CITY OF DELAFIELD – A community staple celebrated its 20th anniversary on March 28.
The Lumber Inn has been a breakfast destination for decades, even before current owner Raul Perez took over operations in 2002. After two decades of creating and maintaining an atmosphere that attracts regulars, newcomers and birthday breakfast celebrants, Perez marked the occasion by giving away a free mimosa with every purchase.
As always, the company saw a steady stream of customers that day. Perez and his family – who also work at the restaurant – greeted and seated everyone as usual.
Perez couldn’t help but look back on the past two decades. He talked about the customers who walked through the doors, the ever-changing menu, and all the people who made his dream a reality.
“To be honest, when I bought it I was hoping to do good,” Perez said, “but I didn’t expect this good.”
Over the years
Technically, the Lumber Inn has been around for almost 40 years, but what was a small breakfast place 20 years ago has become much bigger, both figuratively and literally, since it was changed ownership in 2002. Dave and Shar Huebner opened the restaurant in 1983.
Perez bought the place after years in the food industry, working as a cashless dishwasher and rising through the ranks in various kitchens in Illinois and Wisconsin. This came after immigrating to the United States from Mexico at the age of 17.
His dream has always been to own his own home, and when the Lumber Inn came up for sale, he went for it.
Although he spent the first few years behind the scenes as the only person in the kitchen, he became a face that regulars and newcomers alike came to love.
“I was always in the kitchen, I had never been out with the customers,” Perez said. “It was a new experience for me. I was nervous at the time to come here to Delafield. There are hardly any Mexicans here, especially 20 years ago. I didn’t know if I would be accepted in the community or not, but these people are wonderful, they are nice and have accepted me and everything has been a blessing.
While Perez has retained the restaurant’s breakfast style, he has altered the menu to reflect his Mexican heritage and flavor. Over the years, the menu has changed several times to reflect the changing eating habits of its customers. He buys fresh ingredients and he goes from table to table talking with customers.
It did two expansions (in 2011 and 2018), growing to serve even more people.
“When I took over, people who were at least 40 years old, that was my main clientele,” Perez said. “Now you see teenagers and people of all ages. Kids ask where they want to go for lunch on their birthday, and the family will tell us they wanted to go. We’ve even seen these kids who did that there. I’m 20 growing up now, and they keep coming back. It’s amazing to work at a company that has these kind of loyal customers. They’re like family.
Perez doesn’t yet know what’s next for the Lumber Inn. His first priority is to continue his traditional service and delights, but he is also training his daughter, Luzbeyda and son, Raul Jr., to take over someday.
Of course, the son is Raul Perez Jr. and the daughter is
They both currently work at the restaurant.
“If I leave that to them, I want to make sure they serve and take care of customers like I do,” Perez said. “You have to know you’re here because of them. With them, it’s no big deal.”
For Perez, he plans to work as long as he can.
“It’s different these days than when I start,” Perez said. “People want to go out to eat and now they say, ‘Let’s go to Raul’s’ or ‘Let’s go see Raul.’ It’s not just the Lumber Inn. It’s about us, this family.
Drew Dawson can be reached at [email protected] or (262) 289-1324.