Bushy's has always stepped up to the plate in Muskego
Sports bar celebrates its 30-year anniversary and history
Muskego — Sprinting past the 30-year line, Bushy's Pub & Grill has already outrun a lot of sports bars that also started in the 1980s, and it's still going strong.
And, to be sure, with at least 14 television sets tuned to sports events, the restaurant at 14831 W. Janesville Road is unabashedly a sports bar.
"We even have televisions in the bathrooms," said Lynn Kurer, who owns Bushy's with her brother Wayne Bushberger.
Many sports figures have come to the bar in person, too, including the Milwaukee Brewers' Robin Yount and Corey Hart and Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre.
The right site
Bushy's just celebrated its 30th anniversary with a big party for customers, and it was a good time to look back to where it all started.
The building in which Bushy's opened had already been a tavern for decades.
"It became a bar the minute prohibition stopped (in 1933), I was told," Kurer said.
The bar was known as Tess's when Kurer and Bushberger, who had both been in the bar-restaurant field and wanted to go into business for themselves, bought it. Kurer said she and Bushberger had grown up in Muskego and liked the idea of staying in their own hometown.
Naming the new bar was easy — all four Bushberger brothers, who were active in sports in high school, were often called "Bushy" by fans and friends.
Growing with the city
When Bushy's served its first beer, the area was heavily rural, with corn waving in the breeze across the street where families live in a subdivision today. Cows grazed west of the bar.
It was so rural, Kurer remembers, "We were cleaning one day and in walks a goat."
"It was funnier than funny," she said, even though she had to get help to wrangle the four-legged visitor out the door.
Over the years, Bushy's became known for its music and its food.
"Our food was so successful, we couldn't keep up," Kurer said.
So in 1998 the brother and sister added 1,000 square feet and a deck.
Before going ahead with that expansion project, they had been assured by Waukesha County officials that their building would not be needed for the eventual widening of Janesville Road. That turned out not to be true.
Six years later, in December 2004, bulldozers flattened the original Bushy's.
However, the county didn't need all of the land. The brother and sister team wanted to rebuild on the same spot, but needed more land.
Fortunately, like a football that takes an auspicious bounce, Bushy's was in luck: Atonement Lutheran Church next door wanted to build in another location and was looking for a buyer.
Before the dozer engines even started, the industrious siblings were well along with construction of the current Bushy's building. The new Bushy's opened in January 2005.
Bushy's not only get the land it needed, but a church building as well. It was Kurer's dream to turn the church into a banquet facility, but it was a daunting task both physically and financially.
Even so, Kurer said, "I knew I could do it because I knew I could make people happy."
It took a year and a half of working nonstop seven days a week to renovate the church into a banquet facility, which the siblings dubbed Bush Gardens, but the marathon effort was worth it, Bushberger said.
"There's nothing I would change — it turned out great," he said. "Bushy's is really nice, but Bush Gardens is elegant."
It has been busy with weddings, class reunions, birthday parties and such celebrations ever since it opened in 2011, Kurer said.
Famous charitable fest
Many people know Bushy's for a quarter century of Bushy Fest outdoor celebrations, with live music and outdoor grilling. It was an event that has drawn some 1,800 people on Fridays and Saturdays and 600 on Sundays, Kurer estimated.
Bushy Fest ran 25 years and was discontinued in 2008 only because it got too big to handle, Kurer said.
But it raised thousands for the New Berlin food pantry — admission was $5 and after the bands were paid, the rest of the money went to the food pantry — which also served Muskego before it started its own. Bushy's gave more beyond those proceeds.
Because of that support, Kurer got to throw out the first ball at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game in 1997. Bushy's also contributed to other local causes. That generosity is repaid.
"Part of why we are successful is we try to keep involved in the community by showing that we care," Kurer said.
Trying to puzzle out why Bushy's has been successful while other bar/restaurants could not go the distance, Kurer speculated that the key is to think things out very well and then don't second-guess decisions.
From his perspective, Bushberger said, "You're only as great as the people who come in. And good people bring in good people."
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