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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.”

Bren May 16, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Ms. Chilinski, I believe there is a place for second hand shops, but the center of an historic district is not one of them. Tourists do not come to Greendale for resale bargains, they come to experience a unique moment in American history. There is something uplifting, awe-inspiring, about living in a place that is a place mark in the American story. I cannot walk through the Village without thinking about the time in which it was constructed. Several family members were involved in construction and that makes it even more special for me. Poor management has overseen homogenization of the district which must stop immediately, including the LED signs. We must cherish Greendale's uniqueness and accept our collective responsibility as this generation's stewards of this historic American district. The next renovation should not be to fill up our village parking lot, but to reconstruct the strip malls (at least the fronts) to more closely fit and honor the flavor of the Village. There are stores as I suggested in my earlier post that would attract local residents (Greendale, Hales Corners, Franklin) and build tourism. From a marketing standpoint alone, our brand is quaint, historic district. When we homogenize we degrade/dilute our brand strength, it's not sensible. Who do we want in the village, people who spend money or bargain hunters? Tourists or loiterers? I'm sorry Ms. Chilinski, but your store does not promote our Village brand.
Bren May 16, 2012 at 06:33 PM
And that's a different can of worms...
Bren May 16, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Dennis, I agree on the marketing plan (see comments above). The Village, over a period of years, has been operating in complete counter-intuition to our existing and I believe powerful brand. A lot of damage has been done but it's not irreversible if we stop and reboot right now. Let's Skype with influencers at Colonial Williamsburg, Old Town Alexandria. Let's invite folks from Old World Wisconsin, and even Viroqua, which has done an amazing job of preserving its unique little downtown after leviathan Walmart descended on the community. We've got a double challenge--restore, preserve and promote Greendale as a tourist destination as that market is dwindling, and attract shops that provide a good product/experience takeaway for residents and visitors. As far as the grocery concept goes, if it were retro/Euro (like Groppi's) it would be wonderful. Is there a way to establish a citizen committee to support Hermes and provide some needed vision and direction in restoring and transforming our Village?
Dr, Deb Harding May 16, 2012 at 06:52 PM
We are proud owners of a Greendale Original on Apricot Court. I love the village. I love going into the shops and knowing the owners and chatting with them. We have been dismayed as we have watched one business after another close. We are now both retired and lilving on pensions. While we are very thankful for them, they do not allow us to shop as much in the village as we once did. I try very hard to support the shops. There is something very endearing about sending my husband to Apples of Eden and knowing that when he walks in the door they start to get milk chocolate caramels ready for him, or that Ferches knows how I like my cheeseburger. Cathy and Jim at Shoppe Around the Corner have delivered things to our home, and Anne at Seasons of the Heart knows that I like antiques and primitives. Todd at Harmony Inn the Village always chats with us - and knows how we like our steaks. Cheri and Margo speak to us by name...and the list goes on. The sense of community that we feel in the village is something for which we all long. The need to "belong" is one of life's basi needs. I do not agree with the huge sign proposal at the beginning of our strees....I would like it more "charming." I did not agree with Wal Mart coming into Greendale - I fear that it will further detract from Broad Street. I wish I had the answers. I know how blessed we are to have a historical village - and I want the village to thrive! Perhaps we need a PR person whose job it is to promote us!
Bren May 16, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Jan, #1. Who is your ideal clientele? #2. Where are they? #3. Is that where you are? #4. Does your clientele know you are there? #5. What are you doing to stay top-of-mind? If you can't can't respond accurately to those questions, you have a problem. Taking the second-hand store as a model, #1. Ideal Clientele: bargain hunters. #2. Where is ideal clientele? Moderate income. #3. Is that where you are? No. I can't answers #4 and #5 as this is a newer entry to Greendale. As I shared with Ms. Chilinski above, her shop doesn't fit into the historic district brand. I would also add that her anticipated clientele, with few exceptions, is not from Greendale/Hales Corners/Franklin. Her business will likely draw a bargain-hunting clientele that will not access other current Greendale offerings, such as Ferch's, dress boutique, fine art, etc. The best commercial fits are those that promote an "experience," an exploration of discovery. Therefore I suggest that the presence of this store is out-of-sync, at several levels. Unless our uniqueness is re-branded and we work diligently with tour organizations to keep Greendale on their lists, the tourist shops will fail. Without a blend of stores that also appeal to locals, there's no reason for us to shop the Village. And with decisions being made with no branding/marketing acumen, the entire Village is in danger of irretrievable homogenization.
