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.”