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RACINE — A conversation about broasted chicken, or lack thereof, led Ken and his son Dan Kaiser to purchase an 11-acre parcel, that includes Pugh Marina, along the Root River for $2.7 million.

The Kaisers purchased the property from the Pugh family, which had owned it since the 1850s, through their real estate investment firm River’s End Real Estate. The property includes two restaurants, the former Booster’s Buoy and John’s Dock, Pugh Marina, and the old Coast Guard Station. Except for the marina, the property has been dormant for years.

The Kaisers don’t know much about the restaurant business. Their family owns KidCo, a company that makes children’s furniture. But they saw potential in Racine through the lens of docking their boat in the marina for 35 years. The plan: bring in local talent to run the restaurants and the marina, restore the Coast Guard Stations and bring back the broasted chicken.

Pugh Marina, John’s Dock and Booster’s Buoy sell for $2.7 million
The Pugh Marina property today, 1001 Michigan Blvd., includes an historic former U.S. Coast Guard station. – Credit: Pugh Marina
Pugh Marina, John’s Dock and Booster’s Buoy sell for $2.7 million
The old Coast Guard station in Racine, Wis. – Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

One of the Coast Guard Stations was built in 1862, the other was built in 1909. Ken leased the operation of Pugh Marina to Racine Riverside Marine, which operates upriver.

“I have a passion for this marina,” Ken said. “We’ve watched it rot, in a way, for 20 years. The Coast Guard houses need to be repaired. It’s kind of a pet project, I guess per se, and it all started because of the broasted chicken.”

What’s in store for the restaurants?

The River’s End Real Estate Group also brought on locals Tom Landreman and Michelle Schimian to help out as the bookkeeper.

Landreman had been part of Reefpoint Brewhouse and is part owner of the Angry Brothers Pub. Even then, his role was more part-time at the restaurant because he worked in food sales to restaurants at another company full-time. He’s excited about the opportunity.

“Everybody here just can’t wait and I’ve run into people in Florida that know of this place and they can’t wait to see what we do with this,” he said.

What will be on the menu?

John’s Dock, which will feature pizza, wings and Italian beef, will become the Bridgetender Tavern. The former Booster’s Buoy, which will feature prime rib, broasted chicken and fish fry, will revert back to being called the Chartroom.

“We will be known for fantastic fish fry,” Landreman said. “We will be known for hopefully the best broasted chicken in Wisconsin. That is part of our mission. So we will be heavily into seafood and of course steaks and a variety of other food.”

The patio will be an exciting place to be while at the Chartroom, which will feature live music. The Bridgetender Tavern will have a more casual atmosphere where patrons will order their food and drinks from an outside counter versus wait staff coming to the table.

“It’s not like I’m reinventing food and food service, but it’s just gonna be a little different twist,” he said.

Pugh Marina, John’s Dock and Booster’s Buoy sell for $2.7 million
The former John’s Dock restaurant and bar, 303 Dodge St., closed since 2018, is to reopen this summer as Bridgetender’s Tavern. – Credit: Paul Holley

Landreman expects the restaurants to open in May.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.