If the most important factor in real estate is location, location, location, the critical factor in business may be timing, timing, timing.
For a decade, bar owner Zach Ziegler coveted the establishment formerly known as Hooty’s, located near the north shore entrance to Devil’s Lake State Park. Its sand volleyball courts, banquet room, performance stage, dining area and spacious bar presented opportunities. But it had never been for sale when Ziegler was ready to buy it — until now.
“I’ve always had my eye on this place,” Ziegler said. “I’ve wanted this place for 10 years.”
He bought the bar and restaurant Sept. 28, and last week reopened it as North Shore Restaurant and Bar. Built as Hooty’s, in recent years it became Pumphouse under new ownership. Ziegler’s two children were toddlers the last time the establishment went up for sale, but now that they’re a little more independent at ages 7 and 5, he and wife Jessica agreed the time was right to take on a new venture.
Ziegler already operates Zach’s Bar in downtown Baraboo and the Badger Bar in Reedsburg. He’s also the landlord of Pohlk’s Pub in Portage.
North Shore offers amenities Ziegler’s other bars don’t. The banquet hall can accommodate 245 people, and Ziegler pledges to open it to community events, as well as weddings and birthdays.
“I’m excited to have that space,” he said. “There’s no room in town like this.”
The banquet hall will be the site of an indoor beanbags league on Thursday nights this winter. North Shore will join darts and billiards leagues — it has four pool tables — next winter. This winter, Ziegler plans to accommodate the many snowmobilers who’ve made the bar a stop in past years.
“I don’t like snow,” Ziegler said. “But for the first year ever, I’m hoping that there will be a ton of snow.”
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The most anticipated season at North Shore will of course be summer. Warm weather will bring sand volleyball league players, and at least some of Devil’s Lake State Park’s millions of visitors. Even this month, with North Shore undergoing an off-season soft opening, park visitors streamed in. Now open from 4 p.m. to close on weekdays and 11 a.m. to close on weekends, North Shore will open at 11 a.m. for lunch daily next summer.
“We’re the first place outside Devil’s Lake,” Ziegler said. “I think summers will be really good.”
He hopes to capture that traffic with daily menu specials. A fish fry on Fridays, prime rib on Saturdays and “wing nights” are in the works, as are specials for Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers games.
Ziegler plans to offer live music on weekends, and hosted popular regional band Madison County on Saturday.
“It’s thinking every day about how to get people out to your business,” Ziegler said.
Because he has multiple establishments to supervise, Ziegler will count on a staff of 12-15 to run North Shore. Jay Sobojinski serves as chef and kitchen manager. “I want to have good people, so nobody cares if I’m here,” Ziegler said with a smile.
A friendly, familiar face after 14 years in the local bar business, Ziegler suddenly finds himself meeting scores of new people at North Shore. They’re new customers he only got acquainted with once the timing was right.
“People are excited,” Ziegler said. “They just want this place to thrive.”