Although it seems destined to always be a lifeline of East Side culture, Milwaukee's Brady Street certainly was not exempt from the effects of the economic recession.
Beloved stores like Anomaly Design Shop and the women's section of fashionable Aala Reed shut their doors early in the year, only to be replaced by a slew of new boutiques like Lady Pink and Hamm's Universal Fashion. Unfortunately, those storefronts are already empty and back on the market by the start of the new year.
For a while, the outlook looked bleak, but it's beginning to look as though 2010 might be a more successful year for the legendary shopping strip. First, we got word that Crisp is set to fill thelarge restaurant void left by the former Coco Bella, 1323 E. Brady St.
And now the happy hues emanating from 1224 E. Brady are breathing life back into another storefront. Chartreuse, an eco-friendly boutique that opened at 2227 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in spring 2008, has relocated to its new home.
The store features environmentally conscious goods for men, women and children that are the furthest thing from scratchy, "granola" gear only for eco-warrior hippies. Owner Sarah Szymanski puts it simply: Her wares are smart, sexy and sustainable. Period.
Chartreuse (note the "reuse" in the name) is as trendy as they come and Szymanski's eco-fashion is just as much about style as it is about saving the planet.
"The older way of looking at eco-friendly stuff involved people wearing these hippy ... tents. I just wanted normal, solid clothes that people will wear every day. The clothes needed to stand on their own whether they're environmentally friendly or not."
So while you'll find racks of shirts made from soy, bamboo, hemp or flax, you wouldn't exactly know it without looking at the tag. The cotton clothing she buys is all 100 percent organic.
The new location is a bit smaller than the former, but Szymanski assures us that she has not reduced her inventory. If anything, it's grown -- especially the baby section, a decision perhaps impacted by her own 5-month-old who sometimes accompanies her in the store.
She's also placing a larger focus on locally-made items. Her shelves are now stocked with goodies from Monsters and Things (you might have seen their adorable stuffed toys at Art vs. Craft) as well as handmade baby hats made from recycled knits from Madisoncrafter Bluemchen.
Other sections of her store have grown as well over the last couple of years. Sustainability comes in all forms here, which leads to products likePaddywax soy candles, Priti non toxic fingernail polish and Soji solar paper lanterns that charge by day and glow softly by night.
Times were tough in 2009, but Szymanski says the increased foot traffic along her new Brady Street home is already helping to ensure the store stays a sustainable Milwaukee staple for years to come.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”