New shop a place for artists to call home

Peter Zuzga
Owners of the My Table shop, Lynita Wolf, left, and Jessie Shroeder-Voss, right, are seen in the shop in Hales Corners.
Published on: 10/30/2012

Hales Corners - A new business is in Hales Corners, complete with handmade jewelry, pottery and vintage doodads.

The store, My Table Gallery, 5435 S. 108th St., and has taken over the old Parkland Travel building.

My Table Gallery started when Jessie Schroeder Voss, the self-professed right brain, and Lynita Wolf, the left brain, quit their jobs in corporate America and opened an art shop in Muskego.

Their old shop was a simple four-walled establishment connected to storage units. They were able to get limited use out of it, but wanted to expand their horizons. They looked at multiple department stores and strip malls, but nothing fit the image they had in mind until they found a 1930s-era home-turned-business in Hales Corners.

Wolf was driving down Highway 100 when she noticed a "for sale" sign. She stopped in and instantly fell in love with the homelike building's small rooms, open entrance and brick walls. She called Schroeder Voss and they decided to go for it.

"This place has so much more charm, and the old place was cute but … it didn't have the character that this place has," Wolf said.

After the two bought the place, they realized they were going to have to put in a lot of work to make it feel like a home. The walls were white, the flooring was off and the windows needed treatment. They rolled up their sleeves in mid-August and put in the elbow grease to make the 1930s building feel like a home. They opened the store Oct. 16.

Much of what makes the building feel authentic are the stands and decorations. A 5-foot-tall display case holding ceramic pots is made up entirely of used doors and wood the two bought from Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. Tables holding the jewelry are refurbished antiques from ReStore, and the curtain rods are yardsticks.

Wolf and Schroeder Voss started their art careers by ending their corporate ones. They both worked around their 9-to-5 shifts to make art in their homes, sell what they could and attend art fairs - and that's where the two met 10 years ago.

"It's terrifying, but every dollar you make is your own and there is a real sense of pride and ownership in that," Schroeder Voss said.

Now the two work to help others in the Milwaukee art community through their Athena group.

Schroeder Voss and Wolf mentor artists, foster discussion on artistic trends and allow artists to pool money for hotel stays when they go to craft fairs. The Athena group hosts an annual show in Hart Park in Wauwatosa in November.

My Table Gallery's art is not exclusively made by the two; the store offers a number of pieces made by their friends and Athena group members.

The two also host classes for aspiring artists in their new location. There's an introductory class, which teaches painting techniques, and a class titled Funk-Your-Junk, which lets attendees bring in a piece of furniture from home and redecorate it.

"I grew up in this area and in the late 80s there were a lot of little crafty stores and places my mom would take me," Schroeder Voss said. "Those are all gone. We're trying to bring back the handmade place."