The way to a shopper’s heart is through her stomach
Restaurants, grocers increased focus of retail developments

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

March 27, 2015


 A 45,000-square-foot Whole Foods will serve as an anchor for The Mayfair Collection in Wauwatosa once built.
Submitted rendering

WAUWATOSA - Developers are increasingly finding their way into the hearts of shoppers through the use of strategically placed restaurants and high-end grocery stores in their retail or mixed-use developments.

Brenton Schrader, retail leasing director for HSA Commercial Real Estate, said that two major developments he is working on in metro Milwaukee will have significant food-centric businesses, including Whole Foods in The Mayfair Collection and Fresh Thyme Farmers Market in Plaza 173 in Brookfield.

Restaurants and grocery stores provide seven-day-a-week traffic for retail centers, as well as during all hours of the day, which in turn can lure in retail tenants.

Brookfield Community Development Director Dan Ertl said it’s also often the food that people remember best about their shopping experience.

Ertl said the retail development industry has been focusing on including “big E” and “small e” components in order to bring in customers. The “big E” refers to sporting, music and theater venues. Increasing in popularity are “small e” businesses, such as coffee shops and restaurants.

  A Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store will attract shoppers to the Plaza 173 strip mall in Brookfield at different times of day, every day.
Submitted rendering

“There is an interest in keeping shoppers on the property in terms of the ‘little e,’” Ertl said.

In Brookfield, strip malls have included food-centric businesses such as The Oilerie in the CVS Plaza and more restaurants and a Fresh Market at Brookfield Square Mall.


From restaurants to grocery stores and back again

In Plaza 173 in Brookfield, which will be rebranded Calhoun Crossing, Schrader said a Fresh Thyme grocery store focusing on fresh produce and flowers will be a draw for shoppers. Backed by Meijer, the Fresh Thyme in Brookfield will be the first in the state, he said.

Having a grocery store in a development, such as The Mayfair Collection, serves the residents living in the development or nearby, as well as draws in shoppers who may decide to go to other stores not included on their grocery list. 

In terms of The Mayfair Collection, which is being rebranded The District, Schrader said they were having a hard time attracting a residential developer until a 45,000-square-foot Whole Foods was announced.

“That really was a game-changer for us,” Schrader said. “Then all of the residential developers began to line up.”

Once built, the Whole Foods will provide daily-needs traffic to The Mayfair Collection.

“Whole Foods is going to keep them coming in from day to day or week to week unlike any other store would,” Schrader said.

Another big name locally that The Mayfair Collection is working with on three restaurant concepts is the Bartolotta Restaurants group. The plans include a contemporary diner concept with drive-thru service and a menu with brats, Italian beef, salads and sandwiches. A Bartolotta-run gastropub and casual French bistro are being discussed as well.

Also located in The Mayfair Collection is Wisconsin’s first Corner Bakery. A second Pizza Man location is anticipated to open at the end of May.

“What we had anticipated with all of the national brands that we were going to bring in on the retail side was that we would have a conventional national lineup of restaurants,” Schrader said. “What we came to find is the national restaurants haven’t historically done well catering to the Milwaukee market. What we ultimately decided was national restaurants just weren’t a good fit for us.”

With Milwaukee’s increasingly vibrant local restaurant scene, Schrader said the focus turned to tapping into its potential.

“These three exciting concepts are going to draw people into the shopping center,” Schrader said. “It’s really about driving traffic.”

As a mixed-use development with residences, restaurants will also be “fabulous walk-to amenities,” he said.

The Corners in the Town of Brookfield will have luxury apartments created by Milwaukee’s Mandel Group, while The Corridor on the former Ruby Farm in Brookfield will have office and medical facilities. Preliminary renderings for The Corridor showed unnamed restaurants near the Bluemound Road entrance. In The Corners, a Colectivo coffee shop and café was one of the first tenants announced.

As Sears’ end of Brookfield Square Mall gets a revamping with additional storefronts, restaurants are also part of the plan, Ertl said.


‘Bringing in energy’

Chef Michael Feker, who owns Zesti in Hartland and Il Mito in Wauwatosa, said he is interested in using his past development experience again as a consultant or in opening a restaurant in one of the new developments

Feker said he came to Wisconsin from Los Angeles when his family bought Rainbow Springs in Mukwonago and he handled the food aspect of the business. He was also involved in the business’s eventual sale to the Department of Natural Resources. Feker’s brother remains involved in development in Florida and the Carolinas.

“Developers are always looking at bringing in energy and restaurants are always bringing energy,” Feker said.

There is also much that a developer and restaurateur must take into consideration when creating the right match, such as who makes up the surrounding market, the access points for diners and the atmosphere and occupants of the retail center.