The Enchanted Inn/Drag’s
After a bumpy start in 1951—locals thought pizza was a type of beer—the Draganowski family has expanded its enterprise to four unique locations spanning three generations.
In 1951, Kas and Clara Draganowski moved their family from the citified streets of Chicago to bucolic northern Wisconsin, ready to realize their dream of starting a restaurant. After seeing a Chicago newspaper ad that touted a summer home for sale, Kas used his carpentry skills to convert the property into part restaurant/bar, part living quarters, while Clara (who had worked as a waitress in the Windy City) formatted her homemade pizza recipe—always a hit with her houseguests—to restaurant-size portions. The Enchanted Inn (theenchantedinn.com) was thus born in Barnes, Wisconsin, but locals were initially wary. “They had a sign that advertised ‘pizza and beer’ at the end of the road, so locals thought pizza was a type of beer,” recalls Joanne Palzkill, current co-owner and daughter of Kas and Clara. “There was no pizza in this area.”
The early years proved a struggle, thanks to the woodsy locale that received mostly seasonal summer visitors; Kas and Clara took turns working winters in Chicago to make ends meet. In 1961, however, convinced by a local meat salesman to take their thin, crispy-crust pizza to Rice Lake, Wisconsin, they purchased a small butcher shop (again remodeled by Kas’ hand) and business, as predicted, took off. This second location, Drag’s Restaurant, was run for decades by Kas’ sons, Ken (now retired) and Jerry, who still runs it with his own wife and son. Meanwhile, siblings Joanne, Claudia and John oversee the original (and still seasonal) location. They also operate a third Italian-American restaurant, Taverna Grill (tavernagrill.com), opened in Eau Claire in 1981, and Draganetti’s (draganettis.com), a second outpost in Eau Claire, opened in 2009.
Today, with four successful locations in the family, their parents’ humble dream lives on. “We all follow the same pizza recipe from our parents,” Claudia notes. “We still make most everything—from sausage, lasagna and meatballs to garlic butter and dressings—in-house.”
The business has adapted and expanded to fit different concepts and towns. For example, the family added flatbreads and gluten-free pizza to the menu and even instituted an annual garlic festival, challenging employees and customers to create garlicky pies for the event. While all family members chip in with the business, each has a specialty: John, like his father, is the construction whiz; Claudia handles food and kitchen operations; and Joanne excels in HR and marketing. Joanne’s son, at only 15, is already bussing tables. “We’re still hands-on, and I think that has been key to our success,” Claudia says. “We train employees personally and are working in the business every day.”
“We preach consistency and great service,” Joanne adds. “We stay the course, and we’re fortunate to have loyal customers and great employees. But the pizza is the glue that holds it all together.” -Tracy Morin