Milwaukee’s neighborhoods—from Bay View to the East Side—as well as near suburbs like Shorewood and Wauwatosa, are lined with boutiques featuring personality, whether it’s a place to choose a new outfit or snap up a memorable gift. These indie retailers are a nice alternative to the big-box stores as you’re more likely to have a conversation with the owner while shopping. Yet at the same time, Milwaukee and its surrounding suburbs continue to welcome local outposts of national chains, such as Restoration Hardware and Ross Dress for Less.
Apparel and Fashion Accessories
Chicago-based retailer Akira opened its first Wisconsin store in the spring at Brookfield Square, followed by other locations at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa and Bayshore Town Center in Glendale. The women’s apparel skews towards dress-up wear, such as cute dresses (like a sequined number), velvety boots with a heel, and a beaded jumpsuit, but you can also score some comfy-but-stylish like knit tank-tops and long-sleeve tees. Brands carried at Akira include Adidas, Joy Rich, Bleeker Street and Take Me Home.
Versona Accessories debuted at Wauwatosa’s growing Mayfair Collection in the spring of 2016, joining retailers like Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off 5th, bringing fashion accessories like jewelry and purses that rotate with the season, along with tops, sweater, boots and shoes, and dresses for women. Free Bird Clothing and Home Trends—the second location for the Muskego-based store of the same name—popped up on North Water Street in the Third Ward a few days before we rang in 2016. The styles trend toward boho-chic (think lace and faux-fur trims, or a comfortable tight-fitting striped sweater), with a mix of daytime and nighttime wear. Owner Christy Schwacher hosts “ladies wine night” four times each year; check out the retailer’s Facebook and Instagram pages for more details.
Throughout 2016, Ross Dress for Less opened a few stores in the Milwaukee area, including South 27th Street in Greenfield, West Greenfield Avenue in West Allis, West Capitol Drive in Brookfield, and Menomonee Falls. With a focus on brand names, you can find furniture, clothing, housewares, shoes and fashion accessories—for men, women and children.
Goodwill opened its newest Milwaukee-area store in November in West Milwaukee, joining others that opened in Brookfield, Shorewood, Pewaukee, and Milwaukee’s East Side and Bay View neighborhoods within the last three or four years. Purchases--clothing, artwork, toys and stuffed animals, household decor, books, shoes, purses, you name it--made at any Goodwill help provide job support and job training, much of it coordinated by and hosted at the Goodwill Workforce Connection Centers. While you're at the store, think about what you can donate to help make another shopper's day!
Brew City Salvage--a retailer of antiques and curated resale items--opened its doors in Milwaukee's Walker's Point neighborhood earlier this year. (Previously the store was in Waukesha.) While the owners dabble in all sorts of furniture design, they have a special love for Mid-Century Modern--perfect for ranch dwellers or those who simply crush on the design style.
Relocating from Premiere Outlets in Pleasant Prairie, Restoration Hardware’s outlet is now in the Historic Third Ward (in a space formerly occupied by Rubin’s, an eclectic-furnishings store).
Food, Chocolate and Snacks
GetHappy owner and founder Lindsay Erickson opened a retail spot for her gourmet-chocolate line in Mequon's Town Center in late 2015. (A previous location opened at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa.) How it works is that you portion out candies, gummies and chocolates into clear plastic containers, which are then weighed (and priced) at check-out. Don't assume this is like any other candy store, however. Did you we mention the gummy candies shaped like chicken's feet--sourced from Spain? Also, as Erickson is a master chocolatier, expect only the best, most artisan chocolates. Erickson also has GetHappy stores in Northern Illinois, including at Northbrook Court and Woodfield Mall.
In Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood, along bustling Kinnickinnic Avenue, Terrazas Cakes and Pastries popped up in late 2015. While the owners run a thriving specialty-cake business for special occasions, they also sell cakes and pastries from the shop.