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Resurrecting “The Gobbler:” What is in this icon’s future?

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JOHNSON CREEK (WITI) -- It is considered an icon -- and part of Wisconsin's pop culture history. The Gobbler restaurant in Johnson Creek has a new owner. The building has been vacant for nearly 20 years -- so what's next?

Like a wild turkey grazing in a grassy field in Johnson Creek, the turkey-shaped "Gobbler" restaurant -- vacant for nearly 20 years will soon strut its stuff once again.

The restaurant is being reborn as "The Gobbler Theater" -- a music venue.

"It was exactly as I remembered," The Gobbler's new owner, Dan Manesis said.

Manesis is the owner of Milwaukee Trucking Company -- and also an investor.

Manesis offered FOX6 News a peek inside the infamous restaurant. It was also an opportunity for Manesis to talk about his plans for the future.

"I was looking for a live music venue. I looked around Milwaukee and recently I was across the street at the outlet mall and I looked over the highway and there was The Gobbler," Manesis said.

Incredibly, Manesis discovered the previous owners kept the 1960s iconic restaurant pristine and preserved over two decades of nothingness -- and a search for a buyer.

The former owner didn't believe that after all this time, Manesis would give him an offer.

"I told him I'd have an offer by Monday, and he told me to drive very carefully home. He didn't want to lose that offer. No he did not," Manesis said.

Manesis doesn't want to lose The Gobbler's flavor, if you will.

There's good news for The Gobbler fans who still post regularly on Facebook -- remembering the days when the Hartwig family owned a turkey processing plant in town, and built The Gobbler restaurant.

The Gobbler served turkey of course, with Playboy bunny-type waitresses scantily-clad in a turkey-themed costume -- and the restaurant had popular TV commercials.

The round, raised dance floor, known as The Roost will go -- and so will the mirrored wall.

That's to give all of the 500 or so seats in stadium-style seating a good view of the stage -- planned for where the kitchen used to be.

"The bar, which revolves once an hour will remain. Folks will be able to sit at the bar, sit at two or three levels here, four or five levels there, and all of them are going to be able to see the stage real clearly," Manesis said.

Manesis says he's not doing it to make a buck.

"I like having fun and I like The Gobbler. I think if I surround myself with good folks to help me run it -- I think we can make this really be a hit," Manesis said.

The selling price for The Gobbler was $675,000 -- and that's before the work that will go into it.

The Gobbler Theater could open by Christmas -- or perhaps next spring.

The plan already has approval from the Village of Johnson Creek.

CLICK HERE to view a photo gallery posted up by those who were selling The Gobbler.

6 comments

  • stephanie heether

    My family and I are looking to move ironically out to Johnson creek. Was kind of concerned what I could do for work out there. But, with the intensity I have for music, and the experience I have in the industry. I am rather excited now to get there and see this place coming through. How very exciting!!

  • Karyn

    I hope that they have a big sale if they get rid of any of those fixtures! I’m sure there are a lot of people who would love to have a piece of that history!

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