From the Bar: 07/21/13
It’s been a long time since we’ve had an update here, and part of the reason is because of the Boat House, Ed’s new business venture (which I must wholeheartedly recommend, even though I have no personal investment in the place). Because of this, Ed has asked me (Brandon) to step in as his manager. In addition, you may have all noticed a few new faces behind the bar. Andrew and Paul have both left after several years of service and will be missed, but we’ve found great replacements for both of them. Ian comes to us with nearly a decade of experience running and tending at a bar in Washington, and although Jonathan has no bartending experience, he’s quickly proving to be a wonderful fit in the Ed’s family. In addition to changes behind the bar, the incredibly talented and knowledgeable Dave Sanders has recently started hosting “Beer School” on the first Tuesday of the month; Beer School is a new take on our Beer Club which will also involve food pairings, so be sure to check it out!
With that said, our 6th Annual Wilkie Days is coming to a close. The last few nights have featured Charlie Parr, Dave Arcari, The 4ontheFloor, Apollo Cobra, and plenty of other incredible local and regional acts. Tonight features Mike Munson, a duo from Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Tanner Brethorst, and the traditional smashing of the Wilkie pinata on our back patio.
Now, the main reason for this post is giving thanks where they’re due:
First off, I’d like to thank Ed who used this weekend to prove that despite his overwhelming workload at the Boat House, he has not been neglecting us.
Every single bartender here is completely exhausted, but they managed to push through – and with very few complaints at that!
Jim Trouten, who once again busted his ass all week running sound for us. Seriously, Jim has put in as many hours here as the rest of us.
Aaron from Schott Distributing and Todd from Odell Brewing. Both guys hooked us up with the back bar and plenty of goodies, plus they volunteered their time to man the beer tent outside on Thursday and Friday nights.
Sarah Johnson (aka Ladykopp) for building this year’s Wilkie pinata, not to mention her wonderful artwork in the women’s restroom. (Men, don’t worry – there’s already talk about additional art for ours!)
Adam Wiltgen from MWMF. Adam organized the events on Wednesday night and also helped us considerably with advertising and the logistics of the weekend.
All of the amazing acts who played this week. You endured the miserable heat and put on some of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
Mostly, we couldn’t have done this without you: our tremendous and loyal customers who have done your part not just this weekend, but for the last six years, to make this bar a wonderful success. You’ve proven that you love us, and frankly we love you too!
Be sure to check out tonight’s acts and take a swing at the Wilkie!
Cheers! -Brandon, Ed, Aliza, Maggie, Sarah, Ian, and Jonathan
From the Bar: 03/10/13
I went to the bar tired last night. Having it well staffed, I thought I would drop something off for the bartenders and head back to the homestead for a little catch up on sleep. However, when I walked through the door and heard the buttery smoothness of Manfort (feat. Ladykopp) coming from the stage, and then saw my old friends up there playing and smiling and singing, I had no choice but to pour myself a beer and settle in for a bit. I stopped and talked to Jim on the sound board, Steve showed off his new duds, Cole was sleeping on the ceiling, Pat was schmoozing at his art opening, Rich was in town with his band, and familiar friendly faces were in view in all directions.
This was one of the moments when I realize that I love my job and that the bar is Good.
Yes, we have amazingly talented acts that travel from all over the region to play here. Many of these folks have become my friends as well and have captured the admiration of our customers. However, there is a happiness and a pride that swells in me when I see our hometown folks doing their thing so well and having such a great time doing it. I don’t know if the bar has become what I necessarily envisioned it to be when I opened the doors 6 years ago, but it certainly has evolved into something better and more important than anything I could’ve dreamed up alone. And as I’ve watched this evolution I understood that the best thing for me to do was to open the door, sit back and facilitate and support local artists of all sorts. Let them loose. Put trust in our talented people.
We have a great line up of festivals and events throughout the year in Winona, and we bring in lots of great artists from all around, but our local artists are the blood in the beast. They live here, work here, are our friends and neighbors, we can see them throughout the year in various venues town. They deserve all the support we can muster up. They make our town unique and vibrant.
