Eleven years ago, Shawn Hutchens opened Green Fields, an upscale bohemian boutique with art and clothing from around the world, at 1800 N. Farwell Ave. Last month, he opened a second Green Fields in a brand new building, 1239 N. Brady St.
On Nov. 11, 2011 (11/11/11), Green Fields on Brady will have a grand opening party, featuring live music all day on Friday along with raffles for gift cards from Brady Street area bars and restaurants and in-store discounts of 10-50 percent. On Saturday, the Dead Man's Carnival will perform outside the shop from 2 to 4 p.m.
The two Green Fields are connected in concept, but each has its own focus. The Farwell location features mostly tobacco smoking accessories and the new shop has jewelry, art, clothing and more. Hutchens says the success of the smoking products came as a surprise. He added pipes and such a few years after he opened the Farwell shop, and because of popular demand, decided to expand it.
"I wanted to separate the products after the tobacco line really took off,"he says. "I also got the opportunity to build this store from the ground up, and I had to take advantage of it."
The new store has crystals, batiks, Buddha statues, incense, instruments, sweaters, hats, bags, carved masks, posters, semi precious stone / silver jewelry, picture frames, organic journals, soaps, bath salts, mobiles and more. The majority of the items in the shop come from Indonesia, Katmandu, Thailand, Bali and India, but there are a few locally made products, too. Hutchens says he buys mostly Fair Trade items.
"We deal with more than 150 small businesses and shop owners. We work closely with the people. In most of the places we buy, we see the people making the handicrafts," says Hutchens.
Hutchens travels about once a year to hand select products for his shops. He usually take an employee or two with him on the journey. This past winter, he was in Thailand and Katmandu, for more than two months.
"We only stop and look at the things that pull us in," he says. "And we buy the things we fall in love with."
Hutchens, who started out working as a freelance photographer, sold items at Grateful Dead shows in the '80s and '90s. He says he went to "so many Dead shows he can't remember how many."
When he became a father, he wasn't making enough money as a photographer, so he began selling imported items from a kiosk at a mall in Hobert, Ind. He later opened a shop in Indiana, also called Green Fields, that is still open today but under new ownership.
"I started out in this business because I was in a pinch, and 20 years later, I'm still doing it. The timing has been right for me and I've been in the right place at the right time," he says.
Hutchens says he has put everything into his business, and he recognizes the risk involved, but believes people will appreciate his taste in items and support Green Fields because East Side shoppers care about locally owned businesses.
Hutchens is off to a strong start – he says business has been good. The shop has some nice touches, including a basket of tissue-wrapped shells next to the register that are free for the taking. The same shells, hand picked from beaches in Sanibel Island, Fla., are also used in a mosaic in front of the store and decoratively at the building's foundation.
Hutchens' goal is to continue to offer items that local shoppers won't find anywhere else and to work in tandem with other shopping- and entertainment-based Brady Street businesses.
"There are a lot of great bars on Brady Street, and we're bringing more retail to the block," he says. "We're really happy to be here. We love Milwaukee."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.