I started out studying painting and graphic design and also playing music and I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Then [I] transferred to the University of Maryland– College Park to major in graphic design and minor in painting. Then I moved to Chicago to play music—that was my number-one passion—and my day job was working in advertising. I worked hard at both for about 10 years and then Janus, the band I was with, ended up signing a record deal with Warner Bros. and put out two records and we toured for about four years on and off.
When I retired from music and [my wife Lori and I] would bring the kids [Johnathan and Brooke] up from Chicago to visit Lake Geneva. I grew up in Maryland around the water, and I was in love with the lake, having grown up sailing. So when the opportunity to purchase the restaurant happened, my wife and I collectively liked the idea of coming up permanently to a more laid-back lake lifestyle.
After I retired from music six years ago, I developed a real passion for Neapolitan pizza and the art and craft of making it. Then that turned into an obsession, and the start of the 831 Wrigley Drive, about four years ago in October 2014. We remodeled the building (which was [another restaurant] previously), then opened Oakfire in May 2015.
We closed January 2, 2017, to rebuild the restaurant as a corporation from the ground up, so we can grow Oakfire [into] a hospitality organization that can scale and grow into multiple locations. So, we tore down the old building and rebuilt it. The big things we added are a second story full bar, another kitchen, another imported Italian pizza
oven, doubled the seating [and installed] a 20-foot wall of glass with giant garage doors [that open] to a second-level patio that overlooks the lake. [And] we’re launching a full bar/nightlife component to the restaurant.
In the design of the new restaurant, we blended a lot of modern elements, like a raw steel bartop and took grinders and blow torches to it to give it an industrial vibe. There’s also a lot of reclaimed wood, lots of steel, raw concrete floors and brand new copper tile penny [on the new pizza oven].
This article was featured in the Lake Geneva Summer 2017 issue.
NEI-TURNER MEDIA GROUP
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