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Honoring Mom: Muriel’s Place storefront a dream come true for Mentoring Positives’ founder Will Green

Muriel's Place honors Muriel Pipkins, the mother of Mentoring Positives co-founder Will Green. (Photo by A. David Dahmer)

Will Green initially founded Mentoring Positives, an innovative, referral-based mentoring program that works directly with kids and families in a variety of ways in the Darbo/Worthington area and beyond, to honor his mother, Muriel Pipkins, who lost her battle with breast cancer at the young age of 46. He wanted to carry on the legacy of her lifetime of good works. This Thursday, Mentoring Positives will honor his mother once again, with the official opening of Muriel’s Place storefront where community members can dine in and eat pizza made by Mentoring Positives students.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 18, 4 p.m. at Mentoring Positives’ new home at 2844 E. Washington Ave.

“I’ve been really thinking about my mom lately with it being Mother’s Day weekend and it’s just amazing to watch this whole thing come to fruition in her name and in her honor … Muriel’s Place,” Green, the executive director of Mentoring Positives, tells Madison365. “That’s what we’ve been pushing throughout our time is to honor her … many people know that we actually created Mentoring Positives by using her initials.”

The storefront is located at Mentoring Positives’ new headquarters on the ground floor of the newly-built Ella’s Apartments (the former site of Ella’s Deli). It’s on one of Madison’s busiest roads and is close to a variety of different neighborhoods.

“It is actually kind of surreal because I’ve been doing the work for a while but It’s very exciting to think about something like this and the fact that Muriel’s Place is named after my mom…. her picture is the first thing you see when you first walk in the door,” Green says. 

Mentoring Positives’ new home has a commercial kitchen where Mentoring Positives youth make and sell their famous Off the Block pizzas and salsas, which debuted at the Darbo Peace Walk back in the day and have been sold throughout the city for years with profits going right back into Mentoring Positives’ programs.

“We’ve been actually making batches of sauce and pizza in the new building for a while now. In fact, the students were just in there last night,” Green says. “We’ve been having some friends come through and give the kids some training and some practice around how they do the point of sale and stuff like that … how to bus the tables and how to do restaurant-type things.”

Dine-in area at Muriel’s Place overlooking East Washington Ave. on Madison’s east side
(Photo by A. David Dahmer)





At Thursday’s ribbon-cutting event for Muriel’s Place, Zach Brandon, the president of Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, will be one of the speakers.

“We’re expecting to have a lot of friends and supporters there and we can’t wait to give them a tour of the space,” Green says.

There is a cozy space in Muriel’s Place restaurant for customers to come in and eat that overlooks busy East Washington Ave. “We’re gonna do some lunch from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. … and then we’ll do dinner from 5-7 p.m. so you can order pizza and sit down and eat it during those times,” Green says. “We’re going to be open Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays right now as we’re just opening up. The young people will be doing the work … they will be serving it up.

“We’ll have that lapse from here until school is out, but we’ll get some kids back from college and they’ll get some hours,” Green continues. “People who come in at that time, there’ll be served by the kids and they might get to see some pizza and salsa production happening in the back there.”

Will Green, executive director of Mentoring Positives, in the commercial kitchen space of Muriel’s Place
(Photo by A. David Dahmer)


In the future, Green expects the days and hours of operation at Muriel’s Place to grow. “I do expect us to add more days and to get more hours and that will enable us to do more stuff in this building and to get more young people involved,” Green says. “We just want to make sure we have the right staff and that we’re growing at a steady pace. But growth will be in the plan and we’ll be doing other products that will keep the program fresh as we continue to grow our brand.”

Muriel’s Place menu (Photo by A. David Dahmer)

Green, along with his wife Becky Green, founded Mentoring Positives Inc. back in 2004 in the Darbo-Worthington Neighborhood to support African-American youth through a variety of programming that create a family atmosphere and engages youth in community building. Next year, the non-profit will be celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Green thanked New Year Investments for giving him the opportunity to be at their new home and for partnering with Mentoring Positives to create the space.

“This ribbon-cutting event for Muriel’s Place is going to be something that is really special,” Green says. “Hopefully, if everything goes right, my two brothers will be coming from out of town and they will be here so they will be able to see it and know what this is about. And my daughter will be coming home, too. So it will be a special time and really just an honor to be launching this.

“I think about this often being in Madison, Wisconsin, and being able to have the impact that we’ve had over the 19 years … going on 20 next year,” adds Green, a native of Gary, Indiana. “It’s a beautiful thing to be in this city and being able to open a space where you truly see the impact we’re having on these kids…. You can see it in action. We are having a major impact and it’s so beautiful to do it while honoring Mom.”