Owning an eating establishment has long been a dream of Ron Bustad, owner of The New Brookside Restaurant. His working career included various jobs, starting as a junk dealer, and retiring in 1992 from his own company which manufactured airplane control panels.

Restaurant work was never in his resume. Bustad and wife Shirley purchased property on “Driftwood Point” across from McNeil Island with plans to build a church camp there. When objections in the neighborhood canceled that idea, they kept part of it for a home of their own, developed, subdivided and sold the rest. On retirement, they moved to the Key Peninsula as permanent residents.

Bustad, involved in real estate, kept his eye out for property where he could build a new restaurant. At one point he found there were several people in the Lakebay Covenant Church, to which they belonged, looking for work. This prompted him to consider the Brookside Restaurant at Minter, which had been closed for several years, to take care of both ideas.

This property was in an ideal location, had been a popular eating place for many peninsula residents, and could employ several people when operating again.

Shirley, not always enthusiastic over some of Bustad’s ideas, gave full support to this one. They had no idea of the reality of turning the building into an approved restaurant. They scrubbed and painted the kitchen, added insulated windows, replaced part of the roof, installed new heating and air conditioning, and added new kitchen equipment. It all took longer than expected.

They hoped to open last June, but had to postpone the date until late August. Kathy Moran, the dining room manager, has been a blessing to them, says Bustad. Her extensive experience in varied restaurants helped them plan and carry out their vision. She assisted in some of the hiring of the new staff. Tobie Sparling, kitchen manager, and head cook Jonathan Guerrero are also important people in the operation of the Brookside.

Within days after their grand opening, the restaurant was closed. There were problems with the computers and more training by the staff was required. The response to their opening was better than expected, and they literally ran out of some food. Personnel situations also needed attention. By Sept. 5, they reopened and have maintained a steady business since. Bustad noted his accountant said receipts are close to double what they used to be. He has added beer and wine to the menu, although with reluctance. He wants to maintain this as a family restaurant, but a large percentage of customers requested this addition.

Terry Thomas, who owns the neighboring building with two new businesses starting up, has shared landscaping, parking, the water system and some future plans. In the spring they intend to put up picnic tables under the trees between the two buildings.

As it turned out, Bustad didn’t hire the people he intended to employ, but knows he helped others who needed work, and he’s pleased with the staff. Bustad enjoys working with people, and likes to greet and visit with his customers. He spends about half of each day at the Brookside and calls himself the “go-fer” as he runs errands, makes phone calls, and sees that everything is running as it should.

Unforeseen problems come with any new business venture, but Ron and Shirley are pleased to see this long held dream of his become a reality. The New Brookside is open, and welcomes customers old and new to enjoy a family dining experience.

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