GRAFTON, Wis. (CBS 58) — It’s a tale as old as time. A Wisconsin couple meets in a bar (they were both bartenders there), falls in love, gets married and then buys that bar. Mitchell and Nikki Longley are the new owners of The Bridge Inn in Grafton.
“I was here hanging out with some friends on a Saturday night.” remembers Nikki of when they first met about 10 years ago. “I just thought he was well…cute of course. But charming and funny and everything you want your bartender to be.”
“A couple years went by and then we started dating…and then we bought a bar.” said Mitchell. “We met, we married, a little time went by and we bought a bar.
They bought the bar, their bar, the place they first met. The Longleys reopened the bar under their ownership on September 24th, right around the time they were celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary. It’s a true Wisconsin love story.
“The perfect Wisconsin love story. I don’t know, it did kind of feel that way.” Nikki said. “That was one of the other reasons the Bridge was so special to us. We met here. We have multiple friends that have been married in the last 10 years that have also met here. It means more to us than just the place that serves us a drink.”
It meant so much to them that they took their engagement photos there.
“It was her idea. She said she wants to take the pictures outside with the Bridge sign in the background since that’s where we met.” said Mitchell. “I thought it was cheesy. We did it anyways. But it turned out really good. Friends of ours actually framed the picture for us, signed their names congratulating and we hung that up in the bar too.”
Both the Longleys have a good business foundation. Mitchell is also an accountant and Nikki works in finance.
“All the years of bartending experience and the fact that we’re both in the accounting and finance fields, that gives a huge leg up on the business part of it.” said Mitchell.
Those skills help them manage things like scheduling beer line cleanings or deliveries or hiring but like most, they don’t have much experience in pandemic management. However, they didn’t buy the bar until late September so they knew the economic realities. They say they aren’t crazy.
“You’re not the first person to say that. Almost everybody has said that.” Mitchell said. “But just timing-wise, the opportunity presented itself. We just took advantage. This situation that everybody’s in, we’re hoping its temporary. Nobody knows how long it’s going to last. But we’re in it for the long run too. You deal with what you can now and just hope everything turns around here and we can figure out a way to get past it.”
The Longleys believe the Bridge family will stick together.
“This is a staple in Grafton and it has been for so many years.” said Nikki. “Whenever a business changes ownership, I think people worry that everything is going to change. I think the comfortability then have to come into the same bar and see some of the same faces, not only behind the bar but now as owners of the bar. I think that makes them really happy.”