Milwaukee furniture store Elements East to close after 20 years

Owner shifts gears toward home decor and gift business La Terre

Meg Hopkins and Vicki Kunz, owners of La Terre

Elements East, a longtime antique and Asian furniture store, currently located in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward will close its doors next month.

The closure comes as owner Meg Hopkins shifts focus from furniture retail toward her new home decor and gift business, La Terre, which is a tenant at the Mequon Public Market in Mequon. Hopkins owns the business with Vicki Kunz, owner of Cedarburg floral shop La Tulipe.

Hopkins purchased Elements East in 2017 and moved the almost- 20-year-old business to its current 5,200-square-foot space at the Lofts on Broadway building at 191 N. Broadway.

She said her decision to close the store isn’t the result of a lack of foot traffic or financial trouble, but rather, an opportunity to capitalize on a fast-growing segment of the business.

“Actually, business has been quite good in the space,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been quite happy here, but over the last year the decor and gift part of the business has been the fastest growing piece.”

Since taking over the business, Hopkins has worked to update and expand the store’s inventory, which had traditionally consisted of large-scale furniture pieces sourced mainly from China. She revamped the store in February by incorporating smaller gift and decor items from Morocco and adding an art gallery-like experience.

Those newer items have quickly gained traction with customers at both Elements East and at La Terre, but they also offer the business a better return on investment, Hopkins said.

Unlike large furnishings, which are often sold seasonally and are difficult to transport, home decor and gifts are easier to handle and are sold year round, offering a faster turnover, she said. Plus, the cost of sourcing furniture from China has gotten more expensive in recent years, so she had considered sourcing elsewhere.

“The furniture piece is hit or miss not because it’s not beautiful, but because it takes a while to figure out price points, different looks, shipping– it’s just more complicated for a good year to get the kinks out,” Hopkins said.

She said focusing on La Terre’s selection of gift and home decor products will allow her to source smaller quantities from a variety of places.

“We’re trying to find a balance between having things that people buy every time they come back like a favorite candle, but also always having some newness,” she said.

Elements East will close on Oct. 12, but another business will soon take over the space, said Nathan Bernstein, director of commercial real estate at Milwaukee-based Joseph Property LLC.

Bernstein could not disclose the name of the tenant, but said they had signed a long-term agreement with Joseph Property, which owns the building. An announcement will be made in the coming weeks, he said.

Starting today, Elements East is offering deals on its inventory, including a number of new items recently brought in from its warehouse. It will also host events throughout its final month of operation.

“I want to thank Joseph Properties for going above and beyond to make it possible for the transition to be swift and smooth,” Hopkins said. “I also want to offer a heartfelt thanks to our loyal and most lovely customers, those Elements East has known for two decades, as well as those new to us.”

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer started as an intern reporter at BizTimes in summer 2015. She currently covers entertainment, sports, tourism and restaurants. In May 2017, she graduated with a journalism degree from Marquette University where she worked as an in-depth projects reporter for the Marquette Wire and Marquette Tribune.