Chris Spehert May 16, 2012 at 07:16 PM
You have obviously never set foot in this store! To simply lump all "resale" shops together is short-sighted. You're describing this establishment as if it were a Goodwill or something like that. It's not. It's an "upscale" children's resale shop. To assume that it will draw the "wrong" element simply because it's a resale shop is a bad assumption. As the names says, children grow like weeds. Children's resale shops don't draw loiterers and whatever else you think they will draw...they draw parents looking for gently used clothing for their rapidly growing children. It is a very nice store...well run and nicely organized and I think it's a great addition to the Village Center. Speaking of history...consider that the Village was designed and built as a Depression-relief project for lower income families. I'm not saying that only lower income families would shop at a store like this...but I'd say this shop has far more "historical" feeling than many of the shops down there.
Chris Spehert May 16, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Honestly?? Bargain-hunting clientele? While agree with many of your points...I think this is pretty silly.
Chris Spehert May 16, 2012 at 07:19 PM
That is exactly what we need (and not a big LED sign)! Spend the money on a marketing firm!
Bren May 16, 2012 at 07:30 PM
I absolutely agree, and one that understands our brand. As I posted in another article, I've been given to understand that Graef, the firm that would like to "redevelop" our village, did not bother to contact the Dept. of the Interior or even consult the original blueprints of the Village. The last nail in the coffin are to bring in people who do not understand the history and uniqueness of Greendale. Take the time and the advice offered here, Village Board. Listen to your president, who has risen many points in my estimation. Cancel the LED signs, they are ridiculous, and use the money saved to seed an historic preservation fund. Think about the future, and the gift that a unique locale is in a sea of strip malls and big box stores. People are attracted to the Third Ward because, although it has not been well planned, the district offers a refreshing atmospheric alternative to the increasingly bland commercial areas of Milwaukee. Greendale's success lies not in building overpriced, under-designed, half-vacant apartment buildings, but in restoring its store fronts and offering enticing alternatives to Walmart.
Anne O'Boyle May 16, 2012 at 07:46 PM
I LOVE Greendale BECAUSE of the kindness of the Shop Owners. Greendale is a genteel place where people smile and look you in the eye, and remember their manners. Questions are quickly answered; or more suitable alternatives provided. I especially LOVE "Cherri's Savor the Flavor" because there is ALWAYS something NEW and DIFFERENT happening there. The Owners, Larry and Cherri, are the family I never had. Cherri has become my instant best friend. She has a heart the size of the Midwest, and the wonderful caring qualities most other Wisconsin residents have forgotten or lost forever. "Constructive" criticism is NOT supposed to be NEGATIVE criticism. If you don't like the Second-Hand Store, don't shop there-and leave the treasures to the rest of us. and throw your money away on over-priced goods at Kohl's and Target. But if you want to feel at home in the little town that the WPA/Roosevelts built, come to Greendale. Its Librarians are also THE BEST of ANY City of Milwaukee/suburb. People who live here do NOT appreciate the Treasure this little town is-God Bless Greendale! I treasure the peaceful walks at the end of my long teaching days.
Bren May 16, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Chris, there is nothing "upscale" about used clothing. It's interesting that you consider people of moderate income a "bad element," I do not. I do maintain that the client base of a second-hand store is not consistent with much of the local demographic. We want people to stay and make the Village a destination. What we have been discussing here are tourist shops with stratospheric prices that are a turnoff for local residents, and a fatal lack of vision on the part of the Village Board, which somehow believes LED signs are the way to promote an historic district. I believe people will come, again, mostly from the outside, to shop at the second-hand store, take up parking spaces to browse (once) or play on the swings, then leave. That does not build our brand or promote sales on Broad Street. The issue at Southridge is much the same, which is why they have restructured the play areas and interiors. One issue was families who were treating the mall like a park, accessing resources and not making purchases. Most shoppers aren't comfortable when there are people hanging about, and don't appreciate not being able to use services (play areas, seating) because non-shoppers are using them. It detracts from the buying experience. I don't wish to offend anyone, but this is business.
Anne May 16, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Currently in other cities, and locally in the Third Ward, Bay View, East Side, and Tosa, upscale resale shops are very popular. As a mom of two and a working professional living in Greendale, I find They Grow Like Weeds a great addition to the Village. With small children, it's convenient after visiting the library for storytime or playground to keep the car parked and do some children's clothes shopping, have coffee, or visit the bakery with friends.
Bren May 16, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Chris, this is a warning sign to be heeded. The appearance of this type of store, along with the LED signs, represent the type of wrong-thinking that is so destructive to our Village brand, our niche, selling point, whatever you care to call it. Decisions are not being made toward strengthening and promoting our Village brand. It's becoming clear that other than the board president and a few of the shop owners, there's no understanding of how to create value in a niche market. Hence the calls for marketing/branding expertise.
