OCONOMOWOC — Citizens of
Oconomowoc don’t have to go far to find something to satisfy their
appetite any longer.
Since 2014, Oconomowoc has had 16 new restaurants open, with two
more scheduled to open this year. Residents can get a burger from
Crafty Cow, pizza from Bella Gusto, a steak from Grill 164, late
night appetizers at Chili’s and wake up for breakfast at Scramblers
at Pabst Farms.
There’s no shortage of options for residents to dine and Oconomowoc
Economic Development Director Bob Duffy said the increase in
restaurants coming to Oconomowoc reflects the city’s residential
“The more people that are in an area, the more demand there is for
hospitality and those types of services,” Duffy said. “From a market
perspective they are ultimately following the trend of more and more
people moving to this community and the growth of this community.”
Mike Bertrand, owner of Lago Su Bella, a new Italian restaurant set
to open early this year at Eagles Landing, said Oconomowoc is an
area of exponential growth and expendable income.
“There is a buzz about Oconomowoc right now,” Bertrand said. “There
is just a renewed energy I feel.”
Schwefel’s Restaurant owner Dan Schwefel said when he opened the
restaurant in November 1988 there were five businesses in
competition with him and that since then Oconomowoc has grown leaps
“When I started the business there wasn’t a lot of restaurants in
town other than fast food,” Schwefel said. “We’ve seen some come and
Bertrand said he has always believed activity breeds activity, saying
Water Street in Milwaukee is a good example of that.
“The more bars they seem to stuff on that little street, the more
people seem to flock there,” Bertrand said. “There’s enough business
to go around for everyone.
“From an operational standpoint and an excitement point, what it’s
going to do to the overall area and to myself as an individual, I
think it’s great.”
Co-owner of Bella Gusto Tom Burns said he doesn’t panic when new
restaurants come to town. There have been a few new restaurants open
up downtown this year and despite that Bella Gusto has had a record
year and gets busier every night, Burns said.
“There’s rumors that there will be a couple more coming into town.
It’s fine with us,” Burns said. “Our whole place is so different
with being able to shop, cater, dine-in and the addition of our
pizza, we don’t feel it all.”
Schwefel said being diversified in the business is important to a
small city like Oconomowoc.
“As far as the competition, I welcome it, it’s good for all us
because it keeps us on our toes,” Schwefel said. “It makes you be
aware of what you’re doing better because you can get complacent
after 30 years. Competition is good for us.”
Bertrand said there’s no shortage of variety and he doesn’t want
Lago Su Bella to step on other restaurants’ toes.
“Some people asked me the other day if we were going to have good
pizza and I said we wouldn’t, we’re going to have Bella Gusto handle
the pizza,” Bertrand said. “Same thing with Crafty Cow and
“It’s a big sandbox and we can all play nicely in it.”