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Downtown Green Bay establishment reopening under new ownership

Though originally expected to open in February, Fox Heights Pub & Parlor will likely now open in late January

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January 9, 2024

GREEN BAY – Nestled in the heart of Green Bay’s downtown district, mere steps from Green Bay’s City Deck, and overlooking the winding Fox River, sits a historic building previously home to Fox Heights Pub & Grill. 

Approximately three or four years ago, that business closed and the building remained dormant – until now. 

Fox Heights Pub & Parlor is set to open in this location next month, and though it will have some similarities to the former business, the new owner, Bryan Baumler, said it will be its own entity complete with his own mark – both on the building and on the area’s hospitality scene.

Interest in hospitality took a back seat initially 
Baumler said he purchased the building from his close friend, Jesse Wotruba, who not only owned and operated Fox Heights but still owns and operates nearby Fox Harbor Pub and Grill. 

With this purchase, Baumler said he is making a lifetime dream come true.

Though he was always interested in the hospitality industry, Baumler said his career path took a different turn when he graduated from college in 2000.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Baumler said he initially did some sales work, then went on to hold a few different positions with a steel manufacturing company.

After living in Raleigh, North Carolina, for more than a decade, Baumler said he, along with his wife Candice and their two children, decided to move back to the Green Bay area to be closer to family.

While in North Carolina, Baumler said he continued to work in the steel industry.

“I was still in the manufacturing sector doing some value-stream management and supervisory work for a few companies,” he said. “Then about two or three years ago, I decided to take a role in the hospitality industry working for a company that manages short-term rentals. But I still had that hospitality/restaurant bug. It just wasn’t going away.” 

Picking up where a dear friend left off 
Baumler said he has always had tremendous respect for Wotruba’s business acumen and entrepreneurial style.

“We got into a conversation, and I explained to him (I still had an interest in getting) into this type of hospitality,” he said. “He kindly reminded me he still had the old Fox Heights building for sale. Our conversation escalated from there and morphed into a few more conversations. It felt like it was finally the time to do it.” 

The building itself – which was constructed in 1887 – Baumler said, is in excellent shape, largely because Wotruba had not only done some major renovations while he owned it, but he took great care of the building while he was there. 

With its exposed brick and original woodwork, Fox Heights Pub & Parlor Bryan Baumler said the building itself gives a welcoming vibe and provides a cozy atmosphere for guests – which fits in perfectly with his idea of hospitality. Submitted Photo

“He did a lot of work in this building to make it what it is, so I think he still feels a lot of attachment to the building,” Baumler said. “I think he’s happy he was able to sell the place to someone he can trust and who wants to continue building on the success it was when he had it.”

Being able to rely on Wotruba as a mentor, Baumler said, is critical for him.

“I have no doubt with his mentorship, and my desire to provide excellent customer service, we’ll be a success,” he said.

However, Wotruba’s renovations weren’t the only work that had been done.

Jeff Mirkes, executive director of Downtown Green Bay, Inc., said 20-25 years ago, the business was named Oxfords, and under that owner, the place was originally renovated. 

“They did a significant and impressive renovation of this historic building,” he said. “Many years ago, it was the place for a business luncheon downtown. But Fox Heights did an awesome job bringing back the character to the property when they renovated it.”

Mirkes said for those who will frequent Fox Heights Pub & Parlor, “it will conjure many great memories from the past.”

“They will reminisce and be reminded of the days when it was another establishment, but they will see the stellar character in the space, as it once was,” he said.

Fox Heights Pub & Parlor, Baumler said, will have a lot of similarities to Wotruba’s Fox Harbor Pub and Grill.

“The architecture, the woodwork at the bar and the walls are almost identical,” he said. “We’re only making some minor decor changes – nothing major at all.” 

Baumler said the building itself gives a welcoming vibe and provides a cozy atmosphere for guests – which he said fits in perfectly with his idea of hospitality. 

“The original exposed brick and the woodwork of the first floor especially takes your breath away when you walk in the front door,” he said.

As patrons make their way to the second level, Baumler said there is even more of the original exposed brick of the building.

“The history with some modern touches gives you an ambiance that conveys warmth, coziness and hospitality,” he said. “You can get chills just walking in the place.” 

Building character has much to offer 
The space itself is two stories, as well as a raised loft.

It has two full-service bars, one of which Baumler said is a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling bar – the thing many old-time bars are known for. 

The main level, Baumler said, will be for food and beverage service, while the second will be used for private events – which will have their own menu.

If there are no private events booked, he said it will be open to the public for food and beverage service. 

“They can enjoy the whole building,” he said. “From the second floor, you can get up to the third-story loft where we’re going to have some seating where people can come up and sit and relax and enjoy each other’s company, or have meetings, or whatever.”

Food or beverage service, Baumler said, will not be offered on the third-story loft.

Between all three levels, Baumler said, Fox Heights Pub & Parlor can accommodate about 100 people – including 44 seats on the first level and 34 on the second level. 