Bren May 16, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Anne, not to "sound" cold, but this is a two-way enterprise. The Village needs to protect and promote its brand, and businesses want to make money. Both need to work together to make that happen, which isn't happening right now in terms of store hours, prices, and store type. It's a hard fact but in a serious re-branding campaign (if brand is historic preservation/celebration), some stores may have to leave or re-invent themselves. Cherri's is one of the stores that makes Greendale a destination. There are others--we need to do some focus groups, send delegates or Skype with some other historic districts to understand how they maintain their brands, and work on replacing the anachronistic storefronts on Broad Street with something more brand-worthy. My comments aren't negative, they are realistic. A successful branding effort benefits us all.
Bren May 16, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Greendale is a bit different from those locales. There might be a local market/need for a second-hand store in Greendale, but maintain that the prime retail space on the main street and primary tourist destination isn't it, for the same reasons that most malls don't rent to second-hand stores. Clientele, brand, competition with retailers.
Carol May 16, 2012 at 08:29 PM
I was shocked when I heard the comment from John Hermes, our Village president! Who does he think he is making statements about the shops not being any good and too expensive????? They have quality merchandise and not "junk" and your comment was an insult not only to the shop owners who are trying to keep this Village going, but also to Roy Reiman who was good enough to revitalize this Village and not letting it become a ghost town and last of all us citizens who are proud to say we're from Greendale. Mr. Hermes, I think you owe us all an apology for your insulting comment!!! Let it be known that you only got re-elected because no one ran against you, but hopefully when this term is up, there will be some brave people to take over.
Lisa417 May 16, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Read the article again, he never said the shops were not any good. And in fact it seems he is trying to make the shop owners understand what many on this site have been saying. Many of us here in Greendale use the shops for special occasions and not on a regular basis because of cost and selection. If the shop owners choose to listen and make a few changes, they will thrive. If they choose to ignore Mr. Hermes and others, well they are not too smart when it comes to business.
Concerned May 16, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Then they better have the best darn costumer service and offer something unique to get people in---Margo's, The Shoppe around the Corner and Prescott Miller have awesome customer service!!! I have heard great things about They Grow Like Weeds, but I have never been in....the rest of the stores/eating establishments just are not that great---and really, an ultrasound place???? Come on!
Kimberly Nerone May 16, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Bren - I am astounded at your small-mindeness. I agree w/ Chris, clearly you have never taken the time to walk into They Grow Like Weeds before making such derogatory comments. I want you to know, before They Grow Like Weeds moved into the village, I had never been there before - so for you to put on airs about people only come to Greendate to experience a 'unique moment in history' you would be wrong. In all honesty Bren, the idea of utlizing 'used clothing' as you put it is as old as history! Way back in Colonial days mom's were sharing clothing from older children to younger ones in and amoungst their neighbors . . the only difference here is that Mrs Chilinski decided to make a business out of it, put people to work and add to the tax base of your beloved community!
Bren May 16, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Kimberly, I am pointing out that used clothing is not "upscale" and this type of store does not fit into that location if we are working to re-brand Greendale as an historic place to live and visit. There is no need for histrionics.
Kimberly Nerone May 17, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Bren, I am not sure who appointed YOU the person to decide what is 'up-scale' or not but I would clearly beg to differ. It would appear as though you do NOT go shopping for children's clothes very often. I can assure you that They Grow Like is VERY Up-Scale . . .Where else in the city can you walk in and purchase designer boutique clothing for chidlren at a fraction of the price!?!? NO WHERE but at They Grow Like Weeds. I defy you to walk into They Grow Like Weeds ( which I would highly recomend you do before you continue to belittle it) and find ANYTHING you would classify as "USED". Help me understand, did you find Cesars Pet Store in line w/ the historic values of Broad Street? For some reason you are caught up in the fact that They Grow Like Weeds sells gently used clothing and for some unbeknownest reason you find that offensive. This seems FAR more an issue with you than it does for the Greendale community because without fail EVERY time I walk into They Grow Like Weeds, not only am I greeted by the most friendly worker, but I run into the most genuinly nice customers who all seem MOST appreciative of not only the DARLING store Mrs Chilinski has created, but also for the incredible need her store is meeting within our community. I have to ask you, do you find Cedarburg a "historic shopping community?" I know I would - and not unlike Greendale, Cedarburg also has a resale shoppe!
jeff ircink May 17, 2012 at 03:44 AM
i don't think Hermes' comments were out of line. he didn't say the shops suck. he simply said there's a limited demand for what d.t. offers. doesn't mean he doesn't like the shops or that the shops don't serve a purpose. regarding Turay's comment about Hermes bringing up the LED, why doesn't Turay mention WHY the LED signs were not brought to the planning commission to get its feedback like everything else?
jeff ircink May 17, 2012 at 03:44 AM
...some of the shops are overpriced.
jeff ircink May 17, 2012 at 03:45 AM
good idea, mary ann.
jeff ircink May 17, 2012 at 03:54 AM
"recall Hermes"? geezuz.....
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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