Monday, September 22, 2014

Mike's Place

I'm sure most all of you know that this past business of me owning a bar was not my first adventure. As I mentioned in a previous post titled "Me" I bought Mike's Place 'On Skid Row' back in June of 2000, and moved across the street to the newly revised name of just simply "Mike's Place." I had each place give or take for 3 years and both places hold tremendous places in my heart (and mind) over the years. During the 6+ years of owning those bar(s) I had some really amazing times, but I also had my share of majorly bad moments.
To start off my new career I was super excited to get my business going at 24 years of age, but I was also unfamiliar with so many aspects of running a business like insurance, taxes, deciding on being a corporation or not, licensing and even payroll. I used whatever resources I could find to help get me started off in the right direction. I was happy with how that began, I mean I had really no schooling or experience on these aspects. In all actuality, the reason I wanted to own a bar was not to sit back and watch, but because I wanted to work when I wanted to, have a lot of fun, and obviously make money!
After only maybe a few weeks of being open I had a couple visitors at my front door, one was an officer who I had gotten to know in high school and had a nice relationship with, and the other was the new chief of police in New Richmond. My friendly officer said that the chief wanted to meet me, it made me feel kind of important, I mean what a great start to my business that I get to meet and shake hands with the new chief of police. Yeah, wrong feeling. As I reach out my hand to shake the chiefs', he ignores my gesture and tells me that he has his eye on me and this bar. Gulp, wtf!?!? Oh...ok, I understand I say. (Jerk) Needless to say that left a poor taste in my mouth, but I went along my business.
At "Skid Row" there were fights, break-ins, proposals and parties. I remember the time this guy came into the bar one night all upset saying he was going to kick all of our asses and asked us all to come outside to fight, well, most of us came outside, and the guy ended up walking up to me and punched me across the face. Hurt like hell, couldn't chew right for weeks. One of the bar regulars came out and basically said pick on someone your own size, so the guy went to his car and he threatened us with a gun, waving it from the car, but it turned out to be a large flashlight, we told him to get lost and he ended up leaving and getting arrested a block away and the cops found a gun in his car trunk anyway. Idiot. I remember theme parties; one where I hope to find the picture, of our mexican night where I was pretending to be passed out in the corner of the bar with my over-sized sombrero and half buttoned shirt while holding a bottle of corona in my hand. Hilarious. 70's Night where the biggest black Norwegian man in Polk County wore his fake afro. Hilarious. Can't forget that dancing on the bar to 'America Pie' became a tradition, as well as going back and forth with the back alley neighbor - The Old Saloon and doing shots on the weekends. I remember getting broke into twice, the first time being the worst - they broke, destroyed, stole anything they could. Alarm system went off but it was too late. It was horrible. I called the cops and they did nothing besides take a report. Nice. The perpetrators obviously used a crow bar trying to get into the foosball table, golden tee machine and dart boards. Lost my ass. Couple friends of mine said they were going to get me a crow bar for Christmas, which was kind of funny. The second time I got broke into wasn't as bad but they broke my damn front door. Pissed me off more so because I had to stop and find friends to fix the door, luckily that were among the same group of friends that were heading to Lambeau for the weekend! Jerks!

