My Restaurant Ventures

Although I've been a computer programmer most of my life, I've owned two restaurants - almost three - which is quite a deviation from my chosen career path. It's quite a story how I came to be a restaurant entrepreneur.

My wife and I have always had a fondness for beer, and began homebrewing about 20 years ago. We joined the local homebrew club in order to learn more about the hobby, and were making batch after batch of some of the best beer we ever had. This is back in the days before you could walk into the local superstore and find a hundred varieties of great products. We met a lot of other people who enjoyed brewing and drinking fine beers, and became a part of a unique culture that grew all across the country.

Our fearless homebrew leader had a dream of owning a brewery one day, and with a little encouragement from the rest of us, put together a business plan and raised enough investor and bank cash to open up a small brewery in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin - the Wisconsin Brewing Company. We were one of the original investors in the brewery, and spent a lot of time there - mostly volunteering working the bottling line. Sales were building and it looked like we were finally going to put black ink on the books when we were hit by a hundred-year flood. Operating on a shoestring, we didn't have insurance to cover the losses, but all the investors pitched in and we got the place operating again. Unfortunately, the following year we were innundated by yet another hundred-year flood, and this time it forced us to close the doors.

We enjoyed being part of the company so much that we put out word that we were interested in investing in another brewery. We were contacted by an ambitious couple from Delafield that wanted to build a brewpub, but they had no money and no business plan. We ended up becoming their partners, put together a business plan and investment prospectus, and raised millions of dollars in investor capital and bank loans. We purchased the land, hired an architect, and built, at the time, the largest brewpub in the state of Wisconsin, the Delafield Brewhaus, in Delafield, Wisconsin.

After a successful start and sales building very rapidly, we were contacted by another person who had the perfect location in Racine, Wisconsin, but needed someone with experience in the brewpub business. Once again we hit the books, did our research, created the business plan and investor prospectus, and hired an architect to build-out the site for the Klinkert Brewing Company. This time we were unsuccessful in raising the investor capital we needed to get started. Too bad because this was going to be even better than the Brewhaus.

We ended up buying out our partners, followed shortly thereafter by our investors buying us out. But we did work the business for over two years and learned a lot during that time. With over 100 employees on the payroll, many of them very talented, you are bound to pick up some of their skills. Both my wife and I worked every single position in the business in the event we were ever needed for any job, but we settled in to a management role and spent many many hours there. The check we received from the buyout enabled me to retire at the early age of 48, and we moved to a resort area in the beautiful Wisconsin Northwoods on the largest inland chain of lakes in the world, where we still are as of this writing.

Having never lived on the water before, we purchased a boat, a couple of waverunners, and a pair of snowmobiles for the winter. We needed somewhere to store all that equipment so we built a huge garage - big enough to contain everything. We should have know that even a garage that size would soon be full, as we continued to add more vehicles and toys to our inventory. We also added a steel roof to the house, and central air, new carpet, new furniture, and on and on. Well, we were going through cash very fast so we thought we should invest some of our savings before we ran out.

There were a few business opportunites for sale in our area, but we settled on and purchased the Pine Isle restaurant and bar. As our previous restaurant had over 500 seats, and this one only 50 seats, we figured it would only take one tenth of the work. Well, that didn't quite turn out to be the case - when you own a small business, you work it yourself if you want to succeed. This venture took far more of our time than we had hoped, and after five years we sold it to recapture our peaceful life.

That pretty much ended our restaurant career path - it's just too much work. If we ever did get back into the bar business, it would be a 5-stool hut in Jamaica somewhere, but I'm not counting on that happening anytime soon.