After 50 years in business, Lindy’s Landing is a Wauconda institution, but tradition hasn’t stopped this restaurant from seeking new ideas to satisfy a changing market.
Along the shore of Wauconda’s Bangs Lake, Bob “Lindy” Lindstrom saw an opportunity in an aging boathouse and bait shop in 1965.
Lindstrom opened Lindy’s Landing, 115 Park St., as a summertime lakeside bar and marina, quickly creating a family-friendly spot to swim, picnic, boat and fish along the lakefront. When he moved his family from Park Ridge to Wauconda in the 1970s, it became a year-round, family-run restaurant with the help of his three daughters, Laurie, Cheryl and Bonnie.
Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the thriving restaurant and sports bar is nearly unrecognizable from the small boathouse it once was. But Lindstrom’s family carries on his original vision of creating a resort-style lakeside dining destination.
“We’ve always been really involved with Bangs Lake and the community,” says Brittany Barth, general manager and one of Lindstrom’s five grandchildren. “So we said, ‘Let’s go big or go home with its renovations.’”
The family has led two major remodels since Lindstrom’s passing in 2000. Now with a 7,000-square-foot sports bar and dining deck, outdoor beach bar, marina and beachfront pavilion, Lindy’s Landing offers fine and casual dining, regular entertainment and annual events. The original bartop still remains, along with many photos and knickknacks from the restaurant’s beginning years. Those mementos preserve the warm atmosphere and provide a reminder for owners and staff of how it all started.
“The restaurant business is a tough one, and to be in business for 50 years is almost hard to believe,” she says.
Barth worked on staff during major remodels in 2003 and 2006, after which she became the general manager. Now she oversees daily operations and long-term growth, updating the restaurant’s environment, menu and events while staying true to its original appeal. It’s a tough balance but a rewarding challenge.
“I’ve had to learn throughout the years that you just can’t make everybody happy,” says Barth. “As long as you’re making the majority happy and you’re happy doing what you’re doing, then that’s what matters most.”
Still, maintaining a close relationship with frequent customers and the community has been part of Lindy’s continued success. Through social media and frequent interactions, Barth and her staff ensure that patrons know when change is coming and that their feedback is always welcome.
“I’ll sit at the bar sometimes and ask customers what they think of our ideas,” she says. “We’ll bring new menu items out and let customers tell us what they think. It’s fun to get their feedback, but they also feel like part of what’s happening here.”
Those relationships are critical when introducing and updating special events, from the popular Labor Day Cardboard Boat Race to the live outdoor music. Lindy’s staff limits new events in size and scope, to more closely track reactions. If successful, the event is then amplified the following year.
“We really look forward to our events, and it creates this buzz,” says Barth. “You have to keep reinventing yourself, because you can’t just stay stagnant. As much as people hate change, you have to continue to grow.”
Barth is no stranger to growing business ventures. In 2010, she joined co-operator and executive chef Gary Bougie in opening Slyce Coal Fired Pizza up the street, at 127 N. Main St. The 85-seat artisanal restaurant requires different management skills, but both locations prove the importance of keeping a business fresh and relevant.
“People are always saying, ‘That event is always successful, so why do you still promote it?’ or at Slyce, ‘You’re at a 2.5-hour wait every weekend, so why do you still advertise?’” says Barth. “But it’s important to still keep your name out there.”
It also pushes Barth to find opportunities for improvement. Whether it’s the new TVs in Lindy’s sports bar or the remodeled patio at Slyce, small updates give returning customers a slightly new experience.
“You can’t ever sit back and think that your business is always going to run smoothly and you’re always going to be busy. Eventually, it will catch up with you,” she says, pausing. “At least, I think. I don’t know – it hasn’t really happened yet.”