When Anna Lardinois turned 40 years old, she knew it was time to take up a new hobby.
An English teacher by trade, Lardinois decided to play to her passion for exploring history on foot. She opened a historical, haunted walking tour called Gothic Milwaukee, which takes participants to points of interest in the city.
Lardinois, a Milwaukee resident, said she thought the side business would simply be something she 'talked about at cocktail parties,' but within the first week of offering the tour, she sold 1,000 tickets.
She left her teaching job and began her tour business full-time.
Soon, people started asking: 'When are you going to do a walking tour of Wauwatosa?' she said.
So, Lardinois got to work. She hunkered down at the Wauwatosa Historical Society, piecing through artifacts to create a self-guided walking tour customized to the city she admittedly knew little about, besides its scrumptious dining options, of course, she said.
'They could not have been more wonderful,' she said of historical society staff. 'They made me feel so incredibly welcome. I didn't want the project to end.'
Whole Foods approached Lardinois and told her it was interested in carrying her walking tour cards at their new Wauwatosa location, set to open Feb. 24 at 11100 W. Burleigh St. The firm opening date gave Lardinois the extra push to finish her collection.
'Whole Foods spurred the process along,' she said. 'It happened a little more quickly than I would have originally once intended.'
The collection is already available for purchase at Outpost Natural Foods, 7000 W. State St.
Lardinois said she is the only employee at her tour company, Gothic Milwaukee, and is therefore responsible for putting each collection together herself and delivering them in her station wagon, she joked.
At $20 for the collection, purchasers will receive a set of 21 postcard-sized cards encased in a plastic case that include 10 mapped, self-guided walking tours of Wauwatosa. Each walking tour includes a colorful map with plotted points on the front and descriptions of each spot on the tour, with the approximate distance of each walk, on the back.
The tours range from the 'Landmark Walk' — which includes six stops at historic designations in the city over 1.7 miles — to the 'Green Space Stroll,' which takes walkers approximately 2.2 miles through Wauwatosa parks and trails.
Lardinois said her favorite is the 'A Day in the Village' tour which stops at six locations, including the former Charles Jacobus Saloon at 7616 W. State St. and the Milwaukee Irish Fest Center at 1532 N. Wauwatosa Ave.
'This short walk could take all day,' the tour card noted. 'Walkers who stray from the marked path will be rewarded with a host of charming shops and palate-pleasing restaurant choices.'
The Village tour is approximately six-tenths of a mile.
The Wauwatosa collection also includes eight bonus tour cards that highlight the history and architecture of the city, including the Dr. Fisk Holbrook Day House, Charles Hart, the Little Red Store and Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.
Lardinois said it was a challenge to compile Wauwatosa's point of interests into 10 self-guided walking tour cards.
'A lot of work went into grouping it together,' she said. 'What things are close together and what could be a reasonable tour.'
Walking Milwaukee, a tour of downtown Milwaukee made up of 10 mapped, self-guided walking tours of downtown Milwaukee, plus eight bonus cards, is also available.
Collections can be purchased online at gothicmilwaukee.com.
Lardinois said there are no plans to lead any guided tours in Wauwatosa, but she is working to create a similar project for Madison.