worked with a family friend in the business, and given
invaluable emotional and financial support by their
parents, jewelry-loving sisters Debbie Schmid Sladky and
Denise Schmid Leahy decided to take the plunge and open
Atypic Gallery. The Fox Point shop debuted in 1986 with
jewelry cases and stands made by their dad, and their
mom working on staff. Since then, Atypic has become a
go-to source for handmade jewelry from across the United
States. Here, the siblings tell MKE Lifestyle about
their individual styles, working with family and more.
did Atypic Gallery come to be?
Denise: At that time, Debbie, you were a
member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, so
they had annual conventions that we’d go to. I’d tag
along because I loved the jewelry idea. We went to
Toronto, and they had all the galleries focused on
jewelry, and I remember one was called A Flick of the
Wrist. It was all a theme of bracelets handmade out of
all these different mediums. It was really unusual. We
thought it was really cool that Toronto had all these
wonderful jewelry galleries. They just did it for this
convention that was in town. And that’s kind of where we
got the idea.
Debbie: It was in the ’80s, so the craft
and handcrafted, unusual, statement-piece jewelry was
becoming more and more prevalent. We decided that we
would go and do a jewelry store [that was] handcrafted
jewelry, that wasn’t gold and diamonds, because we felt
like we were a little bit young to be pushing, “Come and
buy your engagement set from us!” [It] was innovative at
did you choose the name “Atypic Gallery”?
Debbie: That was tough, because for
months and months we were like, “Yeah, what do we want
to call this place?” At that time, there was
“apolitical” and “asymmetrical” and everything was “A,”
so we were walking around with another friend of ours
and just came up with “atypical.” Atypic. Non-typical.
Denise: And [when] most people think of
an art gallery, you think of more paintings and
sculptures, so it’s not typical to find more jewelry or
What’s it like working with your sister?
Debbie: For the most part, it’s very
Denise: I’m more visual, so [I do] the
displays. I don’t do mechanical stuff. Debbie does all
of that — all the tools and that kind of thing. But we
have a lot of the same values, [so] it’s a really nice
Describe your individual styles.
Denise: I’ve always liked more clean and
contemporary, but I’ve come around to liking some of the
things Debbie likes. Like Julie Shaw, for instance,
who’s very detailed — little tiny things and little
accents. I never really liked that as well in the
beginning, but we got it in because Debbie really
[likes] it and now I’ve come around to it too.
Debbie: I can appreciate it, but I would
not really wear anything that would be high-polish
silver. I like oxidized, much more earthy pieces and
colors. ... Probably because I’m a redhead.
Denise: It’s nice to have a diversity of
our tastes and what we have here, because customers love
that. The selection we have is really amazing. You don’t
really see that in a lot of places.
Visit Atypic Gallery: Audubon Court, 333 W. Brown Deer
Road, (414) 351-0333,