Best of Milwaukee 2017: Shopping

The best local trends in style and shopping this year

Best New Trend: Micro Hotels

Charles Bailey, owner of Kinn Guesthouse on Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View, knows how nice the second-floor micro-hotel’s seven rooms (plus one downstairs) are, relative to pricey suite Downtown. “Why not do it right?” he says – gorgeous furnishings, rooms with 16-foot ceilings and a well-equipped communal kitchen. Kinn Guesthouse opened above the Kindred restaurant this year. Meanwhile, the Foundation Tiki Bar in Riverwest has a cozy upstairs “Captain’s Quarters” available through Airbnb, and Hotel Madrid in Walker’s Point will soon offer a pair of rooms.

Best for Ladies’ Hats: The Hen House

Ever wonder where to go for a floppy fedora or a fascinator that truly fascinates? Well, wonder no more. If you don’t see something you like at The Hen House (2250 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.), owner and hatmaker Kate
McLaughlin will make it for you. McLaughlin’s aim is to preserve the art of millinery and cater to the needs of each client, and she’s always ready with advice with on what’s flattering, as well as appropriate for the occasion.

Best for Gifts and Greenery: Mod Gen

With a diverse array of indoor plants, pots, kitsch and locally made provisions, Mod Gen (211 N. Broadway) is the modern general store for urbanites. Helpful staff offer detailed advice on how to keep plants alive, if your thumb isn’t green.

Best for What You Never Knew You Needed: Commonplace

If thoughtful, clever design is your jam, run, don’t walk, over to Commonplace (3074 S. Delaware Ave.). You’re certain to geek out over the selection of products for your home and office, including sleek, simple glassware and ceramics, a concrete desk set and more. Both functionally designed and fun, items and brands can be found here that you won’t find anywhere else in town.

Best for Quirky and Cute Kids’ Toys and Clothing: Little Monsters

Indulge in a feel-good shopping experience at Little Monsters (2445 N. Farwell Ave.). The ever-changing mix of stylish clothing for babies and kids, eco-friendly accessories, retro toys and unique gifts ooze charm and whimsy. Need a gift on the fly? No problem. There is something special for everyone here, and the adorable gift wrapping is free.

Best Vintage Shop: Alive and Fine

This Bay View boutique (2652 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) is being modest: It could call itself “Alive and Excellent,” because of its carefully curated interior, which feels more like a glam mid-century apartment than a storefront. Prices start around $10, though the best designer frocks and home goods sell for far more.

Best for Brands You Can’t Find Anywhere Else: Spruce

Do you pine for a local source for hip designer brands? This Door County store tested the MKE waters with a pop-up shop that is now permanent. You’ll find (often pricey) men’s and women’s clothing selected with Wisconsin’s wacky weather in mind. Highlights on a recent visit included a Comme des Garcons zipper wallet and Victorian-inspired blouses by Ulla Johnson. (157 S. First St.)

Best New Book Store: Voyageur Book Shop

It’s been open only since April 2016, but it already feels like an institution. Maybe that’s because owners Jeremy Mericle and Blaine Wesselowski are veterans of the now-shuttered Renaissance Book Shop. Like Renaissance, Voyageur (2212 S. Kinnickinic Ave.) sells used books, including first editions, and a smaller selection of new titles. And the shop hosts book release parties, writing classes and (on November 5) a scavenger hunt.

Best Place to Shop Local: Sparrow Collective Boutique

More than just a store, this is a gallery featuring art, accessories, apparel and more, representing the work of over 100 local artists and makers. The wide variety of Milwaukee-themed gifts – from glassware and tees to posters and coasters – are top sellers. The shop also hosts monthly classes in metalsmithing, jewelry, sewing and more for makers-in-training. (2224 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.)

Best Sexcessory: Naughty Bags

Cramer-Kesselt is leverage their design know-how to reduce pregnancy and STI rates among at-risk teens. How? By launching a line of brightly colored, creatively labeled condoms called Naughty Bags. And they’re free.

Most Stylish: Lex Allen

When artist, photographer and musician (New Age Narcissism) Lex Allen is in the house, you can’t help but notice. Whether he’s donning high heels and a kimono, or a suit and a head wrap, he cuts a figure that’s both outrageous and totally spot on. Here, Lex shares some of his fashion philosophy.

Lex Allen of New Age Narcissism
Lex Allen; photo by John Sturdy

What are you wearing?
The jacket and shirt are from a store called La’Aro on Brady Street. It’s owned by a woman from Nigeria and the clothes are very vibrant and colorful. Pattern on pattern is so much fun, and that’s what I’ve got going on here.

Tell me about the head wrap.
I was reading about African culture and what head wraps signify, which is royalty. I felt more people should wear them and take pride in their culture. I feel like it collects energy from the sun.

You’re known as a style icon. Do you feel pressure to create a dazzling outfit every day?
No pressure! One day I walk out in a suit, another day, in Nikes. One day feminine, one day masculine. I dress for myself. I never dress to impress.

Best of Milwaukee 2017


Best of Milwaukee 2017

Check out all of this year’s winners!


‘Best of 2017’ appears in the October 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning October 2, or buy a copy at

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