Lake restaurant will continue in the off season

Hookers n Reelers

Photo by Clarke Davis
Chad and Carrie Branson have had a great first year operating Hookers ’n’ Reelers Bar and Grill. Now they are going to test operating a lakeshore business through the off-seaon.


by Clarke Davis
Chad and Carrie Branson had a tremendous first season with their restaurant at the Lake Perry Yacht and Marina. What they don’t know is whether they can keep it going through the winter months.
The couple signed a five-year lease to operate Hookers ’n’ Reelers and spent last winter completely remodeling the restaurant.
They opened in April with what they hoped would be a “soft” start, but were quickly overrun with customers and business continued to overwhelm them all summer.
They have cut to a Friday through Sunday schedule in hopes of keeping their cook and waiter staff employed.
Their menu has attracted local people and there are a number of boat owners who rent slips at the marina who still return to the restaurant.
“We got to know so many of these people and they have become like family,” Carrie said.
The couple took old lumber, which they sanded and coated with a clear varnish, along with some corrigated tin for a rustic feel, for a complete makeover of the interior. Glass panels and a large patio give a view of the lake.
They also required “shirt and shoes” for dine-in. Although it’s near the beach and on a lakefront, they wanted it to be respectable, family friendly, and inviting for children.
“We just wanted everyone to feel comfortable,” Carrie said.
Apparently it worked.
“I had worked here as a waitress previously and was often the only one on duty on a Friday night,” Carrie said. “We often had seven waiters and two bartenders on duty this summer.”
Steaks have been added to the menu for the fall and winter.
“We didn’t have time for steaks this summer,” Chad said.
With a grill on the patio, they thought of trying a “cook your own steak” supper, a popular idea they had picked up in their travels. Wanting to be sure it’s OK with the regulatory agencies, they have contacted the state health department to see if they need permission and are waiting word. In the meantime, they will prepare the meal.
Helping the couple operate the restaurant are the head cook, LaMar-vin Nelson, and manager Karina Kirkwood. Carrie is a waitress and Chad fills in where needed.
“Chad can do some of the cooking, but I don’t cook,” Carrie said. “I can whip up a mean bowl of Fruit Loops.”
The lake restaurant has a complete menu, but one of the house specialties that brings people back is the spicy fish taco.
“I was explaining to a customer last weekend that we had introduced steak on the menu, but he said he had driven a long way for one purpose. That was for the fish taco,” Carrie said.
Being on the lake, the couple can talk the talk. Both have enjoyed the lake with their pontoon boat and Chad has been a tournament fisherman. The name Hookers ’n’ Reelers describes Carrie’s fishing attributes, according to Chad and thus the name.
“She hooks ’em and reels ’em in. I have to bait the hook and cast it,” he said.
They market a woman’s T-shirt that says “I’m a hooker on the weekends” that has sold over 300 so far.
Chad is an Ozawkie native and a 1986 graduate of Jefferson West High School. He has been a mechanic and union millwright and recently took a voluntary layoff as an industrial mechanic with the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Carrie (nee Rogers) is an Oskaloosa native and 1989 gradate of Oskaloosa High School. She was a dental assistant for 20 years and often held waitress jobs during those years.
The couple has two sons, Cole, a 2010 JW graduate now at the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, and Chase, a 2013 JW graduate enrolled at Highland Community College.
The couple has set the restaurant hours at 3 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday.

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