PEWAUKEE — A fire destroyed Michael's House of Prime Restaurant, a popular family-owned business in Pewaukee Wednesday morning. Fire investigators said the first call about the fire came in around 4 a.m. when a passerby noticed the flames.
“There was heavy fire showing from the backside of the building we did do a primary search on the inside to make sure no one was inside,” said officials on the scene.
The restaurant has been in Pewaukee for 90 years. Alex Welby is one of 32 employees there and worked at the restaurant for more than a year. She said it gave her more than just a paycheck, it was a place she considered a second home. It was the owners who made her feel welcomed.
“People with kids worked here, generations of families worked here, one of the servers has worked here for 30 years,” she said. “What can we do? Nothing at this point.”
The restaurant has always been family-owned. The current owners - brothers, Rick and David Buckley - took over the iconic Lake Country restaurant in 2016, in an effort to save it after rumors spread that it would be sold and bulldozed.
“Rick and David are two very amazing men,” Walby said. “They’re very kind. They’re very compassionate. They’ll ask you how your day is every time you come into work. They’re great people. It’s sad that this happened to such great people.”
The restaurant was a popular spot among locals and busy in the summer. Alex said every customer that walked through the front doors felt like family and to her it’s the memories made under one roof that she will miss the most.
"The people that I worked with became really good friends," said Alex.
“It’s going to be greatly missed in the city of Pewaukee,” said Patrick Cullen, who lives nearby. “I woke up to sirens, and when I looked out the window, there were bright orange flames coming from the building. The place is kind of a tinder box. It’s old and dried out, so it went up very quickly. Once the fire got to the roof, it got to be pretty bad. Embers were flying in the trees. They were spraying the trees and everything because they would have gone up like gasoline.”
Firefighters from more than a dozen local departments battled the flames for hours. Since there are no fire hydrants in the area, they had to shuttle water in. None of them were injured, and thankfully, no one was inside the building when it caught fire.
People stopped to look in disbelief, taking photos of the aftermath. Others recorded video as it happened, saying they saw the flames from miles away and across Pewaukee Lake. So many have already been trying to help any way they can.
“We decided to get coffee and donuts and bring them to the firefighters and police officers, and anyone who was out here,” said McKenna Kloss. “We just wanted to help them in this hard time.”
The restaurant is considered a total loss. Fire investigators are looking into what caused the fire.
An organizer on GoFundMe says they are raising money for the 32 employees who lost their livelihoods following the fire. Click here to donate and read more.