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Zita Will Close, Reopen Under New Ownership Next Door

Located on Silver Spring since 1952, the bridal portion of the women's retailer will be purchased by new owners.

After nearly 60 years in business, will close its doors at 211 E. Silver Spring Dr. this week.

Marina Kuhn of Fox Point and Cynthia Apfelbach of Mequon have formed a new company, C&M Boutique Inc., that has bought out the assets of the bridal portion of the women's boutique and bridal shop.

Kuhn said they expect to close on the purchase with Zita’s current owner, Heidi Martin, by the end of the week.

After reworking the floor plan and removing the old inventory, Kuhn and Apfelbach will reopen under the same Zita name on June 1 in the current space until they can renovate their permanent 3,500-square-foot space next door. Kuhn said they expect to open in the new space, which is currently vacant, by Thanksgiving.

“We are in the midst of working with an architect and a designer to create a full-service bridal salon right in the heart of Whitefish Bay,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn, a mother of four children who are or have attended St. Monica’s School in Whitefish Bay, said she has an extensive retail background.

The new business will specialize in providing high-end designer wedding gowns, veils, bridesmaid dresses and flower girl dresses. Kuhn said the duo also hope to market their dresses for other events, such as high school debutante balls, high school graduations and first communions.

“That is an untapped niche that will continue to grow,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn said they plan to keep the Zita name because the business has built a reputation of excellent customer service over its more than 75 years in business. Originally located on Astor Street in Milwaukee, the business opened a second location on Silver Spring in 1952.

“We will help brides navigate through our selection of gowns, and help them look their best on their big day,” she said. “We will treat them like they are part of our family.”

The shop will also be home to a full-time alterations specialist, who will operate her own business, Piece of Thread, which will cater to Zita’s customers as well as the general public.

Start-up grant money helped

To make the renovations, C&M Boutique Incorporated received a $40,000 grant through the village’s retail incentive grant program.

The grant program, which was created in late 2009, was created with the intent of providing start-up funds to new businesses on Silver Spring Drive. The grant program was funded partly through the Business Improvement District, which collects taxes from Silver Spring business owners, and partly through matching funds from the village.

C&M originally applied for a $50,000 grant, but the BID board recommended the grant be lowered to $40,000. The grant was approved by both the BID and the village’s Community Development Authority.

In a 6-1 vote, the only CDA member to vote against the grant allocation was Trustee Lauri Rollings. In a later interview, she said she is happy to see a new business open on the street, but did not think the change in ownership warranted grant funding.

“The spirit of the program is to attract new business, and I felt like this isn’t really a new business,” she said. “The owners are acquiring the most valuable asset of the business, which is the Zita name.”

Assistant Village Manager Matt Schuenke said the terms of the grant program require the new business to contribute to the build-out of the space and maintain a three-year lease. The grant is payable when the business owners open in their new space. 

Previously, the BID and CDA have approved grants for City Market, Simon Oliver, Minoan Intimate Apparel and Three Wishes.

Under the new ownership, the business' phone number will change. The new business can be reached at 414-332-ZITA and found online at zitabridal.com.

Bob McBride May 26, 2011 at 11:36 AM
I appreciate Lauri Rollings attempting to make sure that a fund devised to assist new businesses is used for its stated purposes. She's right, there's a value in the Zita name that is not afforded true, new startup businesses.
D.D. May 26, 2011 at 12:49 PM
This does not sound like a start-up. I assume there is a limit to the $40K handouts we have available, spending it on an existing business seems a bit questionable. Perhaps the expanded space increases their property tax burden to cover the $40K over a short period of time.
Barbara Diamond May 26, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Encouraging a business, like Zita Bridal Salon, to establish their business in Whitefish Bay is important for our community. Zita will be a destination for brides from all over the state to Whitefish Bay and will be a great crossover to many of our other businesses. Isn't that the true intent of the BID? Congrats Marina & Cynthia!
Bob McBride May 26, 2011 at 01:45 PM
Do they have to show a need for the money? Or do we just throw it anyone who applies, even those who decide to buy an existing business and move it next door? I'm not sure that's the intent of this fund. If this is a new business, then start it up as a new business. Lose the Zita name.
Kevin Buckley May 31, 2011 at 07:42 PM
There are many rules of the Retail Incentive Grant Program .. indeed, the BID vets the applicants and tries to make sure they are credit worthy and won't go out of business .. but not too credit worthy that they could do without the start-up money. As an FYI, this program started last year with $100k from the BID businesses, plus $100k of village funds, so $200k total. I would doubt it will be re-funded at any time in the future, but who knows what the economy looks like in 10-20 years.

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