Milwaukee Home founder sells business to owner of The Waxwing

Steph Davies to continue operating both stores


Melissa Thornton has sold her business Milwaukee Home to Steph Davies, owner of The Waxwing, for an undisclosed price. The transaction closed Friday.

Melissa Thornton

Thornton created the popular Milwaukee retailer by accident. She designed Milwaukee Home shirts with a unique stacked logo for herself and a friend in 2011, and people began coming up to her and asking to buy them. Thornton started selling the shirts out of the trunk of her car, and today the business has grown to include a retail shop in the Historic Third Ward with a variety of items containing the logo, as well as goods from local artists. Milwaukee Home now collaborates with a number of other brands, including MillerCoors at its Milwaukee brewery.

The Waxwing is located at 1800 E. North Ave. on Milwaukee’s East Side. Davies opened the shop in a 450-square-foot space in 2011, and it has since moved to a larger 1,800-square-foot store. The shop sells only handmade goods from U.S. artists, with a focus on Milwaukee products. It has sold Milwaukee Home products since the beginning.

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Davies plans to keep both Milwaukee Home, 159 N. Jackson St., and The Waxwing open in their current locations. She has eight employees between the two stores.

“Melissa actually reached out to me,” Davies said. “… I placed a big wholesale order with her and she said she couldn’t fulfill it because she was selling.”

Davies wondered what the sale would mean for her as a vendor, and Thornton asked if she would like to buy the business.

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“It’s in the realm of what I’m doing already,” Davies said. “It’s kind of a natural fit.”

Thornton said she decided to sell because while she is remaining in Milwaukee, her husband, an environmental scientist, moved to South Dakota for his job, and she wants to spend more time with her family.

“The whole idea is that Milwaukee or Wisconsin is going to be home base. It gives me the freedom to pick up and go,” Thornton said.

Davies bought the two trademarks Milwaukee Home carried and owns the whole brand, including the social media, the storefront and the website.

In a Facebook video announcement of the sale Friday, Thornton said she poured her heart and soul into Milwaukee Home and was proud of what she created. Davies described the deal as an “open adoption” and hopes to gain insight from Thornton as she leads the business through its next chapter.

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