California acquisition firm outbids Duluth Trading Co. CEO at sheriff’s sale of landmark downtown Port building
The Smith Bros. Marketplace building in downtown Port Washington — home to Duluth Trading Co. and Franklin Energy — was sold Monday for $2.1 million in a sheriff’s auction.
The winning bid was placed by attorney David Cisar, representing MIL Acquisition Venture LLC, which foreclosed on the property at 100 N. Franklin St.
MIL Acquisition Venture had purchased the mortgage on the property from M&I Bank, city officials said.
Lighthouse Development Co., which bought the building in 2005, tried to renegotiate the mortgage but apparently failed, they said.
Cisar would not comment on the MIL’s plans for the building.
A total of 20 bids were placed by Cisar and attorney Andrew Oettinger, representing Duluth Trading Co. CEO Steve Schlecht, during the 10-minute-long auction run by Ozaukee County Deputy Ron Kies.
Kies opened the bidding at $1.6 million.
Port Washington City Administrator Mark Grams offered little reaction to the news, but said, “It would have been nice to have local ownership. When the tenant is the owner, you have more permanence and more of a sense of being a part of the city. They control their own destiny.
“Now, when their lease is up, you have to worry about what will happen.”
The auction in the jury assembly room at the Ozaukee County Justice Center was attended by a dozen people.
Among those attending were Margaret Smith, whose family constructed the building and ran the famous Smith Bros. Shanty restaurant. Her father Lloyd managed the eatery for many years, retiring from the business in 1988.
Other people attending the auction included local real estate broker Tom Didier and local developer Gertjan van den Broek, who is redeveloping the former M&I Bank and Harry’s Restaurant buildings just north of Smith Bros. Marketplace.
The Smith Bros. building has been a cornerstone in downtown since 1924, when Evelyn Smith installed a fryer in a former harness shop and began making the fish sandwiches the restaurant was known for.
In November 1953, a fire destroyed the restaurant, leaving only the market and bar unscathed. The Smith family rebuilt the restaurant.
The building and business were purchased in 1988 by restaurateur Joe DeRosa and in 1997 by the William Goldammer family. They operated restaurants there until 2005, when Lighthouse Development bought the building.
The firm gutted it, and in late 2010 Franklin Energy moved its offices to the upper floor. Duluth Trading Co. opened on the first floor last September.
Both firms have long-term leases for their spaces in the building.
Image Information: THE SMITH BROS. MARKETPLACE property in Port Washington, a downtown landmark that is home to Duluth Trading Co. and Franklin Energy, was sold at auction Monday for $2.1 million. Press file photo