Buckets Pub officially turned 30 Thursday, but owners Chuck and Connie Brandt continue the party through Saturday for customers they say are members of their extended family.
Welcoming people into their family business is what both Brandts say they love most about owning and operating Buckets.
“Oh, I love the people,” Chuck said. “They make all this hard work worth it.”
“The people we’ve met and the friends we’ve made is just unreal,” she added.
The Brandts opened Buckets on Feb. 20, 1984 after first owning the Riverside Pub near the Horlick Dam from 1979 to 1982. Chuck said they were looking for a different location, so when the building became available, they jumped at it.
At first, Buckets – which gets its name from a combination of Chuck’s high school nickname and the way beer is served at a tavern in Texas – was a bar with a simple menu of burgers, hot dogs, brats, fries and cheese sticks. But as the business grew, so did the menu; wings were added in 1994 or so and have quickly become a local favorite.
“Yeah, wings have really taken off,” Chuck said with a chuckle.
Buckets also expanded into more square footage. The original footprint of the pub was about 4,000 square feet with a beer garden in the back. As the menu expanded, the couple added an 1,800 square foot storage area to house coolers. Eventually, the beer garden was enclosed to become the banquet room and an outdoor patio was added just last year.
Separate duties help keep them together
The Brandts have been married for 41 years and have been business partners for 35. They say the secret to their success was devising a divide-and-conquer strategy at work.
“The challenge is always not to step on each other’s toes,” Chuck said. “So Connie ran the kitchen and I ran the bar and that was just how we did it.”
Connie noted that neither of them had other jobs so they had to make it work.
“The division of labor was really what made this work,” she said. “We made it work.”
Connie said the biggest challenge of owning and operating Buckets was developing a work/life balance. With three kids – only their youngest is actively involved in the business – engaged in school activities, both Brandts made a point of trying to have one of them at their childrens’ events.
“The upside to owning your own business is you make the hours so you don’t have to missing anything,” she continued. “The downside is that sometimes you do miss things with your kids, but we made sure those were few and far between.”
Overall, though, while the Brandts acknowledge the 24/7 nature of running a bar and restaurant, they can’t see themselves doing anything else.
“It is a tough and demanding business,” Chuck said. “But the people we’ve met who became our friends and then a part of our family is priceless.”
Connie nodded in agreement.
“We work at it, and it’s been good to us,” she said. “We’ve been very fortunate.”
Buckets is located at 2031 Lathrop Avenue.