In May 2022, Ramirez finished painting a three-story mural of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo on the east side of the building at 600 E. Wisconsin Ave. The recreation of the nearly 7-foot-tall forward towers 54 feet over downtown Milwaukee.
The new mural came to life through a collaboration between the Bucks, Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District #21 and 600 EAST building owner Dan Nelson, Jr.
“As a longtime supporter and season ticket holder, we are thrilled that the Bucks and Milwaukee Downtown chose 600 EAST for this fantastic tribute to Giannis,” Nelson said during a press conference unveiling the project. “Mauricio's artistry showing Giannis figuratively looking forward - and literally toward downtown Milwaukee, the Deer District and his Fiserv Forum home court - seems fitting for a champion who has achieved so much, yet continues to strive to improve every day."
Mauricio Ramirez is a painter and muralist who creates art that reflects the diverse cultures of the communities where it resides.
Ramirez was born in Berwyn, Illinois, and currently splits time between Milwaukee - where he has a studio - Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico. While he attended the University of Illinois, Ramirez has said he picked up on form, art theory and color from graffiti artists growing up. Pervasive themes in his work include neighborhood, culture and diversity.
Nelson purchased the building in 2006 with plans to develop it as the headquarters for Nelson Schmidt, the full-service marketing communications agency he owns.
The building was more than 100 years old at the time and carried a lot of local history. It was home to many tenants, including the Spencerian College, a Lyons Drugstore, the Great Circus Parade and more.
Demolition began on the first floor of the building in 2013 after company leaders decided that the space would be equally distributed between a café and a business center.
The city of Milwaukee was excited for the new development, eager to attract more retail on the eastern end of Wisconsin Avenue. Visitors would have another rest stop as they visited city cornerstones like the Veterans Memorial, Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Preserving the building’s historic architecture was crucial and an emphasis was placed on restoring the brick walls and wooden rafters. In May 2014, the 600 EAST Café & Business Center opened to the public with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by the Milwaukee mayor and other community leaders. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 shuttered workspaces downtown, which challenged the café’s business. However, a service window at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Jackson Street the restaurant to safely remain open, serving customers from a distance. Today, the service window remains a popular option for the café’s fast-moving clientele.
In June 2021, the 600 EAST Café officially reopened their dining room to the public, once again inviting their neighbors to sit down and enjoy time together.