Waxwing takes flight

Shorewood officially said goodbye to local art boutique Waxwing as it left its Oakland Avenue location and moved 2.5 miles south to North Avenue on December 24. Although customers from the area are sad to see it go, the future of the new Waxwing has lots of excitement in store.

Layna Wang, freshman, is one of the many regular shoppers who have been affected by the change.

“I miss having such a cool store nestled in Shorewood, walking distance from my house, but the new and improved space, along with the east side atmosphere, makes Waxwing 2.0 impossible not to love,” Wang said.

The December 19 grand opening proved to be very successful, and Steph Davies, Waxwing owner, is confident in the steady growth of her business.

More than 50 people braved the cold weather in order to be a part of the opening night festivities.

“We’ve been so lucky to have the support of Shorewood as we started, out and we’re excited that support continues in our new space where we see plenty of familiar faces from our old neighborhood coming back to check out the new spot,” Davies said.

In addition, the increased urban traffic of North Avenue has brought in many new customers.

“People from communities and neighborhoods all over Milwaukee find their way into our shop,” Davies said.

According to Davies, the expected activity will only keep rising when the new improvements are added.

“For one thing, we have four times more space, which means a lot more room to move around and shop without the worry of bumping into things that existed in our old space,” Davies said.

The store will also be able to bring in more artists.

“One thing I knew I wanted was a stage to feature more live, local music and so we have one. It acts as our kids department during the day,” Davies said.

With the vastly larger area, customers will not only just be able to view art, but participate in its creation as well.

“This new space also has a back room that we plan to use for classes and workshops that will be open to the public,” Davies said.

Davies has no worries about revenue at the new location.

“Business has grown steadily each year and continues to do so,” Davies said.

For Waxwing, the entirety of the past year was filled with uncertainty as to what the future would hold.

“The decision to move was somewhat out of my hands as our landlord in Shorewood owns The Draft and Vessel, the bar next to our old location, and wanted to expand into our space, so our lease was up at the end of 2015,” Davies said.

Davies spent much of last year preparing to decide the next step for Waxwing. She considered closing up shop altogether and focusing on her artwork and family, but still looked at new retail spaces in Shorewood, Nashville and even Brooklyn.

“We were in Brooklyn looking at retail spaces when I got a phone call from Nathan Bernstein of Joseph Property Development [in Milwaukee] saying he’d been in the shop, loved what we were doing and wanted to help us find a space,” Davies said. “I was very tentative but immediately fell in love with the space on North Avenue and could see the shop there.”

When Davies first opened the shop, she was looking for a connection with artists in the area. With inspiration from Sparrow Collective and Foxglove Gallery, she was pleased with how things turned out. Davies decided to name the store based from a bird common in the area, the cedar waxwing.

Waxwing is very optimistic about the future and was appreciative of how the store did in its old location.

“[We] want everyone in Shorewood to know that our heart will always be there where we started and hope they’ll come experience this new space with us in all of its forms: as a shop, as a classroom, as a music venue,” Davies said.

by Olivia Poole and Abby Widell

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