Local business leader Al Moehr has died
It is with a heavy heart to pass along the news Al Moehr, long-time owner of Toucan Custard has died. Moehr owned the business with his wife Debby since around 1992 when he bought it from his brother Dennis. “Dennis owned it in 1989 and he bought it from us,” said Larry Porter.
Porter said when he and his wife Chris started the business with Bob Sivilotti that lot on Main Street was nothing but a vacant lot. “We opened it in 1985 and called it Toucan,” Porter said. “The name just sounded like the antithesis of what you’d expect for a tropical frozen custard joint.”
Porter recalled how they named the sundaes for tropical birds. “The turtle sundae was named a hawksbill because that’s a tropical sea turtle and the raspberry sundae was a kookaburra because that’s the one that was always giving you the raspberries.”
Porter had high praise for Moehr, his energy and commitment to the community. “If you didn’t know Al he was one of the most dynamic people I ever met in my life,” Porter said. “He had so much energy and vim and vigor and I met him in Kiwanis Early Risers and whenever there was something to be done Al would do it. He was just a dynamo and a wonderful guy.”
A strong Republican in West Bend, Moehr was foremost a supporter of the community. “He was a major backer of mine and every time I ran for office he’d put my banner out front on the railing,” said card carrying Democrat Tom O’Meara III.
“He was a dear, dear fellow even though we were almost opposite ends of the political spectrum,” said O’Meara. “He was beyond a Tea Partier; we respected each other, liked each other, never got angry even when talking politics.”
Glenn Peterson remembered Moehr as a frequent customer. “When I owned that tiny Glenn’s Grill on N. Main Street Al was always a customer, especially when he worked for the telephone company,” Peterson said. “Al was a small guy, thin and very, very nice.”
Reflecting on the history of Toucan, Peterson said the location was previously a car lot. “Harry Schremmer bought the Boltz Cadillac and Pontiac, where the vet clinic is now. He bought that car dealership from Lauri Boltz and he parked his cars over there where Toucan is now.
Prior to that Peterson remembered a house on the property. “I think the Troedels lived there,” he said.
Bob Bonenfant knew Moehr for a long time. “He was really a local guy and very political but he loved his business,” he said. “His kids were raised in that business and now they’re working in there.”
Moehr is also being remembered as a strong family man. “He just really cared about the kids,” O’Meara said. “He was willing to take ‘bad kids’ in and teach them some business sense.”
Take a look at the interior of Toucans and you’ll see Moehr’s commitment to the Kiwanis Early Risers and its annual Fourth of July Duck Derby. “He always one of the biggest sellers of ducks for the derby,” said O’Meara.
Bonenfant agreed. “He was one of the big promoters of the Duck Derby and you could buy your ducks from there,” he said.
“He was just a super nice guy,” said Peggy Fischer, owner Shooting Star Travel. “He was really fun and he was really involved in the community.”
Randy Koehler makes decision about running for WB Dist. 4 alderman
Randy Koehler has made it official; he will not be running for Dist. 4 alderman in West Bend.
Koehler issued this statement: “After much discussion and thought I will not be filing papers for District 4 Alderman. Being a realist in a volatile political world does not serve my best interests. This city likes status quo, not someone who challenges the system and expresses opinions. Therefore I will continue challenging both the social and political leaders of this community from outside of the establishment.”
WBHS senior accepted to Harvard
West Bend East High School senior Emmanuel Garrison-Hooks has been accepted into Harvard University. “I’ll be part of the class of 2021,” he said humbly.
Garrison-Hooks filled out the application for Harvard in October. The results arrived Tuesday, Dec. 13. “I rushed home from wrestling practice and I waited until my parents got home,” he said. “It was 6:15 p.m. and we all opened the letter at that time.”
While Garrison-Hooks refers to the notice as “a letter” he said it was actually “an update online on my Harvard application status portal.”
He said he held the cursor over the “view” button for a while before finally clicking the update. “I was nervous,” he said. “I was scared.”
“I was comfortable with whatever result I was going to get because I absolutely put my soul into my application,” he said of his supplemental essay.
Garrison-Hooks wrote about himself. “It was about how I viewed the world; it was very introspective,” he said.
The application to Harvard University is the only one Garrison-Hooks submitted.
For all his trepidation the 18-year-old is a confident yet quiet-spoken young man. During an interview this week in the Silver Lining Arts Center, Garrison-Hooks sat in a chair, his light brown Allen Edmond shoe perched on the opposite knee and he smoothed the leg of his pants in nervous strokes while he spoke.
For the past four years Garrison-Hooks has been a student at West Bend East; prior to that he was at St. Peter Emmanuel on the north side of Milwaukee and Morgandale School on the south side of Milwaukee
During his final year of high school, Garrison-Hooks is doing anything but coasting. “I have AP-physics, AP-literature, AP-U.S. History, French 5, and AP calculus,” he said.
