Stopping in for my regular visit to get dog food and other pet supplies, I was shocked and saddened to see the signs that announced that Bob and Dan Gerlach are retiring and their longstanding Wisconsin Garden & Pet Supply will be closing.
The last day of business is July 31.
The side-by-side pet and garden stores with a small parking lot in between, at 8520 W. North Ave., was founded by the Gerlach’s father, Chuck, in 1953 on the southeast corner of North Avenue and Lefeber (currently home to The Real Good Life meal service).
The current pet shop building was erected in 1958 and the garden side originally housed a bike and hobby shop. The Gerlachs purchased the Bungalow Hobby & Cycle Shop building (previously the Honeymoon Bungalow frozen custard and grill) in 1980 and added the canopy out front.
Two other Gerlach siblings, Tom and Sue, retired from the family business a few years ago.
“While bittersweet to close a business our father opened, we know it is in our best interest and that of our families to do so while both we and the store are in good health,” reads a statement issued Monday.
“Each of us siblings have spent the majority of our working lives in this family business, and we would like to give a special thanks to those that have made up the hundreds of co-workers we’ve had over the years. From the part time high schoolers on their first-time job to the many long-term full- and part-time employees who have walked this path with us, we are so thankful to have had your help.”
The garden side always ramps up as spring approaches and remains one of the few local, independent garden centers in the area.
The pet store has been our go-to place for dog food, guinea pigs and their supplies for years now, and the staff there is unfailingly friendly and helpful ( they’re also “Urban Spelunking” radio fans, and coincidentally, I once ran into DJ Kenny Perez, who edits the 88Nine podcast and radio spot, in the shop!).
“We would like to thank our thousands of customers and employees for their loyal support over these past 68 years,” the statement continues. “The great blessings of being in a retail business are the people with whom we have been fortunate to meet and work with. Those who have come in with a smile and kind words brightened our days and we hope we have been able to do the same.
“After more than 40 years of serving Wauwatosa and the surrounding area, all four of us siblings look forward to enjoying more time for our families, pets and gardens. We thank each and every one of you for your continued support and hope to see you for one last exceptional spring season.”
The Gerlachs expect spring to be normal at the shops, but reminds that all gift cards and coupons must be redeemed before closing. Current Pet Food Frequent Feeder Cards will be honored if filled before closing date, but new gift cards and Frequent Feeder cards will no longer be offered.
A clearance sale is already underway and much merchandise is 20 percent off (pet foods excluded).
As for the future of the corner location across the street from Sendik’s, the Gerlachs have hired a commercial real estate broker to list the property.
“We are excited to see what the future brings for the space.”
We’ll miss you, Gerlachs!
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.