Open a brew pub? ‘Sure. We like beer’

By NICHOLAS DETTMANN - Daily News

Nov. 3, 2017

Amanda Orr of West Bend smiles as she raises her glass of beer while enjoying company of Stefani Prada, left, Keith Shanter, center, and Michael Prada Thursday night at Riverside Brewery and Restaurant in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Wayne Kainz and his wife, Dana, wanted to open a restaurant in downtown West Bend in 2004.

They didn’t think about opening a brewery with it.

“My wife is from West Bend and it was the downtown association that asked us if we wanted to make it a brew pub,” Wayne said. “At the time, we said, ‘Sure. We like beer. We’ll do it.’” What a decision that turned out to be.

Going strong for 13 years now, Riverside Brewery & Restaurant was one of the 10 restaurants within Washington County recommended by Daily News readers in a recent informal poll.

“I picked Riverside Brewery because the staff is always friendly, professional and helpful,” West Bend’s Ann Daley said. “And the food is excellent.”

What a journey it has been for Wayne and Dana. It started in the late 1990s when Wayne lived in Chicago for about seven years after college.

In 1998, Wayne’s brother married Dana’s sister. Dana was the maid of honor and Wayne was the best man. That’s how they met.

“Three weeks after the wedding, I moved in with her from Chicago,” Wayne said. “We got married two years later and we’re still married now.”

Wayne was working with his dad’s construction business and admitted it was something he didn’t want to do long term. So he decided to try something different.

He applied for the daytime bartender position at Barley Pop Pub in Germantown. He held that position for 10 months.

“The general manager came up to me and said, ‘I don’t want to be general manager anymore. Do you want to switch?’” Wayne said.

Two weeks later, he was the establishment’s general manager.

“He obviously saw something in me,” Wayne said with a smile. “(The owner) said, ‘You’ll be fine. Just don’t screw anything up.’” After four years in that position, Wayne and his wife thought about opening a restaurant.

They wanted to for two reasons. One, Dana is a West Bend native. Two, they believed the restaurant options were sparse in the early 2000s.

They Kainzes got the encouragement to open a downtown West Bend restaurant from Kevin Schultz, owner of Mountain Outfitters, also in downtown West Bend.

“He said, ‘You should open this in downtown,’” Wayne said.

The idea sounded great. But Wayne quickly recognized a problem: minimal parking.

“But after we looked and we saw the river runs behind and saw this building, we thought it was the perfect spot,” Wayne said.

The river added an element that could enhance the restaurant’s atmosphere by way of patio seating. That was too good to pass up, despite the concern of parking.

Still to this day, Wayne and Dana, who has worked for Johnson & Johnson for more than 30 years as a sales rep, are glad they took the risk, but also for the partnership with Westbury Bank across the street.

The bank agreed to leave its parking lot open for restaurant customers.

“In our business plan and the bank agreed with us, it was risky, but if we made the four main things that I look at is, made the food, made the beer, made the service and the atmosphere above, way above average, people will come,” Wayne said. “The community has been nothing but outstanding to us for 13 years.

“It’s been a fantastic ride. We feel fortunate and blessed that they’ve supported us.”

They also had the belief it would work.

“We just believed,” Wayne said. “My experience, her business experience and we’re dreamers. We do take risks. We believed that we would make it work for long term in our hearts.”

The ability to take a risk is a credit to his father, Wayne said. He was a custom-home builder for more than 40 years.

“After Vietnam, he basically opened his own business,” Wayne said. “He took that risk and made a great family life for his six kids and my mom.”

One of the key aspects Wayne believes that has helped the restaurant over the years is consistency. And not just the consistency in the food. Rather, it’s the consistency of the people making the food and bringing it out to the customers.

About 50 people work at Riverside. Of that 50, 15 have been with the restaurant for at least eight years — five are in the kitchen and 10 work in the front, or the house.

“They make it go,” Wayne said, adding it is rare, very rare in the restaurant industry to have a veteran staff.

And Wayne, in a reflection with his wife, can’t help but think of how it all came together.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Wayne said. “I go back and say, ‘OK if my brother wouldn’t have met his wife because they are both teachers, they don’t meet and get married and I don’t meet Dana and get married and this doesn’t happen here.”


>>OTHER RESTAURANTS IN THE SERIES:

Bibinger's: An authentic hidden gem

The Norbert: Adapt, adopt, improve