Take Mike Munson for example. From the first time I heard him play blues guitar, I knew I wanted to give him every opportunity I could to play at the pub. I had never attempted to book a weekly artist before, but soon Mike was playing every Sunday evening. The only complaint I ever have about his sets is that they come to an end. Mike (the man and the musician) exudes quality.
And then there’s Jim Trouten. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Jim is the most clutch player in the Winona arts world. He sits behind the scene and runs flawless sound and lights all over town. He teaches kids how to play music. When he gets on stage, his shows are pitch perfect and engaging. He’s a member of the Winona Fine Arts Commission, helping to advocate for artists get them grants. When you see Jim, buy him a beer and say thanks. The guy is a stalwart member of our arts community.
Winona has been fortunate to be home base to: Robert Armstrong. Jake Ilika. Mudcat, Pat, Bruce and the open mic crew. XArt. My Private Eye. Beet Root Stew. WSU Jazz. The Ultrasounds. Riflebird. Jaybone Bell and Restless Light. Wake Up Bedhead. Boats Vs. Manatees. Thumbelina and The Tangerine Fists of Justice. Moondawg. Deep Sea Summit. Oktober. The Bus Boys. The Beef Slough Boys. Dan and Dusty. Northwoods Band. Schwa. WEDGE. Paco. Fat Rudy. Funk Stew. Fast Annie. North Country Band. Etc. Etc. Etc. There have been more great local acts than I can remember that have taken the stage at the bar over the years, and beyond that, the bar is only small component of a long and rich tradition of Winona’s live music and arts culture, which is always bulging at the seams. Honestly, it is a huge reason why I’ve moved back here, not once but twice. It is a big part of why I make Winona my home.
As many of you probably already know. The bar’s remodel is for the most part finished and we have had the new room open for a few weeks. Come on down to check it out. We can certainly use all the support we can get after this huge and expensive project.
We have been getting some stellar beers in as of late. It’s amazing that when I opened the bar, my choice of IPAs to pour on draught was about 3. Now there are dozens. Last night, I couldn’t decide what to pour for myself, it was all so good: Victory Headwaters Pale, Surly Cynic, Summit Saga, Summit Maibock, Deschutes Obsidian Stout, Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, New Belgium Fat Tire. We’ll also be tapping a Lucid IPA, Odell’s very rare Schott Through the Heart, Pyramid Apricot Ale, New Belgium’s Hoppy Bock and more in the upcoming weeks. (I’m also trying to lock down a firkin of Saga… shhhh…)
Although this post was about local artists, I can’t help but show some love to all the people who have come through recently and are coming through in the next few weeks. 4 on the Floor, Rogue Valley, North Country Bandits, Circle of Heat, Head for the Hills, Good Night Gold Dust, The Farewell Circuit, it was great to see you all. Prissy Clerks, Gospel Gossip, Porcupine, Greg Hall and the Neil Young folks, Tom Robinson, The Sex Rays, we look forward to your visit!
From the Bar: 01/2/13
Good morning, New Year.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a new post for the website. This seemed as good a time as any.
I’ve been keeping myself pretty darn busy over the past few months.
Here’s a little taste of what’s going on…
About a month ago, I decided to move forward on an expansion project. We will be adding roughly 650 square feet to the pub by expanding into the mystery room that lays behind the big white wall in the lounge. We’ll also be putting in a 10 ft doorway between our main room and the new room, making it easier for folks to enjoy the entertainment from the sidelines and to release some people pressure from the bar.
It’s an exciting time, filled with many roadblocks, unexpected expenses, and of course, lots of work, but I am confident that it will add a lot to the joint and that folks will appreciate a little more room on the busy nights. I certainly appreciate all those who have offered their help. When we get to a point where we may need it, I’ll be posting requests for volunteers on our Facebook page, so stay tuned in there.
From this project, my new partners and I will be diving into the new restaurant project at the levee cafe spot. This is another very exciting project, and I’m embarking on the journey with Tom Fassbender (Red Tail, Boats and Blue Grass) and Lyon Smith (Smith Studios). We are expecting to be open by mid-April. Our menu, at this point, will be decided upon based on our kitchen remodel and what equipment we put in. Again, a lot of folks have offered to help. We totally appreciate it, and will let you know when we need volunteers. We’re planning a Kickstarter campaign to raise some funds to make the spot the best it can be, so stay tuned for that as well. Hopefully we can add some excitement to Winona’s riverfront with this venture.
