When road construction makes a mess of Monroe Street for much of 2018, one of the neighborhood's newest stores may be better positioned than most.
Hive, an L-shaped outdoor clothing store next door to Strictly Discs, has two prominent entrances. The main door is at 1904 Monroe Street, but a side entrance around the corner on Harrison Street that faces Trader Joe's also offers high visibility and easy access to the store that opened Nov. 16.
The husband and wife team of Pam Schwarzbach and Troy Kattreh, two longtime sales consultants for national outdoor clothing brands, have been thinking for years about the next phase of their careers. So when a 1,700-square-foot retail space became available earlier this year, they made the move to open their own store that sells a wide range of men's and women's clothing, gifts and accessories.
The two entrances are a bonus to the business plan that is based around a vibrant, walkable neighborhood flush with local businesses and nearby residents with disposable income.
"Brick and mortar retail is very much alive in markets where there's discretionary income and people who want to support their local retailers. And this is an example of that," said Kattreh, 47. "It's becoming harder, no question, but it's not dead. We know the neighborhoods, and we felt like this was going to be the best place to put a store."
Hive is located in a space that had been home to Lucca Fine Men's Clothing before it moved this spring to an appointment-based service at 110 E. Main Street. What had been home to high-end suits, shirts and golf wear has been replaced on Monroe Street with flannel shirts, denim, down jackets, wool socks and even a few hammocks.
One of the most prominent brands at the store is Toad & Co., a company that touts its social and environmentally friendly products. It was founded in 1991 in Telluride, Colorado, as Horny Toad. The company, for which Schwarzbach and Kattreh continue to sell for in a nine-state region, changed its name to Toad & Co. in 2015. Other major brands at their Hive store include Patagonia, Lole, SmartWool, Nau and Arc'Teryx. The store also carries jewelry, belts and shoes.
"You look at the CSA (community supported agriculture) phenomena, the farm to table phenomena, buy local, car share ... there's just so much that's based on being active and engaged in your community," said Schwarzbach, 46. "For us, that's really critical."
Schwarzbach, a native of Sycamore, Illinois, and Kattreh, who grew up in Manitowoc, met at UW-Madison and have been married for 19 years. They worked at Fontana Sports while in college and have been selling for Toad & Co., now based in Santa Barbara, California, for 20 years but live near Glenway Golf Course with their 7-year-old daughter, Isabel.
Now they have their own store, a lease, overhead, eight employees and a new revenue stream without stepping on other locally owned businesses like Fontana, Morgan Shoes and Rutabaga Paddlesports.
"We want to present outdoor brands in a way that you use every day," Schwarzbach said. "I would bet that probably 50 percent of those that we see walk in our door walk past the store everyday. So they need the brands for that functionality. They're not going to be climbing a mountain or going on a 10-day packing trip. They need to be able to walk around town and get to work."