CEDARBURG — It
wasn’t that long ago that instead of big, expansive windows, the
building housing Settlers Inn might just have sported a “for sale”
sign. Longtime owners Joan and Tom Dorsey found themselves at a
crossroads, and they weren’t quite sure what they should do.
“We knew we had
to do something – we looked at other locations, at Grafton and other
places in Cedarburg – but we couldn’t find anything that we liked
and was big enough,” said Tom Dorsey.
opened Settlers Inn 23 years ago, and had developed a successful
catering business in conjunction with their restaurant. The entire
operation was run out of a cramped 300-square-foot kitchen; the
restaurant and deli space also wasn’t particularly serving their
And then things
started to change, along with the Dorseys’ decision to sell.
all-family operation, and our three kids decided they wanted to come
back,” he said of his three adult children, Dena, Dyan and Bryan.
It was time for
a Plan B: Stay put and make Settlers Inn the kind of space they
really needed to be successful. The Dorseys also worked together to
decide who would do what, and they joked when trying to define their
cooks, works on specialty menus and pretty much does anything. Joan
Dorsey essentially manages and takes care of ordering and the
catering operation; and Bryan Dorsey’s the man behind Settlers Inn’s
long-time freezer meal operation, which provides freshly prepared
entrees for people to take home. Dena Baule does the
front-of-the-house work and human resources. Dyan Lasar is the
resident baker and, like her dad, gravitates into the “anything
else” category at times.
Deciding to stay
put brought about an interesting opportunity for the Dorseys. Among
their goals: take the building itself back to the way it looked when
it was built. They’ve primarily relied on old pictures and a
contracting team to make that happen. Bryan Dorsey has also done a
little work on the interior, which has uncovered some interesting
things, like a hidden-away liquor dumb-waiter contraption in the
upstairs bathroom, likely used during Prohibition.
was built in 1885, and up until we bought it, it had always been a
bar,” said Joan Dorsey. “We do have a full bar here, but our
emphasis is different. We now consider ourselves a
meant opening up the dining area from what it was to an expansive
open space, knocking down the wall between the dining room and the
deli and installing an expanded coffee bar and deli area.
“We need to give
the Cedarburg Landmarks Commission a lot of credit for working with
us on this,” said Joan Dorsey. “They have been so supportive.”
The Dorseys also
made a change to the back of the property. In 1911, the the nowners
built a two-lane bowling alley behind the original building. Since
then, it evolved into a liquor store and then eventually retail
space. Initially, the Dorseys envisioned the space as an expanded
kitchen, but found out that just wasn’t feasible.
“When you work
on a project, you have a finite amount of money in your budget,”
said Tom Dorsey. “Plus the space was only 14 feet wide. We ended up
completely removing it and creating the kind of kitchen we really
In the past, the
kitchen staff had to juggle catering prep and restaurant service in
the same space. The new kitchen separates the two. It also gives the
kitchen staff a major break by moving the freezer and refrigerator
storage out of the basement and onto the main floor.
changes to the building also have provided an opportunity for
Settlers Inn to revamp and tweak, with a new menu and an evolved
Lasar came back
home with a hospitality degree and took charge of the new concept.
Their idea wasn’t so much to compete with other existing Cedarburg
restaurants, but to provide a better, healthier alternative to fast
food, especially for breakfast. Nine different breakfast options
include sandwiches, burritos and quiche. “We think of ourselves as
‘fast casual,’” she said. “We want people to come here in the
mornings to get their breakfasts rather than going through a drive
thru. All of our food is homemade, too. It’s a much healthier
alternative.” “Our menu looks different,” said Baule. “I think the
best way to describe it is that it has more flavors.” The restaurant
and deli offer a number of gluten-free items, and the Dorseys have
been conscious about keeping some things intact, like the Settlers
Combo, which includes a half-sandwich, a cup of soup or garden salad
and a slice of pie.
“And even though
we are closed at night, that’s actually when we get a lot of our
catering work done,” explained Joan Dorsey. “There really always is
The new and
improved Settlers Inn has been open to the public for about three
weeks and response from the public has been quite good.
serves breakfast starting at 7 a.m. and adds a lunch menu at 11 a.m.
The kitchen closes at 3 p.m.