Pita Brothers sought former Campus Dollar location

Photo by Rebecca Rebholz/ rebecca.rebholz@marquette.edu

Marquette is actively seeking a business to rent out the 4,000 square feet of real estate available at 1616 W. Wisconsin Ave. after Campus Dollar closed a year ago.

Popular food cart Pita Brothers expressed interest in the available spot but was not accepted as a vendor by Marquette according to the business. Pita Brothers is a mobile food cart usually located near the corner of Wells and 15th Streets during lunch hours. It serves grilled pita sandwiches with chips and drinks.

“We started talking to Marquette in February 2012,” said Vijay Swearingen, a chef and owner of Pita Brothers. “We thought they seemed very interested.”

Marquette was interested in having Pita Brothers fill the vacant space until it learned that Pita Brothers only wanted part of the space, Swearingen said.

“The space formerly occupied by Campus Dollar, with its prominent location along Wisconsin Avenue and the available square footage, is a key piece of real estate on campus,” said Mike Whittow, assistant to the vice president of administration. “Marquette is currently seeking and evaluating proposals for the space, with the preference being that the full space be occupied by a single occupant.”

Marquette officials said they could not comment on the talks with Pita Brothers.

“The university doesn’t comment publicly on lease proposals, negotiations or agreements,” said Andrew Brodzeller, a media relations specialist in Marquette’s Office of Marketing and Communication.

Pita Brothers was disappointed to learn that Marquette was not willing to split the space.

“We had a whole floor plan and design thought out, and we knew Marquette didn’t want (Campus Dollar) to remain vacant,” Swearingen said. “But we only wanted half of the space — 4,000 square feet is too much for our needs. They didn’t give us any other reason why we couldn’t have the space. We were put on hold too long. We tried to get into Campus Dollar, but talks slowed.”

Pita Brothers does not plan to let the setback discourage it. Swearingen said they are seeking other location possibilities as it expands.

“We need to get moving,” he said. “We have a good product. With a building space, we could expand our menu by adding more salad-based products with a Mediterranean style. Our order speed could increase from about 75 seconds per order to less than 60. We love Marquette, but we have to look elsewhere, too.”

Pita Brothers has a strong fan base in and around Marquette’s campus, and Swearingen said about 80 percent of its customer base is composed of regulars. Pita Brothers serves lunch starting at 11:30 a.m. until around 2:30 p.m., with prices ranging from $5 to $6. According to Pita Brothers, about 80 to 100 customers visit the food cart on campus during weekday lunch servings.

The university continues to look for a vendor to fill the space.

“As proposals come forward, the university will evaluate them on an individual basis to determine their value for the university and how potential vendors would use the space,” Whittow said.