2017-02-16 / Local News

Walravens bid goodbye to Tucker’s; grandkids behind move to Carolina

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


BEN AND KATHY Walraven are finalizing the sale of their restaurant and entertainment center, Tucker’s of Northport, before they move to North Carolina to be closer to their children and grandchildren. BEN AND KATHY Walraven are finalizing the sale of their restaurant and entertainment center, Tucker’s of Northport, before they move to North Carolina to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Ben and Kathy Walraven posed for a final photo this week in front of the fireplace at their restaurant and bowling alley in Northport.

It is the same spot where a similar photo was taken nearly three years ago when the restaurant opened, though one thing is missing. Tucker, the dog for whom the place was named, died in November.

The Walravens are in the process of completing the sale of Tucker’s of Northport and getting ready to move to North Carolina, where their three sons live.

“We really love Northport and we love being involved in the community,” Walraven said. “But we’ve got nine grandkids and three sons who live within 20 minutes of each other in North Carolina. It’s important to us to be around our family.”

Ben Walraven declined to say who the buyer is, as sale documents have not yet been signed and the liquor license is not yet transferred to the new owner.

Ben will also leave a vacancy on the Northport Planning Commission, where there is one year left on the seat he held.

The Walravens, who plan to move in March, don’t yet know whether they’ll sell their Northport home. But their ninth grandchild is due the first week in April.

“We want to make sure we watch the kids grow up,” Ben said.

“What’s amazing is that they actually want us there,” Kathy added.

The Walravens opened Tucker’s in May 2014. The 12,200-square foot family entertainment center cost $1.5 million to build and has indoor and outdoor dining areas, a half-dozen bowling lanes, a game area and a dance floor.

The building is owned by Lanes End LLC, which consists of a group of several partners, including the Walravens and Bill and Nina Collins. The Walravens will remain partners in that company. Ben said Tucker’s was only on the market for two weeks before an offer came in, though he’s been talking to people about selling since summer.

After buying a home in Northport in 2003 and visiting from Chicago, the Walravens moved to the Village permanently in 2009 after Ben’s retirement as worldwide sales director of a global flower seed company. Kathy has owned antique and decorating businesses and worked for a landscaping business.

Ben said he’s encouraged by the growth Northport has had in the last few years, with several projects coming to fruition within a space of about three year’s time — the sewer, the golf course, the brewery and, of course, Tucker’s.

“That gave the feeling that there was some momentum coming back to Northport,” Ben said. “It’s turned out quite nicely. They still have a lot to do, but people are optimistic now.”

He said he’s often heard from people how much they appreciate that he opened Tucker’s.

The new owner plans to keep the Tucker’s name, but in a different form. “Tucker’s Bistro” is being considered.

Kathy said there is a community spirit in Northport that she’ll miss.

“To me Northport has a sense of community that other areas don’t seem to have,” Kathy said. “Tucker’s has brought into our lives just this amazing group of people. It’s been an amazing adventure.”

She also feels privileged to have lived in the area.

“It’s clean, it’s blue, it’s lovely and people are wonderful,” she said.

And while the restaurant’s furry namesake may be gone, his spirit lives on in the pawprints that are permanently embedded in the cement walkway leading to Tucker’s front door.

“We’ve had such a great time here,” Kathy said.

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