Talking on the phone from inside 2910 N. Brookfield Road, under a newly exposed tin ceiling, surrounded by newfound bead board walls, Katie Schmitt took a minute to absorb what she had done.
"This has always been my dream," Schmitt said. "And right now, standing in here and having the interior done, it feels like a dream — like it's coming true."
Schmitt recently purchased the salon, which she redubbed "29ten," from the owner of Sunnyside Hairdressers. Two stylists who have worked in the building for more than 30 years will stay put.
While Schmitt is looking forward to modernizing the place and bringing in some younger clients, she has paid special attention to history.
She had the dropped ceiling demolished, revealing the original tin ceiling that dates back to the construction of the building in 1904. She also exposed the copper piping and found old bead-board walls.
Schmitt said the team had to go through several layers of wallpaper, peeling back decades of styles, to get to the original walls. They found two windows that had been covered up. Chandeliers and retro styling-chairs add flair.
"We've described it as reclaimed elegance made industrial chic," she said.
Area once city center
Schmitt ultimately has the railroad to thank for her antique venue.
The building was made at the turn of the century, piggybacking on the commerce generated from the 1853 construction of a rail depot in the Village. Called the Railroad Hotel, according to the Elmbrook Historical Society, it was a place where railroad travelers would mingle with local farmers.
Excitement surrounding the rail was so high at the time, one area resident reportedly said, "Most of us were more anxious to have a railroad than we were to get to heaven," according to the historical society.
Indeed, with all the visitors and settlers riding in, the village area saw Brookfield's first shopping center, Brookfield Central Junction. Developed right around the train depot, it featured two hotels, a store, a sawmill and a post office.
Although Brookfield has since expanded and found new commercial roots on Bluemound Road and elsewhere, several local businesses like Schmitt's salon continue to operate out of the original buildings of the village area. Becker's Auto Body, for example, is run by the same family and in the same building as a former blacksmith shop on Brookfield Road.
Recent efforts to revive the historical district have been underway for several years, with the formation of Brookfield Village Ltd., farmers' markets and an art crawl that brought a crowd of hundreds in November.
Schmitt said she hopes her contribution of revitalization will bring more attention to the area, which she loves for its "quaintness" and signs of growth.
"I'm really excited for this adventure and journey," Schmitt said.
The salon is currently open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays while construction is completed. You can reach 29ten at (262) 786-6222.
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