Sola Salon Studios is the first tenant to move the renovated strip mall renamed The Shops on Appleton. Both renovated buildings are near the northeast intersection of Appleton Avenue and University Drive. (Photo: Submitted)
The modernization of two older strip mall buildings in Menomonee Falls’ — formerly called Falls Plaza II and III — has helped give “more life” to the northern part of Appleton Avenue in the village.
After securing its first new tenant, Sola Salon Studios, on Feb. 7, landlord and CEO of Minnesota-based SONA Investments Shawn Johanson said the goal is to attract sustainable tenants to the area.
“It is a rising tide,” said Johanson of the area. He said he has room for three more tenants.
The two buildings, renamed The Shops on Appleton, are among the stream of developments helping to revitalize the area. Both renovated buildings are near the northeast corner of Appleton Avenue and University Drive. Sola Salon Studios, which has local locations in Brookfield, Hales Corners and Hartland, is a national chain, said Johanson.
He said Sola Salon Studios leased 5,000 square feet, space previously occupied by four tenants. Kevin Schmoldt, who brokered the deal with Sola Salon Studios, said he was looking for strong, desirable tenants.
Sola Salon Studios, Schmoldt said, rents 30 spaces to hair stylists; the stylists set up their own physical space, their own pricing and model. “We have a lot of faith in salons because they are doing well and because of their business model,” he said.
Johanson said his company put $500,000 toward a new look for the site, which included replacing cracked sidewalks, updating the architectural design, installing new end caps to modernize the buildings and providing signs for tenants.
He said the third building — which Piggly Wiggly anchors — was Falls Plaza I. “We did not want to buy the Piggly Wiggly building,” said Johanson. “We wanted to distance ourselves and look different from them.”
“We buy centers that need fixing with some vacancies and do what we need to be done,” said Johanson.
‘Reinvesting in the area’
That general area on Appleton was developed in the 1970s and ’80s, had some vacancies and some areas that were a bit harder to develop in the past 10 years, said Village Planner Tyler Zwagerman.
Recently, a Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins started construction in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot. To the north, a new Burger King was just built, as well as a branch of Waukesha State Bank.
“It is neat to see the reinvestments in recent years,” Zwagerman said. Continued job growth and more commercial projects have contributed to those investments, he said.
“We are excited about seeing new life in the area,” he said. He said that this area of Menomonee Falls is beginning to thrive with development.
He also said that with the relocation of Milwaukee Tool and the upcoming relocation of Leonardo DRS from Milwaukee this year, there will be even more jobs in the community.
More jobs in the community will bring more residential development and more business growth, he said. “It is exciting,” he said.
“It is nice to come to a community and fix a place that was ignored,” said Johanson. “We came in and made it look good. We care, and we invested in the community.”
Cathy Kozlowicz can be reached at 262-361-9132 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @KozlowiczCathy.
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