Muskego shop helps put Pioneer Drive back on commercial map
Free Bird is dream come true for owner and city officials
Muskego — It has been described as trendy and funky — like shopping in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward, only much closer to home.
Free Bird, S7695 Pioneer Drive, is the newest business to come to Pioneer Drive in Muskego. The store, consisting of clothing, accessories and home trends, is the dream of a former fashion photographer with an eye for what attracts people.
"I always wanted to do this," said Christy Schwacher, who explained that she looks for hip clothing with a high-end look but at affordable prices.
Free Bird also is a launching pad for a dream of Muskego officials to bring Pioneer Drive back as a busy commercial area.
"This is exactly what the Community Development Authority and the Common Council are hoping for," said Muskego Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti, noting that the shop fits perfectly into the marketing plan the city recently commissioned. "It calls Pioneer Drive the perfect opportunity and location for boutiques and cafes."
The Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce also welcomes the boutique as something that might encourage more unique businesses to come to Pioneer that could make the road a walking shopping destination, said Deborah Skurulsky, chamber executive director.
"I could see that happening. It's a perfect location for that to develop," Skurulsky said. "We love any business, but unique local stores could make Muskego a nice destination similar to Cedarburg."
Indeed since Free Bird opened in October, several customers have compared it to the Third Ward shopping destination, Schwacher said, "which I think is a compliment."
It's the funky decor in what looks like an old warehouse that reminds patrons of Milwaukee's historic district, she said. The boutique features an old ladder, an antique warehouse cart and even an iron chandelier.
The boutique's name came from her own personal "session," in which she just sat down and thought of words that she liked. Free Bird seemed to go together just right, Schwacher said.
As a special feature, Schwacher has monthly Ladies Nights, complete with wine, giveaways and new items on racks to wander through. The store stays open until 8:30 p.m. on these occasions.
"It's a fun girlfriends-out night," she said.
The first one in October attracted just five people, but the November and December Ladies Nights were packed, she added.
"I'm developing a faithful following," Schwacher said.
Before Christmas she even held a Men's Night and served beer instead of wine.
Schwacher said she keeps up on the latest fashions and goes to fashion shows in Las Vegas and Chicago to keep all the styles as fresh as the latest fashion magazine. New items come in almost every week.
Visitors can glimpse trendy fashions for teens through plus sizes.
She has already learned that she had better be at the top of her game.
"Some of my customers are really up on fashion," she said.
Free Bird's winter hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and until 6 p.m. Thursday.
Although Schwacher holds a bachelor's degree in theology and education, she has held three careers that have nothing to do with the field, she said with a laugh. Among other things, she photographed covers for a niche magazine that has an international circulation.
She also worked for a local radio station, where she wrote and sold ads, and was community relations director for a company giving after school care.
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