Bill Schwartz and Jeff Davidson are two self-described “computer geeks” and serial entrepreneurs from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. In the late 1990s, as the internet exploded, they developed an educational board game called Cyber-Quest to help understand the new digital technologies. This passion for technology and helping people led them to start Inter-Quest, an IT support and management company.
Almost two decades later, a suitcase full of Nashville-style hot fried chicken, a couple of beers and a bad pun turned into a restaurant idea.
Dam Chicken (“The domain name was available, and the name stuck.”) opened in fall of 2020 in downtown Beaver Dam in a building Bill and Jeff renovated with the help of the city and funding from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) through the Community Development Investment Grant Program.
“2020 was probably the worst year ever to open a restaurant,” Jeff observes. But the business was enough of a success that they were soon thinking about expanding. Earlier this year, they purchased the vacant building next door to Dam Chicken and started on plans to expand and add a cocktail bar named Damsels.
“One of the things we struggled with, opening a restaurant in a smaller downtown space, is that people were a little nervous about sitting close together. So expanding into the new space gives us room to spread out and get more people in. Damsels will be a sister restaurant to Dam Chicken, with a different vibe.”
Plans for the restaurant were already underway when they heard about the funds available through the Main Street Bounceback Grants Program.
“We heard about the grant at a local Chamber of Commerce meeting. I think it was Mayor Glewen who mentioned it. So after the meeting I walked back to my office, looked up the grant and started the application process,” says Jeff.
Damsels is on schedule to open in mid-November, and in spring will be adding outdoor seating behind the building, overlooking the Beaver Dam River and new Rotary Riverwalk Park.
The impact of Dam Chicken and Damsels goes well beyond one block in downtown Beaver Dam. Both restaurants pride themselves on using ingredients sourced from local Wisconsin producers like Widmer Cheese and Alsum Farms & Produce.
It’s this kind of extended impact that drove the WEDC to develop the Main Street Bounceback Grants Program. Wisconsin’s communities depend on healthy downtowns and commercial corridors filled with locally owned businesses like Inter-Quest and Dam Chicken.
By spreading the word about the program, you can help strengthen Wisconsin’s economic well-being. For more information and tools for marketing the program to your clients, customers and business networks, visit wedc.org/msbb-toolkit/.