With an eye on majoring in neuroscience and a career in the medical field, Garrison-Hooks said his current off-hours reading is designed to push him ahead of his peers. “I’m reading two books right now; one on neuroplasticity and one on development of the mind over time,” he said.
A part of the East Sun’s wrestling team Garrison-Hooks said he’s able to balance his academics and athletics on little sleep. “Lots of late nights, but doing both has really taught me how to allocate my time,” he said.
A self-described “serious student,” Garrison-Hooks said he worked extremely hard to get to where he is today. “I basically killed myself to get here,” he said.
Garrison-Hooks expects to graduate with honors. His next step will be to get to Boston. “I haven’t even visited the campus,” he said. “That’s already scheduled for April 22 – 24 and I cannot wait. The level of excellence there is going to be other-worldly and I’m going to love it.”
Renovations proposed for West Bend Theatre
During Monday night’s West Bend Common Council meeting an update about the downtown Business Improvement District and its timeline on removing or refurbishing the pedestrian bridge morphed into a proposal about the future of the West Bend Theatre.
David Stroik, president and CEO of Zimmerman Architectural Studios made the presentation. He outlined saving the façade of the theatre along with the iconic marquee and turning the rest into an open-air park.
“It’s not like a Western storefront but the façade of the building and the easterly 12 – 15 feet would be saved,” he said. Drawings showed the front of the theatre building intact with trees and green space visible through the door frames.
Stroik said the 3-story brick façade, which previously housed the projection room, would help maintain the structural viability of the building; he said that space could eventually hold restrooms and storage.
Painting a picture of the proposed design, Stroik walked through the theatre doors onto a natural grade of a terraced park with a vision of the Milwaukee River and the Museum of Wisconsin Art.
“That area could be used for anything,” said Stroik. “We would preserve the essential part of Main Street without leaving the space a missing tooth; keep the façade, keep the sign and encourage a performance venue and theatre activity in hopes a time would come when something could be built or it could stay like that in perpetuity.”
“The beauty of it at this point is it’s not a facility that needs bookings to make a go of it,” said Claire Rolfs, one of the people involved in the project. “It can just be a park.”
Rolfs said her involvement comes from her passion for the community. “I was born and raised in West Bend, I love the community and I view this as an opportunity to do something positive,” she said.
Stroik outlined the simplicity of an open-air concept compared to spending millions to renovate the existing theatre. “The difficulty that most of the theatre spaces have is the tremendous amount of effort it takes to keep bookings and to keep the venue active,” he said. “Most in small communities struggle.”
Stroik was clear “this is simply an idea at this point.” Financing for the project has yet to be secured. Rolfs said they’ve been working with George and Matt Prescott since September.
“They’re well aware of it and supportive,” she said. “Matt would like to see something positive done with the theatre and right now he’s not married to any specific plan.”
Questioned whether the building is structurally sound, Stroik said rarely is an old building flawed in its structure. “It’s the other systems that fail including the mechanical system, plumbing, electrical and the roof,” he said. “Plus what you’re going to do in the future with the seating, flyways, dressing rooms, and staging will be different, so the structure is a minor component.”
There have been other unsubstantiated plans for the buildings that also, apparently, do not restore the theatre to its original structure.
Mike Husar, president of the BID Board and owner of the building next door to the theatre, said the “most critical part of the building is the front of the building and the sign.”
“Are you in love with the sign or in love with the theatre,” he said. “With the way the building is right now the cost to fully restore it is potentially $5 million verses let’s save the part that is iconic to West Bend which is the façade and the sign and make it functional at a reasonable cost.
“We’re not saddling the rest of the community to keep it operational and if there ever comes a point a group raises enough money to put three more walls and a roof on, then so be it,” he said.
As far as the pedestrian bridge is concerned, the proposed plan is to remove the bridge, cut down the footings and replace it with a bank-to-bank bridge, similar to the MOWA bridge to the north.
The future park space, titled Performance Park, would eventually be donated to the city of West Bend. The current construction estimate for the park and the bridge is about $400,000, according to Stroik.
Husar made clear “the BID cannot own property” and the BID will have nothing to do with the purchase of the building. The BID, however, is on the hook for $75,000 to remove or repair the bridge by Jan. 31, 2017. The mayor said an extension will not be granted.
On a history note: Matt Prescott and his business partner Erik Nordeen with Ascendant Holdings, purchased the building, 125 N. Main St., in May 2012 for $100,000.
The 2016 assessment for the property is $100,000, with taxes at $1,883.64 and $300 for the Bid Assessment.
