Adult entertainment has been with us for as long as there have been, well, adults. But most erotic dancing, whether it takes place in strip clubs, burlesque shows, or on a brightly lit stage full of Chippendale dancers, is just not a thing a city wants to be known for. Despite the taboo that often surrounds these establishments, though, there is no doubt that the industry is a lucrative one.
If you live in Milwaukee, you've probably heard of the Silk Exotic Gentleman’s Club. If you haven’t, you’ll have another opportunity to learn when Jon Ferraro, the owner of Silk, opens a 4th club on Old World Third Street. The other three clubs are in Milwaukee, Juneau, and Madison. From the beginning in 2003, Ferraro worked to set himself and his high-end clubs apart.
"Do I think that Silk can change that perception? Probably not. But they can offer a different alternative to some of the seedier places - it's quite a different atmosphere," says Madison writer Steven Potter. He wrote a feature on Ferraro for this month’s issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
"He markets his clubs as high end gentleman's clubs, so it's kind of the same difference between your corner tap and maybe a nice downtown night club," he notes.
Despite the secondary effects that concern neighborhood residents and city officials such as parking, crime, litter, etc., there is a constitutionality in running a strip club. It's something Ferraro has constantly fought for in his quest for greater expansion, and this tenacity is clear in his character according to Potter.
"I think (Ferraro) likes to be successful. He's good at it and he's making a lot of money. And he's also, for these thirteen-some years now, been kind of an adversarial role where's he's had to defend his businesses from the very start," says Potter. "It's a sinful, unholy business and he's constantly had to explain to people that it's just entertainment and there's only dancing going on at his clubs and nothing else."
Potter further explains his experience at Silk and the conversations he shared with Ferraro about his upbringing and his key to success: