Hard work is a family tradition at MJ Stevens

By NICHOLAS DETTMANN - Daily News

Nov. 17, 2017

Dawn Schattschneider of Greendale and Todd Wyrenbek of West Allis relax over cocktails on
Nov. 1 at MJ Stevens Pub ’N’ Restaurant in the town of Addison.

John Ehlke/Daily News

TOWN OF ADDISON — Mark Jug tapped into more than 80 years of experience — all the tips and tricks of the restaurant industry — to establish MJ Stevens Pub ’N’ Restaurant, 5260 Aurora Road.

In the late 1930s, his grandparents from both sides of the family owned a pair of restaurants in Milwaukee.

“You learned a good work ethic in the family,” Jug said.

He couldn’t pinpoint one or two people who taught him the important lessons about life and business. Instead, he learned a little bit of everything.

Today, generations of customers and employees are the beneficiaries.

MJ Stevens was recently voted one of the 10 recommended restaurants in Washington County by Daily News readers in an informal poll.

“Great food, great service and the best fish fry around,” said Tracy Oestreich of Slinger.

John Fritsch added, “MJ Stevens offers the best fish fry and prime (rib) in the area. We have no better anywhere in southeast Wisconsin. Their menu overall is one of the best that we have seen and tried a lot of the different foods. Their service has always been the best from entering to finish line.”

According to Jug, the important lessons to succeed, especially in the restaurant business, aren’t flashy.

“Quality food, reasonable prices and be honest with your customers because if you don’t do those, you’re done,” Jug said.

Not only have customers appreciated that, so have the employees — past and present. Jug said he has frequently heard from former employees, including an architect in Chicago and a police officer in northern Wisconsin.

“This was their first job,” Jug said. “They told me they learned a lot. They learned a lot as far as work ethic.”

Jug saw that first hand when he was their age.

At the family restaurants, they’d use the freshest fish for the fish fry. They’d take the fish caught in Lake Michigan, clean and serve them that night.

Just like how working hard and having a strong work ethic is important to the family’s long line of restaurant ownership, so is tradition. It’s inscribed on glasses served at MJ Stevens. It is also on the restaurant’s website, “Family tradition since 1933.”

In 1950, two family members — Albert Jug and Martin Jug Jr. — opened a restaurant in Milwaukee called Albermart Sky Lounge. A year later, Albert married Alga Bozic and they, along with Martin, operated Albermart until 1965. Also, in 1965, Albert and Alga opened Jugs in Menomonee Falls and operated it until 1983.

Then Mark got involved in the family tradition when he opened Long Branch Saloon on Dec. 22, 1979, in Barton.

“I was born into it,” Mark said when asked why he opened Long Branch, which specialized in burgers.

By mid-1985, Mark was ready for a break after nearly six years of restaurant ownership.

Then, a few months later, the owners of the MJ Stevens building asked Mark if he’d be interested in purchasing the building. Twice, he said no.

“The third time I said, ‘Why not? Give it a try,’” Mark said.

He initially said no because he still needed the break. Eventually, he came around.

“I just missed it,” Mark said.

MJ Stevens opened Dec. 22, 1985 — six years to the day after the Long Branch Saloon opened.

In the first few months after opening MJ Stevens, the specialties were burgers, just like at Long Branch. Then, the menu started to expand, offering fish fry and prime rib.

With the encouragement from his son, the building also expanded. The word was spreading quickly about MJ Stevens’ offerings, specifically the fish fry, which Mark said is hand-breaded arctic ice cod.

“It was crazy,” Jug said.

For MJ Stevens’ first fish fry, there were only three staff members — one cook, a bartender and a server — and had 25 pounds of fish. Today, there are nearly 30 staff members in house and they serve more than 700 pounds of fish.

The prime rib has also blossomed into a popular choice, along with a Sunday brunch.

“I’m very grateful,” Mark said of the restaurant’s nearly 32 years in business. “I make a decent living, meet a lot of good people.

“We’ve had good employees, a good customer clientele.”

There is nothing spectacular about how the work ethic is instilled at MJ Stevens.

“You teach them about hard work, always trying to achieve ... to do the best job you can in everything you do regardless if it’s restaurant business or anything,” Jug said.

Mark’s son, Jason, is the fourth generation to carry on in the family business as the owner of Jug’s Hitching Post in Kohlsville, while his daughters, Deanna and Natasha, are also involved in the restaurant industry.

“I’m happy with the way things are going,” Mark said.


>>OTHER RESTAURANTS IN THE SERIES:

Turning from eyesore to ‘sloppy’ delight

Open a brew pub? ‘Sure. We like beer’

Bibinger's: An authentic hidden gem

The Norbert: Adapt, adopt, improve