfortable thoughts run around for a little bit and then find a community to help sort it out.” And that community can be literally anyone, even a perfect stranger.
The mission and vision of The Retreat can seem overwhelming – to be a space for literally almost anything – but Dasha sees this as a good thing. It offers a chance to listen and be flexible to the changing needs of the community and the people that live here. This commitment to community is a part of Dasha’s DNA.
Her grandmother, Glorious Malone, and now her mother, Daphne Jones, have had their roots planted along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for many years with their business Glorious Malone’s Fine Sausage, Inc. The Malone’s company grew from a small neighborhood corner store to a 12,000 square foot plant on the corner of Walnut and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, solidifying the family’s dedication to the growth and revitalization of the neighborhood.
The Retreat embodies the legacy that Glorious and Daphne have created along this historic street, but it is not the only legacy that Dasha and Kima are trying to carry forward. Gee’s Clippers, an iconic Milwaukee barbershop, used to inhabit the space that is now The Retreat (Gee’s has relocated right across the street, so it hasn’t gone far). While Dasha and Kima were renovating their space, they found little gatherings of hair clippings, that Dasha views as stories – stories of first haircuts, haircuts before a big job interview, haircuts for home-going ceremonies.
Gee’s Clippers is a place that is “committed to that sanctity of a barbershop… and all that does for men, and particularly black men, in the community. So to be in that space, we really wanted to honor that,” says Dasha. Thus, it is with the combined legacies of Dasha’s immediate family and Gaulien “Gee” Smith that The Retreat and the Hamilton’s find their blueprint for leadership – leading with love and recognizing the value in each individual person.
Each part of The Retreat is purposeful. The walls and the branding of the space are a particular shade of orange, meant to stimulate. The coffee mug tree has a variety of different mugs, all with shades of orange, so that bottomless coffee drinkers can pick the mug that speaks to them or that they feel connected to for one reason or another. The podcast studio has a vision board where anyone can post their ideas so podcasters can visually see that they are not alone, that there is a community around them. Their catering partners are local business people who can host food demos or educational sessions about healthy eating for community members.
When it comes down to it, The Retreat is a space by the community for the community.