Matt Prescott talks WB Theatre proposal
The downtown West Bend Theatre is a hot topic as a proposal was presented at Monday’s Common Council meeting to keep the façade and marquee of the theatre, raze the eastern portion of the building and turn it into an open-air park.
Matt Prescott owns the theatre. He purchased it with business partner Eric Nordeen in May 2012 for $100,000.
When Prescott purchased the building 4 years ago he said, “Nothing like a decrepit old building to get you going,” he laughed. In 2012 Prescott said, “I see the theater as an asset to the downtown. I just wanted to take a chance, control an important part of downtown and see what we can do to make it better.”
Prescott made clear he will keep the West Bend marquee but he does not intend to restore the theater to its historic status. Instead, he simply wants to demo the newer additions inside, hollow it out and get it back to the configuration of the old theater. “I want to stabilize it, get the roof back in shape and clean it up – so we know what we’re sitting on and see what uses people might come up with,” he said.
During a conversation Monday night, Prescott reiterated his initial thought. “Plans for the building remain same as it always has,” said Prescott. “Hopefully find the group that has the next life figured out for the building and sell it to them.”
“It was always the plan to stabilize the building, do some selective demo and then hand it off,” he said. “That still remains the plan.” Briefed on the plan presented Monday by Mike Husar, Claire Rolfs and David Stroik, Prescott qualified it as “definitely interesting.”
“It’s something I could get behind,” said Prescott. “I’m not trying to make a giant moral decision on my end as far as whether the building stays or goes. It did surprise me a bit but the plan has grown on me since they first bounced it off me and it’s an interesting asset for downtown.”
Prescott made clear he has no specific agreement to sell the theatre. “I have said I would be cooperative as they pull their plans together and they may make an offer or they may not but I haven’t done anything beyond having them keep me informed,” Prescott said.
Another proposal to refurbish the theatre is being floated. Prescott said he’s aware of it.
“The two plans are quite a bit different, and tearing the building down or not… that’s something I never planned to get caught between,” he said. “But it’s not surprising to have different ideas.”
Prescott and Ascendant Holdings own several properties in West Bend including the Baird building, 111 N. Main St., Le’s Bridal & Alterations, 262 N. Main St., and Portrait’s Today, 105 N. Main St.
The theatre has been a “unique asset” according to Prescott. “Getting a viable theatre plan in place is no easy thing,” he said. “It’s taken a while and a little longer than I hoped to be waiting to see what it’s next life will be.”
Prescott said he’s very happy with the theatre. “It’s stable, it’s in good shape and people are very interested in it,” he said. “Whether something happens now, three months from now, six months or a year from now – it is what it is. I’m just looking to have something good happen for downtown.”
Questioned whether he is looking to profit from the sale of the building, Prescott laughed. “No, not looking to profit I don’t think there’s any chance that could happen,” he said. “Not with the money we have in it. I’m not looking to pass it off for free but I’m looking to move it over at a very reasonable price to start its next phase in the world.”
Naming Freedom Way in West Bend
The West Bend Common Council voted unanimously in favor of a request this week to add a unique street name for the new headquarters for Delta Defense. The company owned by Tim Schmidt is building a new 64,000-square-foot facility between Corporate Center Drive and State Highway 45.
Delta Defense requested the driveway extending east of Corporate Center Drive become “1000 Freedom Way.” Although the request isn’t standard addressing practice for the city, it has approved similar requests in the past for a corporate campus or commercial development. The council voted to give its full approval.
On a history note: Can you name other roads in the city named after businesses or developments?
One Gehl Way – named for the Gehl Company but now it’s the Manitou Group. Metalcraft Road – named for Metalcraft of Mayville and its plant off Progress Drive. Was Silverbrook named for the school or the school named for the road?
Heather Bruss – Chopper Drive, where the National Guard armory is. It’s an aviation unit, helicopters to be specific.
Jeffrey Kenkel – Valley Avenue, named after the now gone Valley Bank. Randall Koehler – I think Valley Avenue was there before the bank. Kenkel They both opened at about the same time. Not sure who the developer of the road and adjoining lots was, but they probably had a pre-sale arrangement with the bank.
Richard Bechler – University Ave
Randall Koehler – Rolf’s Road, Cedar Ridge Drive, Stockhausen Lane.
Jeffrey Kenkel Continental Drive, named after the developer of the West Bend Corporate Center.
Shannon Lynn – Johnson Street for Johnson Bus
Updates & tidbits
– A mighty respectable moment this week at Holy Angels School as Peter James German Jr. received his Eagle Scout Award. German received a pair of certificates including a signed certificate with a gold seal from state Senators and a plaque from County Board Chairman Rick Gundrum and County Clerk Brenda Jaszewski.
