Shorewood - Almost 70 years after Stein's Gardens and Gifts made its beginning in Shorewood, the retailer has finally come home.
Last week Stein's opened a 2,500-square-foot seasonal satellite at the site of the former Pig N' Whistle on the western edge of the village on Capitol Drive, where a variety of pots, planters, baskets and gardening supplies mark the retailer's first foray into Shorewood in almost 50 years.
Maurice and Mary Stein opened Maurice Stein Flower and Garden Center in 1946 on the corner of Capitol and Wilson drives. Back then the store was a florist shop, where Mary ran the books and Maurice plied his trade for patrons around the North Shore, recalls their daughter-in-law Joan Stein.
"(Maurice) was the flower man," Joan says. "He had been the head of the flower department (at a local department store)."
Joan married their son Jack, who had struck out on his own in 1957 to go into business on Milwaukee's south side. She describes Jack as a deft businessman whose entrepreneurship was the fertilizer for what would eventually become a staple of southeastern Wisconsin: Stein's Gardens and Gifts.
"He was just a genius as a merchandizer," says Stein, now widowed.
It was under Jack's direction that they spread from the south side to a location on West Capitol Drive, growing year after year until the company built its most recent permanent location in Wauwatosa in April, for a total of 16 stores. The original Shorewood florist shop closed in the mid-1960s, Joan recalls.
The new Shorewood satellite, says Stein's CEO Mark Birmingham, is both a homecoming for the company and a market test. To him the North Shore is underserved when it comes to gardening supplies, and this year's temporary shop could precede a permanent location someday if demand is high enough - though, he admits, market research isn't the best part.
"It's been a lot of fun for the people in this office to talk about coming home, so to speak," says Birmingham. "That's a great source of pride for our company. It's very gratifying to come back to Shorewood."
Both Birmingham and Shorewood location manager Linda Freese - herself an 30-year Shorewood resident - report that, of the five seasonal satellites opened last week, Shorewood's has enjoyed the best turnout and sales.
"We're really off to a great start. It's been amazing," says Freese. "We have people drive by and they stomp on the brakes, saying, 'Oh my goodness, flowers in Shorewood!' "
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Shorewood seasonal Stein's Gardens and Gifts satellite
WHERE: 1111 E. Capitol Drive
WHEN: Weekdays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Location will be open through mid-July.
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