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Updated: Shop Owners Offended by Village President's Comments

The Village Center shop owners were offended when Village President John Hermes said Village Center shops had low selection and high prices.

Article updated May 16 at 11:30 a.m.

Greendale business owners, offended by comments Village President John Hermes made last week, publicly berated him at Tuesday’s Village Board meeting.

During discussion at last week’s Planning Commission meeting, , Hermes said:

“There really isn’t much down here for the Greendale shopper anymore. They frequent (the Village Center) when they want to frequent it, those that know it’s here. The rest go elsewhere, where prices are better and they have more selection. That’s just a fact of life. We have to try to correct that in every manner we can.”

But the owners of the Village Center shops see things differently, and they responded Tuesday night.  Several of them came to the Village Board meeting, to bring their concerns to Hermes. Broad Street Coffee Shop owner and Village Trustee Jim Birmingham was among the group who expressed their concerns.

“As a proud owner of a Village store in Greendale and as a trustee I’m offended that the Village President of Greendale went apart from the agenda item at the meeting to put his comments and opinions in them,” Birmingham said. “The harm you have done as a politician, a respected politician for the Village of Greendale, to the store owners is large, whether you understand that or not.”

Birmingham said the opinions he shared were his alone. Hermes apologized soon after Birmingham spoke saying that he has a high regard for the charm of the Village and no one wants to see the Village Center prosper as much as he does.

“My intent was not to offend anyone,” Hermes said at the Village Board meeting. “I hear from a community of residents every day from a large scale level and as many of you have heard over the years is that shops don’t offer them a lot of choices.”

Village Center Manager Anne Marie Pierce of Grandhaven, LLC, who was also at Tuesday’s meeting, said that 100 percent of the storefronts are occupied. Pierce said Hermes’ comments were hurtful. Grandhaven, LLC. is paying up to $75,000 for the arch gateway sign. 

“The businesses that are here work because people support them,” Pierce said. “Would we like more people to support them? Absolutely. But we don’t get people to support us by saying we are dying, help. We get people to support us by saying we’re thriving, we’re happy, we’re whole, we’re healthy. Come be part of something good. We’re not asking for you to fix us because we aren’t broken. We’re asking for you to appreciate, honor us and celebrate us.”

Pierce said businesses like grocery and hardware stores have not worked in the past.

"Insulted" by the comments Hermes made, Larry and Cherri Hollis, owners of  sent an email to Hermes the day after the Planning Commission meeting. 

"By making such a provocative statement on the public record it gives a very negative view and you are the President and I would think that you should have our backs with regard to this matter," they wrote.

Linda Villwock, owner of, has been in business for 33 years.

“I’ve seen the Village down and I’ve seen it up,” Villwock said. “Right now, yes, I believe we are in a downward turn, but I also believe we can get back up. I also believe that it takes teamwork and I’m not seeing it right now.”

Diane Chilinski, who opened in September, said, “For me personally the business I have has been very well received I get compliments everyday from people from Greendale. The key problem I see is looking to Greendale residents to be the primary shoppers. I’m in favor of the archway to bring people in here who might not live here.”

The proposed archway, which might be placed next to a new LED sign, is meant to bring people into the Village Center for shopping and events.

Some trustees were upset that Hermes once again brought up  his disapproval of the LED sign at the planning commission meeting.

“I’m not real impressed with you President Hermes in highlighting the fact that you think the LED sign is a ‘bad sign,’” said Village Trustee Greg Turay. “It’s fine to keep your comments but I don’t think you should have commented that the LED sign is a bad sign and to the gate way sign. Keep it to yourself. I don’t think that’s wise. We approved the LED sign and you’re just expressing your opinion again.”

EnviroSage May 17, 2012 at 08:57 AM
Whether you think the stores in the village are a plus or minus...what do you think will happen when the Walmart is up and running?
Joy May 17, 2012 at 03:22 PM
The comments re. developing a unique brand are spot on. That is the only way Broad St. will survive. Spend the $$$ to hire a proven marketing professional and follow their advice!!!! Don't spend on an ugly and inappropriate LED sign - what kind of PR will it be when people follow the sign only to discover that the shops are not open? And don't even think about competing with WalMart - focus on uniqueness. Also, I doubt that a grocery-type store will succeed - there was a deli opened on Broad St. in the past 10 years - it lasted about a year. Just can't compete pricewise. Personally, I try to use the Village Shops as much as I can, mostly for gifts or unique food-related items, but, sadly, I am not spending enough to keep anyone in business. But a small campaign might be conducted to urge Greendale residents to use Village shops more for that kind of thing - I run into local people all the time who do not know what is available. Hermes is right, though he perhaps should have been a bit more diplomatic.
Joy May 17, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Continuing previous comments: The bad economy is part of it, but I think the tour buses came largely because of the Taste of Home Restaurant and the magazine connection - people who loved the magazines came because they thought they were going to eat food from the published recipes - which was not the case, but they were drawn by that idea and enjoyed themselves after they got here. I was volunteering in the Village during the early 2000s and from what visitors said, that restaurant and the magazine connection was a real draw. Although the restaurant is gone (sorry Harmony, you're not the same), perhaps the connection to the magazines should be played up more in marketing & advertising of the downtown.
Carol May 17, 2012 at 03:31 PM
MaryAnn, We used to have Sentry & Drews,and a hardwaare store, but they were put out of business . We used to have Ingrilli's Deli, which people didn't patronize. And when we get tour busses they don't want those kinds of stores. The coffee shop is great, National Bakery is great and Cherri's Savor the Flavor plus Ferch's, etc. And Margo's is pricey but she has great stuff. But I do think with so many people working that they should be open evenings, especially in summer. John Hermes was wrong to say what he did though and needs to apologize to the merchants.
the bystander May 19, 2012 at 03:55 AM
All the village shop owners are interested in is selling junk to buses full of Iowa farm wives. Here's a thought, instead of spending $75,000 on a gateway to prop up your failing business model, lets celebrate the true history of the village as a public housing project for low-income people.

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