What’s to eat? 
Enjoying the decor, ambiance and location is one thing, but Baumler said people will be there to eat and drink, and there will be no shortage of things to tempt their palate and wet their whistle. 

“It’s going to be fast-casual, with some similarities to other restaurants in the downtown area, but with different spins and variations in food,” he said. “The kitchen manager has been working diligently on providing an excellent menu to the public. We’re excited for the opportunity to present it when it’s ready.”

Baumler said Fox Heights Pub & Parlor will offer appetizers, homemade soups, sandwiches, wraps, salads, seafood, pizzas, pasta, daily features and a Friday fish fry. 

Appetizers, he said, will include hand-breaded chicken tenders, cheese curds, beer-battered onion rings and hand-wrapped wonton mozzarella sticks. 

“We’re excited about our homemade beer cheese with soft pretzels,” he said. “We’re also going to do a variation of french fries – instead of a shoestring fry, we’re going to do more of a waffles-cut fry, which will be a bit different from other areas downtown. Burgers will be on the menu, but we want to give our customers another option, so we’re excited to be giving them the opportunity of ordering a bison burger versus just ground beef.”

Baumler said Fox Heights Pub & Parlor is also excited to bring back pressed paninis.

“I think that’s going to be something on our menu that also will separate us a bit from some of the other establishments downtown,” he said. 

Other offerings, Baumler said, include traditional and boneless wings, different kinds of salads, a build-your-own 16-inch pizza, beer-battered cod, a shrimp plate option and on Friday nights only, the restaurant will offer a perch plate. 

Pastas, he said, will include chicken alfredo pasta, seafood alfredo pasta and mac ‘n cheese with an option of also having a lobster mac ‘n cheese, bacon-topped mac ‘n cheese or regular mac ‘n cheese. 

Jeff Mirkes, executive director of Downtown Green Bay, Inc., said Fox Heights Pub & Parlor will be a good fit for downtown Green Bay. Submitted Photo

“We don’t have specific soups on the menu right now, but they’ll be rotating, and we’ll have our guests check with their server to see what the soup of the day or soup of the week is,” he said. “They will be homemade, though, and delicious.”

Fox Heights Pub & Parlor will also have 16 tap handles, all of which Baumler said will highlight different variations of craft beers. 

“One thing I’d like to promote is some Wisconsin brews,” he said. “We’ll be putting things in that are in demand, but we also want to keep our tap handles dedicated to craft beer. Some domestic options will be offered in bottles, and we’ll have some different imported selections in bottles, as well.”

Opening set for January 
Baumler said he had originally anticipated a February opening, but it looks like it’s going to happen in late January. 

“We’re going to have a private, soft opening for invited guests, so we can test our new point-of-sale system, and our staff can have a run at it with a closed private party,” he said. “If everything is good to go after that, that will be the trigger that says it’s time to open sooner rather than later.” 

The staff size, Baumler said, will be 12-20 part- and full-time employees.

Fox Heights Pub & Parlor will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The kitchen, Baumler said, will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

He said the establishment will be closed on Sundays, with rare exceptions. 

“We will consider being open on Sundays for any event in the downtown area that’s special to Green Bay, for example, when the NFL draft comes to Green Bay in 2025,” he said.

Geared up for success 
Baumler said his degree in communications will come in handy in his new venture.

“A lot of communications and public relations ties into hospitality when it comes to providing excellent customer service, understanding the needs of the customer, or even when it comes to understanding employees and how to take care of them,” he said.

Baumler said word-of-mouth advertising is crucial to a business. 

“We want to give our customers an experience they’ll remember and will want to tell their friends about,” he said. “Word-of-mouth is one of the biggest advertising tools you can have, so we want to make sure when someone walks out the door, they’ll tell the next person it was well worth the visit and they should come check us out.”

As the restaurant nears its opening, Baumler said “there is so much to be excited about.”

“I’m very thankful,” he said. “Thankful for the opportunity, thankful for the support I’ve gotten from my wife, my kids, my dad and step-mom and thankful for the advice and mentorship from Jesse.”

Reflecting on the journey that got him here, Baumler said “it’s been a long time coming.”

“I want this to be a success for everyone involved – my family, my friends, my staff,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want this to be something we can all be proud of, and I want us all to succeed and celebrate the success together.”

Opening important for downtown area 
Mirkes said Fox Heights Pub & Parlor will be a great addition to downtown Green Bay’s hospitality offerings.

“It is in a fabulous location right in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of many other establishments and close to the CityDeck,” he said. “Leading up to the NFL Draft in April 2025, establishments like this will help solidify downtown as a hub for hospitality.”

Mirkes said downtown Green Bay is home to many authentic, locally-owned restaurants and pubs with their own unique offerings and character.

“We see Fox Heights Pub & Parlor being an integral part of Green Bay’s hospitality leading up to and beyond the NFL draft, and as a building block for other entities that may want to choose downtown as a significant center for hospitality,” he said.

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