The Shoreline Restaurant Changes Hands


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Bob and Mekaila Novitski sit together in the empty dining room of The Shoreline restaurant at the top of the Door peninsula. Later-winter sunlight filters into the room through large windows that face the harbor, framing the view that convinced the couple they should buy the iconic Gills Rock business.  

“It’s kind of funny how this all happened,” Bob said, with Mekaila smiling in agreement. In September, Bob made a solo trip from their home in Wrightstown to take a look at The Shoreline on the advice of a friend’s father who lives nearby. The couple held as a goal the possibility of owning a restaurant, but they were not seriously shopping for one – until Bob visited the property and, excitedly walking around it, began texting photos to Mekaila.

“I saw the [water] view and said – yeah – I could get on board with this,” Bob said. 

The couple submitted an offer to purchase just after Thanksgiving and the deal was finalized in mid-December.  

Though Bob has childhood memories of an annual day-trip to Door County with his family, he and Mekaila had only visited Door County once in the four years they’ve been together. Now they’re all in, living just north of Peninsula Center and ready to put their experience to work on the Gills Rock restaurant. 

For the past 10 years Bob supervised food and beverage operations at Crosswind Grille – a year-round restaurant at Royal St. Patrick’s Golf Links in Wrightstown. He started there at age 14 as a dishwasher, then began cooking, and eventually studied culinary arts at Fox Valley Technical College. Mekaila started out driving a beer cart at the golf course, then moved up to bartending and serving in the restaurant. Several years of working side-by-side led to a marriage proposal and a wedding last November. 

The Novitskis are well aware of the success The Shoreline has enjoyed for many years. Returning customers will feel right at home inside – no significant decor changes are planned. As the executive chef, Bob wants to give customers an experience that reflects his cooking interests. The menu entrees will include a charred chili lime salmon, brown butter seared chicken, ribeyes and tenderloins, and a Shoreline classic: baked, broiled, blackened or hand-breaded and fried whitefish. Fridays will feature a traditional Wisconsin fish fry with lake perch and walleye.

Diners can expect specials from time to time – some based on Bob’s interest in cajun and creole cuisine. 

“You do heat really well,” Mekaila said to Bob. “There’s spice and flavor, but the heat doesn’t overwhelm.”

The Shoreline’s popularity with locals and visitors began decades ago. The recent past owners, Mike and Mary Mead, purchased the business from Craig and Susie Woerfel in 1990. Mike was on a crew replacing windows at the restaurant when Susie asked the Meads if they’d be interested in buying the business. With experience cooking at Baileys Harbor Yacht Club Resort and The Country House Resort, Mike saw the opportunity as a way for he and Mary to start the next chapter of their lives. 

(From left) Mary and Mike Mead, former owners of The Shoreline, pass the keys to its new owners, Bob and Mekaila Novitski. Shoreline Facebook page photo.

“That first year we definitely had a learning curve,” Mary recalled. 

“We were so ignorant about things that we didn’t know what we were getting into,” Mike said with a laugh. 

The Meads eventually found their rhythm and made The Shoreline their own – which is exactly what the Novitskis are planning to do with the launch of The Shoreline’s next era in late April or early May. Initially, the schedule will be seasonal, from 3-9 pm, Tuesday – Saturday. Though some employees are expected to stay on from last year, the couple is actively recruiting additional staff. 

Taking the reins of The Shoreline has been a fast-track introduction to the community for Bob and Mekaila, even though the restaurant hasn’t yet opened for the season. 

“It seems like everybody we talk to up here has either worked at, or has a connection to The Shoreline,” Bob said. 

The Shoreline is located 12747 State Hwy 42 in Gills Rock.

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