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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014

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In Marketplace

Brothers Terry and Tom Stuhlmacher owned Winkie's since 1985.

In Marketplace

The lower level is packed with quality -- and novelty -- toys.

In Marketplace

Winkie's specializes in K'NEX, Playmobil and Brio wooden trains.

In Marketplace

The candy counter is one aspect of Winkie's uniqueness.

In Marketplace

"We're very strong on seasonal items and this keeps up our traffic flowing," says Stuhlmacher.

Winkie's finds success in upscale variety


Terry Stuhlmacher, co-owner of Winkie's, says the best part of his job is seeing fathers who grew up shopping at the Whitefish Bay variety store bring in their children for a toy or treat.

"You'd be surprised how many dads come in here and say they shopped here as kids," says Stuhlmacher.

Stuhlmacher and his brother, Tom, spent a lot of time inside Winkie's when they were kids and young adults.

"We grew up in this business. My dad was the general manager of Winkie's, back when there were five shops," says Stulmacher. "My dad originally bought the store with my brother and I, and worked there until he retired in 1995."

Today, only the Silver Spring Drive location remains, but until the early '80s, there were four other Winkie's: another in Whitefish Bay on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Hampton Avenue and three on the North Side of Milwaukee.

Winkie's features a well-selected array of gifts, cards, toys, stationery / office supplies, sewing supplies, housewares, candy and seasonal items.

"We're very strong on seasonal items and this keeps up our traffic flowing. We hit every holiday, including the upcoming Mother's Day, Fourth of July, even Back to School," says Stuhlmacher.

In the '60s, Winkie's was one of the only variety stores to carry Hallmark cards. Today, it is a Gold Crown Hallmark shop, which allows it to carry select lines of upscale cards.

"Hallmark has always been a big part of our business, but we're a lot more than that, too," says Stuhlmacher.

Stuhlmacher says he and his brother strive to stay in an upscale niche, and by doing so, they don't attempt to compete with Target or Wal-Mart.

"We look for merchandise that isn't in the mass market," he says. "We stay unique, and that has been very successful for us."

Stuhlmacher says his toy department, which takes up most of the large lower level, is one of the feathers in the shop's cap. He says the selection of Plamobil, K'NEX and Brio wooden toys blows away the offerings at box stores.

"We're able to carry (most) of the line," he says. "Whereas you go to, say, Wal-Mart, and they might carry a few pieces (from the line) if you're lucky."

Another claim to fame at Winkie's is the large candy counter, which ranges from Jellybellies to imported chocolates.

"We still have the bulk candy, but we specialize now in candy from around the world. Like the store in general, our specialty candy department helps us to stay in our upscale niche," says Stuhlmacher.


Talkbacks

bbkradwell | Oct. 25, 2009 at 1:41 p.m. (report)

Wow! I kinda miss Winkie's! But I'm also glad I don't live near it anymore, as I'd probably spend waaaay too much money at the candy counter (can you say: "Revolving Account!" LOL!) My sweet-tooth has taken control of my life enough, as it is! I hear the Siren Song of Winkie's candy counter, calling me home, even now, as I write this... Eeeeesh! LMAO!

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wfbgal | May 7, 2008 at 4:04 p.m. (report)

We are ALWAYS at Winkies!! I could not live without that store. Just this weekend, my mom and dad took my son and his friend to get candy from the candy counter - :) Fun memories for all! I can't imagine life without that store.

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TheyThink | May 7, 2008 at 12:49 p.m. (report)

An absolute Milwaukee treasure. I vividly remember taking the No. 15 bus up Marlborough Dr to Winkie's with my grandmother to buy me candy and, if I was lucky, a Lego toy or Star Wars action figure. Let's hope it never closes.

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Downtowner | May 7, 2008 at 11:24 a.m. (report)

It's both amazing and beautiful that this place still exists. Maybe radio ads from the 70s still linger .... "gotta get to Winkie's ..... now!"

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threecresties | May 7, 2008 at 11:21 a.m. (report)

Hello from Southern California! Thanks for the refresher, and thanks for the photos. I remember calling the Silver Spring location "Big Winkie's" and the Hampton location "Little Winkie's." We sure don't have stores like this where I live. We can find them, but we have to do some driving and make a day of it. It's not like jumping on your bike and riding a few blocks. My last time in "Big Winkie's" was two-and-a-half years ago. Yes, I stopped at the candy counter, and yes, I picked up some candy raisins! I was also there for the 35th anniversary back in '94, when fellow Bay H.S. grad Bob Reitman made an appearance. Good stuff!

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