After well over 100 years in business in Wauwatosa and 85 at the same location, Hawks Nursery, long a mainstay in local gardening and landscaping, is turning over its retail operation on Watertown Plank Road operations to Stein's Gardens & Gifts.
Stein will lease the store and outdoor retail garden center space from Hawks, and Hawks will continue to operate only its landscaping services, according to documents filed with the city.
Stein has applied for a conditional use permit to operate a Stein Gardens & Gifts at Hawks' address, 12217 Watertown Plank Road. The application comes before the Wauwatosa Plan Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Monday. The application names Joseph Kresl, owner of Hawks, as a co-applicant.
Hawks on Sunday published an advertisement in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for an "inventory clearance sale" with merchandise at discounts of up to 75 percent. The ad says that "all merchandise storewide" is subject to clearance and that final clearance ends Feb. 17.
The conditional use application and a letter from Jerome Schmitt of Stein do not specify the date that Stein would hope to begin retail operation.
Schmitt's letter said that Stein is proposing no major changes to either the interior or exterior of the Hawks property other than some painting and changing of displays. It does propose replacing the "hoop house" greenhouses currently used in the retail garden center with more substantial structures.
The proposed hours of operation appear to be in line with Hawks' current operations. There was no mention of lighting or signage changes.
Stein operates 15 large garden centers throughout Southeast Wisconsin. Schmitt's letter notes that the Hawks location would be its smallest store and that Stein's standard inventory would be "adjusted" to the size of the Hawks center and to the Wauwatosa market.
A long history in Wauwatosa
Founded in 1875 in Rochester, NY, Hawks began operations in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa in the 1890s, initially taking orders for nursery stock from its New York nurseries but soon beginning growing operations here.
Early on, Hawks used open land at several locations, including a 40-acre plot at the northeast corner of Swan Boulevard and North Avenue and a rented tract west of 68th Street between Wisconsin Avenue and Blue Mound Road – now part of Wellauer Heights – for growing nursery stock.
The company maintained sales offices in the Village before purschasing land even farther west and in 1928 settling at its current location on Watertown Plank.
Kresl bought Hawks in 1993 and immediately began work on building anew the garden center building and grounds as they appear today.
Kresl could not immediately be reached for comment, and store managers on duty Sunday said they could not comment.