Citing competition, Brennan’s announces store closures
Town of Brookfield location sold for office, retail, restaurant

By Katherine Michalets -Freeman Staff and Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

July 13, 2017

 The Town of Brookfield Brennan’s Market will close with the other branches at the end of September.
Dave Fidlin/Special to The Freeman

OCONOMOWOC — Famous for its unique and tasty cheese and sausage products and fresh produce, Brennan’s Market will close its five locations Sept. 30.

Started in 1942 as a roadside fruit stand in Monroe by Frank Brennan and grown to include retail stores, the industry has changed so much in recent years that Brennan’s Market announced the decision Wednesday to stop operations.

“Unfortunately, due to changing consumer habits and increased competition, Brennan’s Market will be closing all stores September 30, 2017,” reads the announcement.

The Town of Brookfield store is being sold and will continue to operate like the other stores in Madison, Monroe and Oconomowoc until the end of September.

Matt Mano, vice president of Stephen Perry Smith Architects, came before the Town of Brookfield’s Architectural Control Committee on Wednesday and unveiled future plans for the location near the Galleria West shopping center.

Dave Fidlin/Special to The Freeman

Brookfield-based MLG Capital has acquired the property, Mano said, and plans call for a mixed-use development within the footprint of the Brennan’s store.

“The intent is for it to be office and retail,” Mano said at the Wednesday meeting. “(MLG) doesn’t have tenants yet, but they intend to subdivide it. They want to make it flexible.”

Tentatively, Mano said MLG has positioned the Town of Brookfield store as a future home of a restaurant or bar with an outdoor patio area. The balance of the property, he said, would likely be office space and retail.

In recent months, the Brennan’s Market on Bluemound Road in the Town of Brookfield was confronted with stiff competition from a Sendik’s Food Market store in The Corners on Bluemound Road at Barker Road and a Fresh Thyme store on Bluemound at Calhoun Road.

“Although we’re all saddened by the decision to close our doors later this year, we are sincerely grateful for the generations of loyal customers and our incredible partners,” said Tim Culhane, general manager/owner of Brennan’s Market, in a statement. “Without our outstanding staff we never would have achieved our high level of customer service and we will be assisting them with job placement support this fall.”

In addition to the five retail locations, Brennan’s Market also operates a cheese warehouse and packaging facility. Between all of the locations, the company employed 150 full- and part-time workers.

“As of now, there are no firm plans for the sale of the remaining properties but all stores will remain fully staffed and stocked,” reads the statement.

Although the recession that began in 2008 ended, Brennan’s Market said its sales never recovered.

“Brennan’s Market saw a significant decline in sales during the recession beginning in 2008. However, even as the economy rebounded, Brennan’s Market sales remained flat. The growth of competition and new options for consumers has made Brennan’s Market business model unsustainable,” reads the statement.

David Livingston owns his own grocery consulting business. The former Roundy’s executive said the expanding grocery market left Brennan’s struggling for market share.

“All of these high-quality perishable stores have the latest and greatest,’’ Livingston said. ‘‘It was very difficult for (Brennan’s) to compete. I think a lot of people forgot they were around.’’

The first retail location was in 1967 in Madison and then in 1988 it expanded into Brookfield. In 2009, the Oconomowoc store in Pabst Farms was opened when Frank Brennan’s son Skip took over the management of the business.

“We hope that all past employees and customers we’ve had the honor to serve over the years will stop in and visit through September 30 and enjoy our final Chin Drippin’ Peach Season,” Culhane said in the statement.

Although the future plans for Brennan’s other store locations have not yet been divulged, traces of the longtime grocer and its signature wood-sided buildings will likely fade in the years ahead as additional redevelopments surface in Oconomowoc and elsewhere.

At Wednesday’s Town of Brookfield meeting, Mano indicated MLG Capital has planned a significant overhaul to the interior and exterior of the facility.

The greenhouse is expected to remain, he said, but the exterior will be spruced up with a new siding color scheme that will have a dark gray stain. An exterior deck and covered parking are also part of the proposal, which is advancing to the town’s Plan Commission for further review.

Gary Lake, the town’s development services director, said MLG’s plans for the Brennan’s property conform with municipal code.

“They’re all permitted uses in that zoning district,” Lake said of the hybrid office, retail and bar/restaurant plan.

Also contributing: Associated Press