So only after being in business a few weeks, there had to be some major changes inside the bar, in particular cleaning, in like major cleaning, installing a security alarm, putting in a stereo system that my friend Don hooked up through the juke box as well as taking down a small partial wall that put a small area of division within the bar. Now I'm not going to bust some people here, but quite possibly some people used that area to hide from wives and some others to hide from customers. Hey, wasn't my place to start with! Not a bad idea but it was taken down anyway. LOL. A couple friends of mine took over some major cleaning chores including literally wiping ceilings and walls to clean off smoke stains; many, many years worth of smoke stain, it was nasty. All of my changes didn't go over so
great with some of the local regulars, but most of the locals were coffee drinking older gentleman that, sorry wasn't going to be my clientele. One, however, became my best customer for 6 years. I
knew him somewhat before, a little from my days at Champ's, but mainly from seeing him at the
Shamrock as we had played some cribbage games for beers before. He would come in nearly every day, usually after work before he retired, and would not allow the younger group of customers that followed me to this bar get too comfortable at his place. He would play the juke box and find the slowest, saddest country music he could find. Of course he knew right where to find the songs because he played them all the time. Sometimes his antics would backfire, because many of us actually liked his music. Who ever was the most stubborn, us or him, it doesn't matter, most of us all started getting along really well and before long so many of us, young and old became friends.
Met many friends at this bar and one of them included and helped me make my decision on moving my bar as he said he would help construct the new place. Thank you Cory. Amazing.
(John) wasn't very excited about me moving to the new location (what was then Cullen Furniture, what is now the Wild Badger) but he came and visited to take a peek at construction of it and I think he livened up a little on it. Some people still to this day didn't agree with my decision about moving out of the old bar, most stating that I had a 'gold mine' at the old place. Don't get me wrong, things were going well at "Skid Row", but that place, from the inside out, was a disaster. The basement was falling apart, the walk in cooler was falling apart, the stairs to the basement was falling apart, the insulation was terrible, and the plumbing was not much better. I could have dumped a ton of cash into rebuilding or fixing the old place up, or I could move and start fresh. As a young man still in my 20's I decided on bigger is better. Overall I am happy with my decision. But like I mentioned earlier, there were some down moments at the newer place but most not involving my decision to move locations.
In this new place there were amazing times as well. We got John his very own bar stool, which was kept at the same place every day. There was the foosball regional tournament that was held at the bar, Sunday Funday's that included frying up chickens among other foods out back for packer games as well as sponsoring several dart teams and softball teams throughout my years there. The best was when my Budweiser distributor hooked the traveling softball team up with Bud Light sponsored gear and gave them donated jersey's and hat's. That was awesome. We had a few bands throughout the years and several other parties. Fun Fest and St. Patty's Days' were amazing being downtown and we had floats involved in most of the parade. Met many more friends as well. My very last fun fest I
decided to close up for the parade becuase it was too stressfull. The cops wanted security at each
door, security within the building, extra bartenders and nobody outside on the front 'porch' and sidewalk. I had asked for an extension and a partial block off of that area with no luck. Interesting now, huh... Anyway.
So, for the record, I don't resent my decisions. While I did end up selling it, while I did get a DUI one night after leaving there, while I did have to sit in on a city council meeting where I had to defend myself and the bar with dozens of so-called complaints filed by another jerk that lived close by, while I subsequently had to hire bouncers and had to install an extra door on the inside of my bar to help 'keep a better eye on customers,' I'm still proud of me decisions. I made many more friends, had many more good times, had a closing bar celebration that I'll always remember and to top it off, if I never would have moved there I would not have my son that I have today. As for John, he passed away. God bless him and his family.
I had several friends die through my years at both places, (JS and RK to name a few) several accidents, marriages, births, joys and tears.  I don't regret selling my bar either. It was my time to do so. I was tired of losing battles and with the dwindling business I was ready to sell while I was still in the positive. If I would have not sold this last bar, I would not have met Sarah and therefore not had my daughter.
Like I said, I didn't really know what I was doing with parts of my business like taxes, insurance, etc and said I'd never open a bar on my own again. But, Sarah did, so our business relationship worked well. She took care of those things that she knew and enjoyed and I did the 'bar' stuff that I knew and enjoyed. Perfect! Well close to that at least..
So, things apparently happen for a reason.
Me getting sick, closing the bar, moving out of our house, living with my parents, neither of us not working, Sarah in school... all must have a purpose. Life is good. Love you all.

Stay strong and live on!


Please feel free to remind me/us of some memories. I know I have plenty of them that I didn't state.
This will be closely monitored so keep them PG-13 hahaha.

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  1. I truly believe every thing happens for a reason. Whether it's a good thing, or a bad thing. There is a reason- because it leads us to where we are today. Good or bad. It's a great way to look at life Mike!

  2. I didn't used to think that way... but the more and more life goes on, I am leaning that way as well. Sarah believes in that for sure. Thank you.

  3. My husband has been a bar owner for 30+ years. He too started young, made mistakes, and learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I guess it goes with the territory. Anyway, best of luck with your new path in life. I'm sure you'll figure it out as you go, just as you have in the past.

  4. Thank you Mike. Brought tears to my eyes remembering those days. All you "kids" meant a lot to him.
    I still have the picture saved of him flipping you off and the last voice mail from him on my phone... "hey jen I'm at Mike's, give me call 246-4566. Thank you bye."

  5. That's awesome Jen. I have that photo framed as well.