June 21, 2017

The Story of Wild Tomato

“Britt and I met and we both had an interest in food, and I guess the concept for Wild Tomato, we were living in Milwaukee. I had a cake shop, Britt was a corporate chef there, and we just decided one day we needed a lifestyle change. So we bought the little restaurant up in Fish Creek and moved. But we wanted to bring a lot of the elements we’ve learned throughout our culinary careers and bring it down to a really casual level that could be received by everyone. My name is Sara Unkefer.

And I’m Britt Unkefer. We own Wild Tomato in Fish Creek and Sister Bay, and we also own Bier Zot Belgian Gastropub.

My dad, you know, at a young age I think I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He recognized it and he told me, he’s like, you should be more afraid of success than failure. And I think that statement has rung so true in our experience and my own experience, because you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to tackle anything that comes your way. Sometimes success is harder than failure.

My family owned Nelsen’s Hall on Washington Island, and being the youngest of three, got to do all of the really fun grunt work of, like, cleaning the bar, and Washington Island doesn’t have garbage service, so I got to go to the dump and really got to see all the fun stuff that goes into the restaurant industry. But I stuck with it, I loved it, and went to culinary school after that.

We do have wood-fired pizza. We have about 12 specialty pizzas. But I think the specialty is we do try to, you know, do unique flavors. It’s about providing the highest quality product for the customer. Obviously the fresher the better, and you can tell that the flavor is different.

Knowing where your food is coming from, I think, is ultimately so important. I mean to me, organic and things like that is important, but knowing the integrity of the person that’s growing it is even more important. The better our community is, the better, obviously, it’s gonna be for us and our employees and everything. It also has helped form the Wild Tomato, too, because of the community that it is. It’s a very tight-knit community, and I mean, even knowing this from when I was a kid, just, you have to be part of it and not just stick an open sign in your window. One of the big things that we found with a bank is I wanted a partner, just like I do with every single vendor, farmer, everyone I use. I want it to be a partnership that we’re working together, and when we were building Wild Tomato Sister Bay, that’s what we started looking towards, and that’s when we found Fortifi. And I love knowing that, say, when Greg and everyone comes up, they love eating here, you know, and that’s the partnership that I want, is that people are happy with the place that they’re supporting as well, and I haven’t found that with any other bank. I think that’s the biggest difference for me.

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