Toucan name has people guessing about new business

Not a pet store, as some surmised, Toucan is a restaurant that will bring its mix of American, Middle Eastern fare to Port
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

When a sign announcing the vacant Good Land Wing Co. restaurant on Port Washington’s west side would become Toucan, speculation ran rampant on social media.

Was this an exotic pet store? A market with exotic meats?

It’s neither of those things, Jackie Kertscher Bashabsheh and her husband Sul said. It’s their second location for Toucan Food and Custard, which has been operating in West Bend for decades.

“Everyone in West Bend calls it Toucan,” Jackie said. “That’s why we had that put on the sign.”

But, she said, with the confusion that’s resulted, the sign will soon be altered to read Toucan Food and Custard.

The couple, along with Sul’s brother Issa, bought the West Bend eatery in 2017 and are now expanding into Port. Issa will continue to operate the West Bend business while Sul and Jackie will run the Port operation.

The couple have been hard at work renovating the building, turning it from an industrial looking eatery to a warm, welcoming site complete with an outdoor patio, indoor seatings and a fun atmosphere.

While they won’t have a drive-through, they are looking at ways to offer curbside pickup for customers.

They also plan to convert one of the windows in the front of the building into a walk-up window.

Toucan’s menu will feature a mix of American and Middle Eastern foods that includes burgers, pizza burgers and chicken wraps as well as gyros, chicken shawarma, falafel and hummus — along with chicken wings and an extensive list of sides.

One secret to their food is their garlic sauce, which is used on a number of dishes.

“We’ve had customers ask to buy it by the quart,” Jackie said.

The Middle Eastern offerings are best sellers in West Bend, Sul said.

The fact these foods made it onto the menu is a tribute to his Jordanian roots — and his gift of persuasion.

“I asked Jackie if we should bring in Middle Eastern food. She said no, the people here don’t know it,” Sul said.

“I’m so glad they didn’t listen to me,” she said, laughing. “At the time, they weren’t well known.”

The menu will also include a full range of custard offerings, including a wide range of sundaes and splits.

The menu is similar to that offered in West Bend, the couple said, although it won’t include a fish fry.

Their custard mix, they said, is from Milwaukee’s Leon’s Custard and the meats they use from Leroy Meats in Horicon, places known for their quality.

Toucan, they said, is known for offering a good value — good food, plentiful servings at a good price. All food is made to order.

“The reason our food is good is we like to make it the way we cook it for us,” Sul said.

Food, he said, has become a passion for him ‚ but it’s a far cry from the business he started out in.

For 22 years, Sul said, he worked in his family’s business in Jordan, buying and transporting goods.

It was a good business, but when the country’s economy faltered, business dried up. So he came to America about eight years ago, eventually going to work managing a restaurant in Nashville.

Then he met Jackie, who grew up in Little Kohler. They married six years ago and decided to return to Wisconsin to be closer to her family.

Sul, she said, loved the restaurant business so they decided to pursue it.

They looked at a number of locations in Milwaukee but didn’t like the atmosphere. Eventually they heard about Toucan and in 2017 they bought the business.

“The custard part was all new to us,” Jackie said, so they trained alongside the previous owners for a few weeks. “We can do it in our sleep now.”

While the work is different than he has done before, he enjoys it, Sul said.

“Before I was behind a desk, buying from China and shipping somewhere. I did that all my life,” he said. “In one night here, I’m cashier, cook, server — whatever you need.

“America is a good country. Anyone has a good chance to build something good here,” he said. “I believe if you want to be successful, you have to love it and give it all your attention.”

And that is what he’s doing.

Sul is the cook, and the couple have already lined up a number of employees, but they continue to look for more.

“We’re excited,” Jackie said.

The couple plan to open Toucan by April 1.

“If we have things together earlier, it might be earlier,” Jackie said.

And, she said, she hopes to operate the eatery throughout the year.

“We’ll play it by ear,” she said, noting the West Bend restaurant is “very seasonal.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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