‘Rediscovering’ Stonewood Village Shops
Tenants developing strategies for attracting more patrons to quaint location

By Stephanie S. Beecher - Special to The Freeman

Nov. 13, 2015

The town square in Stonewood Village.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

BROOKFIELD - With all the hustle and bustle that Brookfield has become known for, the Stonewood Village Shops can seem worlds away. Nestled on eight woody acres just west of Calhoun Road, the site features more than a dozen businesses in a quaint colonial-style setting.

Though the commercial complex has seen busier times - its stores were once a top local attraction - its current business owners are poised to take it to the top once again, banking, among other things, on their collective Ma and Pop charm.

The land is replete with a storied history. It is the former home of Revolutionary War soldier Nathan Hatch, who is buried nearby. It wasn’t developed into a commercial site until around 1977. Both the farmhouse at the front of the property and the gray plank barn are the farm’s original buildings; the other seven saltboxes were constructed following the land’s purchase. After its opening, the site’s village square also became home to numerous art festivals, war reenactments and other community gatherings. Older generations consider Stonewood Village to hold many of their fond family memories.

“It’s got a lot of character,” said Phil LeClaire, who owns Mozzaluna Pizzeria & Ristorante with his wife, Barb. “Once people find us, they love us.”

The colonial-style buildings of Stonewood Village.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

That’s precisely the problem the complex faces today. Over the years, new developments, including on Bluemound Road, took foothold. Without the traffic seen in Brookfield’s growing commercial districts, not to mention the bright lights spotlighting its numerous franchise establishments, Stonewood Village’s glory began to fade. It became difficult to lure customers to the quiet business complex on the edge of town, tenants say. 

“Stonewood used to be a destination,” said Lynne Herro, owner of Sweet Eva’s Chocolates and Lynne Herro Personalized Skincare at Stonewood. “Over time people stopped coming.”

In 2009, the property’s owners, 4S LLC of Hartland, attempted to stop the decline, announcing an ambitious $15 million redevelopment plan that would, among other things, add more than 80,000 square feet of retail and office space and move the farmhouse to open the development to motorists on West Capitol Drive. But those plans fell through when the Recession hit and the real estate market took a nosedive. A second effort tried to bill the complex as a wedding destination.

Today, Stonewood is home to “an eclectic mixture of businesses,” including a photography studio, a medical billing company, a yoga apparel store, a salon, a preschool and an advertising firm, among others. But their secluded location leaves business owners feeling somewhat forgotten.

“Shoppers are so accustomed to looking for a strip mall or box store,” added Kate Welbes Winchell, a co-owner of the popular bridal store Savvy Bride. Strict zoning laws, which prohibit certain signage from adorning the roadside, also presents a challenge. “It’s difficult for customers to spot us when driving by,” said Winchell.

Business owners support one another

Yet for all the property’s challenges, there’s a certain camaraderie between the saltbox business owners. Strolling the leaf-strewn pathways, walking door-to-door to chat with tenants, it’s clear they are in full support of each other. They display each other’s business cards on their store counters and encourage patrons to visit their neighbors.

“For me, I see it as a positive,” to be away from Bluemound Road, said Herro. “People can find parking here, they can come relax. It’s so beautiful, it’s fairy tale-like - like a little country village.” 

The village’s tenants are working together to improve road signage, increase advertising and develop new strategies to host events and ultimately, help patrons “Rediscover Stonewood.”

“We are working hard to make Stonewood Village a destination area again, like it was known in the past,” adds Elizabeth Webber, one half of the mother-daughter duo who own Coquie Paperie & Gifts. 

“If we can get you to come through that front door it’s a huge advantage,” LeClaire said. “I like the location. We just need the exposure to so people know who is all here.”