'It's something I wanted to do': Employee of 22 years at Pewaukee restaurant takes over as owner

NOW: ’It’s something I wanted to do’: Employee of 22 years at Pewaukee restaurant takes over as owner

PEWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Curly's Waterfront Bar and Grill has been a staple in Pewaukee for more than two decades.  The restaurants original owner, Kevin "Curly" Kleczka, built a place centered around good service and good food.

Kleczka, passed away in the spring of 2022, due to health complications. The restaurant's owner's death left a void in people's hearts and questions on their minds.

"There was all kind of scuttlebutt in the neighborhood as to what was going to happen to all his properties," said Thomas Bellows, longtime customer of Curly's Waterfront Bar and Grill.

The concerns of the customers were heard by Ryan Gardner, an employee who had been working at the restaurant for nearly 22 years.

Gardner started working at the restaurant in 2000. He worked as a bouncer to get pocket change.

"I was just hoping to bartend someday and make extra to money to get my way through college, and then was planning on teaching," said Gardner.

Gardner, looked everywhere for a job in the Pewaukee school district, but jobs were hard to come by, so the restaurant became his new classroom.

"Shift manger position became available here, full time at night, so I kind of took that and went with it," said Gardner.

While working at Curly's, Gardner grew close to Kleczka. Gardner described Kelczka as a man who would give you the shirt off his back.

"Helped all of his friends out, took care of everybody that he could very generous person," said Gardner.

Gardner knowing how much the restaurant meant to the people of Pewaukee and to Curly, knew he had to do something to keep the restaurant in the community-- so he bought the joint, no questions asked.

"It's something I wanted to do, I wanted to keep grow the business and keep the legacy on, "said Gardner.

It’s a legacy, customer like Thomas Bellows said they are happy Gardner stepped up to continue.

"Everybody had a sigh of relief, it's more than just a bar, said Bellows.

Share this article: