ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Chris and Mike Foy
Posted on 05/08/2023
This is the image for the news article titled ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Chris and Mike FoyBY SHEILA HELMBERGER
Read the 2023 Spring Edition of Brainerd Public Schools Magazine in its entirety HERE.

It can be pretty exciting to own one of the most popular dining places in a busy community. When you own three of them, life gets even more exciting.

Chris Foy, and his brother, Mike, own Ernie’s on Gull, Main Street Ale House in Nisswa, and Dough Bros Woodfire Kitchen in Baxter.

Chris graduated from Brainerd High School in 2002 and went on to graduate from Mankato State University. When he got his diploma, he said it was time to start looking for a job. His wife, who he was dating at the time, found one at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center after her graduation, and Chris found himself making a move back to the area he grew up in.

He went to work at Madden’s, where he worked during high school and college breaks, working in guest services and as an assistant manager.

Chris says he was like a lot of people who think about owning their own business someday, but the opportunity to buy Ernie’s kind of fell in their laps.

 “We  really came from an entrepreneurship kind of family,” he says of going into business at a young age. Chris and Mike’s parents, Steve and Julie Foy own S. Thomas & Associates Estate Sales and Design Consign in Brainerd, with their younger brother, Matt.

“I was 27 years old at the time, kind of young to buy a restaurant and bar,” Chris said. But when they heard Ernie’s might be available, the two met with the previous owners and decided to buy it.

“That first day we were just tossed into the mix. I learned quickly how to work in a kitchen on day one. They were probably betting money against us here,” Chris says. “I’d worked in hospitality, but we didn’t have food service experience. We learned on the fly.

“Then came the crazy part,” he laughed. “We’re buying a restaurant and it’s on a lake. Most of its sales come in the summer and it’s August first. We’re heading into the slow time. That winter was interesting,” Chris said. The Foys started to remodel the popular lake spot a little at a time.

Five years ago, the Foys decided to start Main Street Ale House. When an acquaintance was interested in developing a corner spot in Nisswa, he asked the brothers to be a part of it. “He developed it and built the shell, and we were
responsible for the interior and the rest,” he said. They leased it from him for the first two years and two years ago they purchased the bar and grill.

“We don’t rule from the top,” Chris said, of their business style. “We operate alongside of our employees. I like to say they’re the ones on the front lines. They see the customers, and we take a lot of input from them.”

While Chris operates Ernie’s for the most part and Mike is in charge of Main Street, the two make all of the big decisions for their properties together. “We decided to divide and conquer a little bit so we’re not tripping over each other,” he said.

Three years ago, the two decided to branch out even further. Mike was friends with the former owner of Boomer’s Pizza and when he wanted to sell, they decided to purchase it, too, and rebrand the pizza place. They knew right away what they wanted to call it. On a trip to Ireland with their wives a few years previous, Chris says they ate at pizza place called Dough Bros. “We met the owners and told them we liked the name. When we decided to buy Boomer’s we knew that’s what we should call it.”

“Oh, we’re always looking for opportunities,” says Chris of the possibility of expanding even further. “If we find something that fits what we do, and what we know how to do, never say never.”

Mike, who graduated from BHS in 1998 lived in the Twin Cities and managed a food service company for 20 years before moving back to Brainerd four years ago. Chris says they enjoy living back in their hometown area.

“This community has obviously been great to us. We like to give back as much as we can,” Chris said.

As part of Gull Lake Promotions, a group made up of business owners on Gull Lake that work together to raise money for the community, they host annual Oktoberfest events and the Gull Lake Frozen Fore and the Frozen Flop, similar similar to the Polar Plunge. Proceeds are donated to Camp Confidence and the Outreach Program of Brainerd Lakes.

The Foys also donate to the Brainerd Public Schools Foundation, various fundraisers for the schools and Fishing Has No Boundaries. Chris and his wife, Anne Marie, have two children, Ashlyn and Connor. Mike and Miranda are parents to middle schoolers Brenna and Blake. Chris says it is “kind of cool” to see their children go to the same school where he and his brother did.

“This is a great place to raise a family,” says Chris of the Brainerd lakes area. “There’s a reason people save up all year to spend one week here. Sometimes we lose sight of that, but I don’t know anywhere else I’d rather be.”

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