By Dylan Deprey
On the corner of North Ave. and Fond du Lac Ave. sits a mall unlike any other in the City of Milwaukee. The large white building brandishes a “Milwaukee Mall – Discount Mall” sign. Though it may not have the glitz and glam like Bayshore or Mayfair, it does house something unique to a neighborhood that is in need of change.
Walking in from the parking lot, a flashing green neon light catches the eyes, which leads to a glass sign reading, “Happy Hustlin’ Created for Huslters and Hustlets.” The wall of hats points towards a brightly colored wall covered in clothing and accessories.
Inside the store, owner, Mike Scrill works arranging shirts, while also watching his two daughters play in the corner.
Happy Hustlin’ is two parts of Scrill’s life. One was the hustle mentality he had used his entire life, and the second was chance to use his past life as a drug dealer to educate those around him and rehabilitate himself in the process.
“In order to better myself I needed to better my environment because I’d get locked up and my mind would be on the right track. Then I’d get out and go back to the certain environment, and I’d be back in prison again,” Scrill said.
Scrill considers the Milwaukee Mall a landmark having lived in the neighborhood his entire life. He said he was blessed with the huge opportunity getting to help revitalize the mall. He started with just enough product, but after working night and day, the business grew.
He chose to call his business, “Happy Hustlin’” because he wanted to speak to those that were in his position. He said hustlin’ was primarily known as living a drug dealing lifestyle, but to him hustlin’ was “striving for better ways, to provide better days.”
“You’re kicking penitentiary talk if you’re just talking,” Scrill said. “I had to lead by example, but then I had to make it look cool. There are numerous of people out of prison doing good, but they don’t catch other people’s attention because they are focused on doing them. For me it’s like a rehabilitation process and transforming.”
An Unpredictable Team
Bianca Williams is the founder of A Cry for Help Foundation, a non-profit that connects neighbors to resources and organization. Its sole mission is helping the less fortunate and repairing hope to the hood.
Williams is hands-on in the hood, and is the street’s first responder with anything from working with women caught in human sex trafficking, or helping a misguided teen get their life back on track after getting caught in a stollie.
Scrill is frequently on Facebook promoting his business and the Milwaukee Mall. It was the constant barrage of sales and positives messages that Williams began to notice Scrill.
“He’s a genuine person, and I hit him up, so we could hustle together,” Williams said. “Mike is really an example a lot of young men and young boys need to see because he has been where they are at, just struggling right now to get to the next level.”
Williams said she was looking for a place to finally take root in the community. After reaching out to Scrill, it was a no-brainer to build A Cry for Help in the Milwaukee Mall. She said that Scrill was completely genuine with offer, and it’s a great partnership.
“No matter where you come from, and what you’ve been through you can be whatever you want to be and more. So, that hope right there that he’s showing and displaying is not only to young people, but to people like me. He tells you to keep hustlin’, and be a happy hustler. Be happy to be an entrepreneur,” Williams said.
The Hustle Continues
Happy Hustlin’ is open from 10:30am-6:30pm Monday thru Saturday, but the hustle continues for Scrill because one can usually catch him selling from a pop-up tent in the Milwaukee Mall’s parking lot afterhours.
Whether one’s looking for a reasonably priced outfit, or a three-gallon bucket of discounted
“I feel like I’m rich already because I made my mom proud, myself proud and I make a lot of people proud,” Scrill said. “If I died during my before lifestyle, the only stories people could tell my kids were things like, ‘He was a thug or he was this and that.’ Now, if I died today, my kids could hear a way better, a complete 180 story about me.”