Now, none of this is possible without the support of our patrons and customers. It is so exciting to see so many new businesses opening in downtown Winona. It seems to me, that the years and years of hard work by so many folks and organizations in the community are paying off. We, perhaps for the first time in my time here, are seeing an array of great local businesses offering different goods and services. People are noticing Winona from all around the region and the State. Dibs, Manitou Martial Arts Center, Mr. Groovy’s, Some Sum Studios, The Computer Dock, Nostaljia, Chapter 2, Broken World Records, Third Eye Tattoo, Cha Chis, Sole Sport are all great additions to the places we’ve grown to know and love, like The Blue Heron, Bub’s, The Bookshelf, The Acoustic Cafe, Blooming Grounds, etc. I know that what I say next may sound cliche, but these places exist because people choose to spend a little of their dough there. I hope that ‘to spend money locally’ is included in all of our lists of new year resolutions. All of these businesses choose to be downtown, we are all committed to improving the geographic core of our community, and with support, we will continue to grow and prosper, more places will open, more folks will come, more events will occur, and eventually downtown Winona will become the place that we all have been wishing for, working for and visualizing for many, many years. It is possible, but it all begins with financial support from our community.
And for that support, I want to thank all of you who stopped by Ed’s in the past year. I feel so fortunate that we are entering our sixth year of business. It’s truly amazing to me. When I first opened, I was so consumed by the thoughts and tasks of how a business runs, that I never had time to think of failure or success (or even a name!). When things settled down a bit, realities set in. I spent a year without a home, sleeping in the storeroom of the bar in the winter and a houseboat in the summer so that I could save the money needed to keep the business open. For most of the first year, I worked 7 days a week, 10-15 hours a day, but slowly we were able to add new bartenders. First Aliza, then Ava, then Justin, then Andrew, then Becca, then Dustin, then Paul, then Jenna, then Brandon, then Maggie, then Sarah. All have brought different strengths to the place and all have helped me keep my head on straight when I felt overwhelmed and under-rested. Thank your bartender the next time you stop in. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Lastly, I want to say a few words about our New Years Eve party itself. To me the day was a perfect example of how great the community is that surrounds Ed’s. I was beat down and broken by the time I started cleaning up to open for the day. I spent the morning dealing with roadblocks to the remodeling project, the afternoon in front of a computer to get some end of year bookwork done, recognizing that I may be in over my head.
I had no idea how I was going to get the place ready for one of the biggest parties of the year. However, within minutes of arriving, our ‘community’ started showing up. First Dawn, to let me know that things were going to be ok. She watched the bar while I ran some errands I had forgotten about. Mike and Jason then came by to join Dawn in the decorating and cleaning of the place. Rick and Jack (two folks I would consider invaluable mentors and friends) then wandered in to look at my project, offer suggestions, and remind me that its all worth it. The bands came in to set up, and Jim, acting on a suggestion I had made the night before had Jamie bring in some colored lights to turn what was an ugly wall covered in plastic to block the view of the work zone into an awesome light installation that was one of the most talked about things of the night. The folks in the bands, and the sound guy, Rob, were all total professionals, taking care of the entertainment aspect of the evening so I didn’t even have to think about it. And then my employees, Sarah and Brandon, came in to handle the bartending so I could watch the door. What most folks might not know about this, is that I, forgetting that NYE was on a Monday, forgot to schedule anyone to work! Sarah and Brandon recognized this and made a schedule for themselves without any goading from me. Becca, as always, was a huge help, dealing with more decorations, making me lists of things that needed to be done and picked up, and helping out as needed when the party finally started. Finally, as I calmed down and settled into the celebration, I was able to look around, see so many smiling faces, see my old friends rockin out on stage at the height of their musical prowess for 100 dancing and cheering revelers, see our bartenders hustling on a holiday night that they weren’t even scheduled to work on, see customers helping out by buying drinks and busing dishes, and I realized that this little bar is a truly special place. I have so many folks that believe in what we do here and they have my back and save my ass time and time again. It’s amazing. I am thankful, I am humbled, I am at your service.
Happy New Year.