Business booms on the Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - It's the first step in a multi-year plan to transform an old warehouse into retail and office space on the banks of the Bay of Green Bay.

In just two months, Jeff Tilkens knows he made the right decision to move his bait shop.

Business has tripled since Smokey's on the Bay relocated to the massive McDonald Lumber Company warehouse at South Bay Marina along Bay Beach Road.

"Better atmosphere out here, we're right next to Metro Launch, more and more fishermen are finding us, people are coming by, they're buying their baits here, it's doing really well," says Tilkens.

It won't be long until Smokey's has a neighbor.

"I can't think of a phase of my life that's been more exciting," says Mark Hawkins.

Hawkins is moving in next door.

His non-profit, Hands On Deck, teaches children and families how to build wooden boats.

"To be able to come into a space like this that just has some beautiful architecture to it and the idea of having windows facing the north light and constructing wooden boats with tools that were made in the 1800's, I think that's about as good of a program you can get with kids," says Hawkins.

Chip McDonald credits the revitalization of his company's warehouse to the ongoing Fox River clean up project.

"None of this happens right, that's absolutely it, the focus on being able to utilize such a wonderful resource makes these things possible," says McDonald.

"Very exciting, I think one of the most important things our community can do is revitalize our waterfronts and get people down to the water to enjoy this wonderful resource," says Julia Noordyk with Wisconsin Sea Grant, one of the organizations involved in pushing for the decade-long clean-up of the river and bay.

"It's such a beautiful area for people to come down and see and to utilize this for retail space instead of an old warehouse space, it's tremendous," adds Tilkens.