LISA DOCTER AND Brian Bernier opened the Paramount Grille & Bakehouse in Grafton two years ago. Although the husband-and-wife team have become fixtures in the planning of community projects, they closed the doors of their restaurant last week. Press file photo
Restaurant owners took active roles in community, but failed to draw diners
When the husband-and-wife team of Brian Bernier and Lisa Docter opened the Paramount Grille & Bakehouse in downtown Grafton two summers ago, they hoped to avoid the kind of problems that plagued the dining spot’s previous owners.
That dream came to an end when the restaurant at 1304 12th Ave. closed on Jan. 16.
“I could make all kinds of excuses, but it came down to the restaurant not being able to generate enough regular customers to support itself,” Docter said.
The couple bought the building from Community Bank & Trust, which foreclosed on the property in 2008.
It had been owned by Joe and Tami Krupski, who opened the upscale Paramount Restaurant on the same site after making substantial renovations to the building, which dated to the 19th century. Their restaurant lasted two years, closing in November 2008.
“Some people have said part of our problem is that we kept part of the same name, but we saw it as a tribute to the musical history of the community,” Docter said.
“The problem is that a lot of people didn’t know the business had changed hands. We constantly had people coming in who were surprised that there were new owners.”
While the Krupskis focused on fine dining, the new venture touted what it called “fresh American fare.”
“Brian mostly worked the grill, while I did the desserts and baked goods. We wanted to put the emphasis on sustainability, using local producers and suppliers, but it turns out that may not be something people in Ozaukee County care much about,” Docter said.
“A lot of work was put into this building, but the people in the area are more interested in casual dining. They seem to feel uncomfortable eating at a restaurant with marble floors without being dressed to the T. You look around, the only restaurants here that continue to do well are the breakfast spots and the pubs.”
Despite the closing, Docter said she and husband hope to continue their catering business and specialty baking.
The building is on the market, and Docter said a future owner may find greater success by subdividing the space into more manageable units.
“We had talked about developing a banquet hall on the second floor, but even the first floor could easily be made into two or three retail spaces,” she said.
Nancy Hundt, executive director of the Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the couple had a big impact on the business community in the two years they were around.
“These were not people who just wanted to run a business. Lisa is on our board of directors and has been very active in things like Grafton Pumpkin Fest and revitalizing the farmers market, while Brian is on the board of Celebrate Grafton,” Hundt said.
“They opened their doors to us whenever we needed a place, and just wanted to be involved in the community.”
Some of that involvement was done without fanfare, like opening one morning a week for high-school students who needed a place to gather.
“High school kids are absolutely not the market we were going after, but there was a need,” Docter said.
Even without a restaurant, she said the couple hopes to remain active in the community.