Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm
Peter Schwabe Inc., a design/build construction firm based in Big Bend, recently began a construction project to rebuild the McDonald’s restaurant at 300 N. Moorland Road in Brookfield. The project brings the company full-circle in its decades-long relationship with McDonald’s. Peter Schwabe Inc. built the original Moorland Road store in 1969.
Over the years, the company became one of McDonald’s preferred builders and built or remodeled 800 to 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants around the country.
“We dedicated our business to them,” said Dan Schwabe, Peter Schwabe Inc. president. “We were with them around the clock. (The relationship) just kind of evolved. We just dove in and didn’t know what would happen.”
The relationship began in 1968, when Peter Schwabe Inc. built an addition for a home owned by a McDonald’s franchisee. The franchisee was impressed with the company’s work and put the firm in contact with McDonald’s construction department at its headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.
Peter Schwabe Inc. then submitted a bid for the Moorland Road restaurant and won the contract.
“We got the bid, never knowing there would be anything after it,” Dan Schwabe said.
McDonald’s liked the job that Peter Schwabe Inc. did on Moorland Road and rewarded the firm with additional building projects. The timing was perfect for Schwabe, because McDonald’s was in the middle of a nationwide building boom.
“You have to remember that McDonald’s was very young at the time,” Dan Schwabe said. “They were growing so fast, we would try to expand our business to other areas, but they gave us more work and filled us up.”
Schwabe opened additional offices and some additional businesses in eight locations around the nation so it could build McDonald’s restaurant throughout the country. The company’s work for McDonald’s made up 90 percent of its business during the McDonald’s boom years.
“People used to tell me you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” Schwabe said. “I guess I didn’t listen to them.”
The relationship with McDonald’s has paid off for Schwabe. The company made contacts with several new customers through McDonald’s, and the long running relationship with the massive fast food chain impressed banks.
“I was amazed how beneficial it was that we showed we could maintain a relationship with a large corporation for such a long time,” Schwabe said. “(The banks thought) we must be doing something right if we could have a relationship with them for so long.”
In the late 1980s the McDonald’s building boom came to an end, as the company had covered much of the nation.
As a result, Peter Schwabe Inc. closed its offices and sold its other companies around the country. Today, the company has only one location, its headquarters office in Big Bend. About 55 people work for the firm, which has annual revenue of about $30 million.
McDonald’s is now rebuilding almost all of its restaurants in the U.S. to give them an updated look. The Moorland Road project is one example. The McDonald’s upgrading plan will provide more work for Peter Schwabe Inc., but it will never dominate the company’s business as it did before, Dan Schwabe said.
“We are more diversified now, and we’ll stay that way,” he said.
Peter Schwabe Inc. remains one of the preferred contractors for McDonald’s in the Chicago region, which includes southern Wisconsin. The company built the 50th-anniversary McDonald’s restaurant in 2005, a 24,000-square-foot restaurant that features 60-foot-tall golden arches at Clark and Ohio streets in downtown Chicago. By comparison, an average McDonald’s restaurant is about 4,000 square feet.
Peter Schwabe Inc. also built the corporate hangar for McDonald’s at the Aurora (Ill.) Municipal Airport, a McDonald’s Museum of Science and Industry in Southern California for the 1984 Summer Olympics and the Ronald McDonald House in Wauwatosa.
“We’ve kind of been looked to when there have been special projects that come up through the years,” said Annette Simms, marketing manager for Peter Schwabe Inc.