– Town of West Bend chairman Paul Rice turned in his non-candidacy papers this week. Rice said 20 years is enough. “I gave the papers to Town Clerk Rebecca Schuster and told her to hang onto it just in case I changed my mind.” Rice signed the paperwork a couple weeks ago. “A lot of my ideas have gotten tired and worn out and it’s time for new blood,” said Rice.
– A joint meeting is set for Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 7 a.m. in the Ziegler Building at the Washington County Fairgrounds where details will be presented regarding the Highway 60 Reliever Route 30 percent engineering study. The meeting will be strictly between the Executive Committee and the Public Works Committee. No public comment will be taken at that time.
– There was cake for Bert Neuburg this week as he retired following a 38-year career in the Washington County Park System.
– The Allenton Volunteer Fire Department received a commendation from the Washington Co. Board this week for the positive outcome following a fire call at Allenton Elementary School on Oct. 19. The incident was a false alarm but the department handled the call and safely evacuated 400 students.
– The new Pizza Hut sign is in place at its new location, 1460 S. Main St., in the Paradise Pavilion. The store is just north of Regis Hairstylists.
-The West Bend Police Department recently recognized School District Crossing Guard Barbara Krell for 25 years of dedicated service.
– The United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) is celebrating its 50th Anniversary Campaign in 2017 and this week UPAF was at the West Bend High Schools filming a video that will be used as its 50th Anniversary Campaign.
– Anna Jaeger, 74, of West Bend, passed away on Monday, December 19, 2016. Jaeger worked as a waitress at Dick’s Pizzeria in West Bend for over 25 years.
– A check presentation this week as proceeds from the 2nd annual Diamond Dash were turned over to Lori Yahr and Enchantment in the Park. This year the Diamond Dash raised $7,629.29.
-Energy assistance is available to families in Washington County who need help with winter heating bills. Kay Lucas oversees the Energy Assistance Program with Washington County Human Services Department. For more information contact Lucas at 262-335-4677.
– Natalie Dorrler is the winner of coming up with a new slogan for the Washington County Planning and Parks Department. “Your Washington County. Your Parks.” Dorrler won 18 holes of weekday golf for 2 at the Washington County Golf Course.
Clara Moll turns 106 years old
Clara Moll is a pip! On Sunday, Dec. 18 the life-long Barton gal turned 106 years old. She celebrated with family and friends. Pizza, her favorite, was the supper of choice. We prayed and passed a plate.
Clara reminisced; prompted by her daughter Mary. “Remember in 1976 when you took advantage of the Greyhound Bus offer… 99 days for $99?” Clara traveled the U.S. and saw all her relatives. “Don’t get married,” she advised. “Travel.”
Meantime the group at the party tried to recollect where the Greyhound stops were in West Bend; the consensus was on S. Main Street in front of the Centrum building and outside George Webbs in the West Bend Plaza. Clara touted “exercise” as the secret to longevity. She wore out roller skates and proclaimed she would “rather dance than eat.”
“Wiggle your feet when you’re sitting in a chair,” she said. At 106 Clara said she feels fine. “I can read without glasses if it has to be,” she said. “But my hearing is going.”
A single-layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is placed on the table. Three separate candles that count out 1 – 0 – 6 stand mighty on top of the chocolate frosting. “Believe it or not that number 6 was a 5 last year,” said Mary. A little wax melting helped morph it.
A rendition of Happy Birthday …. “and many more” filled the warm kitchen of the old farmhouse on Salisbury Road in Barton.
Lithia Christmas brew
In 1940, postcards were sent to neighbors around West Bend announcing, “On Wednesday, December 11, 1940, The Famous Lithia Xmas Brew will be ready for distribution. Best ever — try it — you will like it.”
Different labels were designed for the seasonal beer. One paper label featured a green wreath with holly berries and red bow. Inside the wreath was the familiar Lithia logo, underlined by the words “Christmas Beer” in thick German script.
Other designs featured the words “Holiday Brew” above a profile of Santa, who was bordered by pine branches. There was the red label special dark Christmas beer and the well known Xmas label with six bearded elves each working to stoke the fire under the vat of beer, or pour hops, stir the mix, tap a pint and test the product.
Lithia’s Christmas beer was available nearly all year long. You could only buy Christmas beer in bottles and you needed an opener to get the cap off. The beer didn’t come in cans and it wasn’t on tap. Lithia’s Christmas beer was sold by the case at liquor stores and at taverns within the West Bend area. Berres Liquor Mart, Triangle Beverage Mart, The Oasis bar (by Gehl Company); Pat’s Tavern (owned by Pat Pault), Kuhn’s Liquor, Palashes Liquor and Janz Liquormart in Barton were just some of the local distributors.