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Gerrene's owner fashions other career ideas

Economy isn't the cause of longtime store's demise

Oct. 27, 2009

Greendale — It will soon be time to say goodbye to Gerrene's Fashion Shop.

After 54 years in business, the Broad Street women's clothing store will close when its lease runs out in the end of November, though unlike many businesses closing today, it has nothing to do with the economy.

Owner Carolyn Andrejat said business is just fine. It's her desire to do something different and the day-to-day headaches that go along with running a business that led to the decision to close.

Gerrene's opened as "Ger'renes" in 1954 in Hales Corners, combining the names of the first owners, Geraldine and Irene. The stores served as one of the original anchors of the Hales Corners Shopping Center on Highway 100.

It began as simply a lingerie store but evolved over the years to sell women's apparel ranging from mother-of-the-bride dresses to sportswear, in addition to accessories.

Andrejat, who has owned the store for the past nine years, was a store employee prior to taking over.

The number of employees at the store has fluctuated; Andrejat now has five part-time employees.

"We're very proud of this store and the reputation through the years as a nice place to shop," Andrejat said.

As Highway 100 got busier and congested, it actually became harder to get drivers to slow down and take a look at the stores around them, Andrejat said.

That led to the move to Broad Street three years ago, which Andrejat said works in the store's favor because several of the neighboring stores cater to the same clientele.

Nearly all Gerrene's customers kept coming ,and the business also picked up new shoppers after the move, she said.

"We love it here," Andrejat said.

Broad Street is also the location where arguably where the most memorable incident in the store's history occurred.

In January 2006, Andrejat was grocery shopping when a phone call came in from an employee saying a car had crashed into the storefront and traveled through the store.

No one was hurt, and it took only two weeks for workers to clean up and reopen the store, Andrejat said, paging through a scrapbook of photos of the crash.

It's those kinds of phone calls Andrejat said she won't miss when she turns the lights out for the final time. What she will miss are the customers and "the best staff you can ask for."

The "closing" signs on the door took many customers by surprise, she said, though they have responded with hugs, tears and fond farewells.

"A lot of people have stopped at the door and said, 'Oh my word,' " Andrejat said. "They're very sad we're closing."

- Mark Schaaf

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