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0920, 20 Jan 18

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

US Cellular to expand next to Hankersons in West Bend

 Melissa Nurkala, owner of Studio 33, took the news in stride as she received word from the owner of the strip mall on Highway 33 that she’d have to give up her spot because the tenant next door, Connect Cell, would be expanding.

“In the beginning I was heartbroken,” she said. “I cried two days straight. Mostly because of the unknown and thinking where do I go in the middle of winter and right before Christmas. There was no money set aside and I just had been through a big remodel and the hardest thing was wondering if I’d lose my clients or if they’d come with me.”

Nurkala, 46, said she had a hunch a change was in the works. “Keith Hankerson, the owner of the building, approached me about three years ago and asked me how things were going,” she said. “I told him I was doing well and planned on staying.”

Hankerson then informed her US Cellular wanted her spot. “I told them no and he said he was behind me,” she said.

Two months ago there was a similar conversation and Connect Cell /US Cellular was starting to explore its options. On Black Friday, Nov. 24 she got the news and agreed Hankerson would be foolish to not embrace an expansion of the phone store. “I understand this was a business decision,” she said.

It was May 2003, about 15 years ago, when Studio 33 first opened next to Hankerson’s Bakery. Nurkala brings out a framed photo of the ribbon cutting and the first dollar she earned.

The business was an open-concept chair-rental salon. “When I first got here Ponderosa was across the street and I replaced an internet store in this spot,” said Nurkala, wracking her brain for the name of the business.

When Studio 33 first opened perms were big. “The young generation doesn’t do perms anymore. You see a lot more bold and bright color,” she said. “They’re replacing volume with color and bangs are coming back.”

Nurkala started in the business as a manager at Great Clips, the chain salon, when it was located by the former Pier One across from the Walmart on Paradise Drive. “Then I spent six years at Cost Cutters and a lot of the original girls that started here worked with me at Cost Cutters,” she said.

In an odd twist, as Connect Cell plans to expand into Nurkala’s salon space in the coming months she recalled how when she first opened each station had its own landline phone and answering machine. “Fifteen years ago you’d hear ring, ring, ring and the message was left and now everyone is using their own cell phone,” she said.

Nurkala has already found a new home for her salon at 105 N. Main Street Suite 102 in downtown West Bend. She’ll be in the walkway of the building connected to Portrait’s Today. She will also be changing the name of the business to Hair By Melissa.

Two of the other beauticians in the shop, Debbie Hall and Sarah Van Beek, will be moving into Revive Salon Studios, 1747 Barton Avenue. The last day for Studio 33 will be January 31.

Connect Cell is planning to expand in the next few months.  Store manager Andrew Smith said over the years the business has created a solid customer base and they would like to add a couple more employees and work stations.

The wall separating the location will be opened up. Contractors are slated to come in by February. The store will stay open during construction.

Final numbers on Deer Management Program in West Bend

Final totals are in for the Deer Management Program at Lac Lawrann Conservancy in West Bend. Five bow hunters had five days to try to trim the deer population by 40 deer and while hunters saw a lot of deer the final results will surprise you.

The harvest after five days was three deer. All were shot by Brian Beck.

Beck hunted four days with 13 hours in the stand and saw 27 deer. Beck took a total of three shots, used and retrieved three arrows and harvested three deer. The deer were females and antlerless and he donated the animals.

Brad Zuba hunted four days, 15 hours in the stand saw 27 deer and took zero shots.

Eric Esselman hunted for five days, 23 hours in the stand and saw two deer and took zero shots

Jeffrey Bach hunted for four days, 12.5 total hours in the stand and saw 17 deer. Bach mentioned he saw more than 20 deer walking out of Lac Lawrann Conservancy on to Schmidt Road.  He took zero shots and recovered zero deer

Steve Kraker hunted for four days, 17 hours in the stand and saw 10 deer and took a zero shots.

“I wish people would realize how hard it is to hunt deer, even in a park,” said Bach. “It’s amazing; it’s nature.”

As far as moving forward, Bach said he wishes the city would try it again. “But I hope they do it at a different time of the year,” he said. “This time of year is very cold and a couple people were deterred by the weather.”

Hunters had rain and snow to deal with over the five days, Jan. 10-14. “A fall hunt would be good, when the regular hunt is on and deer are in rut,” Bach said.  “Also if they could plan it ahead of time. To figure deer out in a week was difficult and giving hunters more time would help with the setup.”

While Bach saw about 50 plus deer in the vicinity of Lac Lawrann over the five days he believed they knew the hunters were there for a purpose.

“The deer knew we were there,” he said. “We did feed them corn but at one point in time they stopped eating it. The deer were moving around.”

The goal of the pilot hunt is to manage the deer population. A follow-up meeting will be held Jan. 23, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. at West Bend City Hall.

Building that housed former Holy Angels convent has been sold

The building at 105 S. Seventh Ave., on the corner of S. Seventh Avenue and Hickory Street in West Bend has been sold. Edward Daniels purchased the building for $180,000. The property was previously owned by Dan Fuge. The 2017 assessment was $315,500.

Doug and Sally Fuge purchased the building in 1987 and they split it with Dan Fuge for $200,000. Prior to that Tom Timblin owned the property.

On a history note: The post card, courtesy Terry Becker, features the second church Holy Angels built at Seventh and Elm in 1866 (lower right), and the old Holy Angels convent and school at Seventh and Hickory 1880 (upper right).

According to archives courtesy Holy Angels Church: In the year 1851, West Bend Catholics came together to buy two city lots for $15.  By late 1852 the first church building had been erected. They called this church Mary, Mother of Sorrows.

However when Fr. Casper Rehrl built a church in Barton with the name St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception the decision was made to change the West Bend Parish’s name to Holy Angels to avoid any confusion.

By 1863 Holy Angels had outgrown the original building so two more lots were purchased, on the corner of 7th and Elm (currently where Trinity Lutheran stands), and in 1866 a new church was built.

This new church was able to hold the parish for almost 50 years.  But the congregation was again growing so in 1913 plans to build a new church started forming. Holy Angels classes were moved to the old high school building on 8th and Elm in 1926 after the new high school (Badger) was built in 1925.

A number of businesses occupied the old convent and school, 105 S. Seventh Avenue, including the Wiskirchen Schoolhouse Tavern and Landvatter’s TV & Appliance.

City of West Bend expands façade grant to businesses in Barton

The West Bend Common Council voted 6-0 to take over the Façade Improvement Grant Program.

The Façade Improvement Grant (FIG) program, previously run by the West Bend Economic Development Corp., is designed to provide an incentive for private sector improvement of commercial buildings in the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) and the Historic Barton Commercial Area (HBCA).

District 7 alderman and Barton representative Adam Williquette said this will be “a matching grant for up to $5,000.”

“This was originally created for the BID district and I’m excited to see Barton included,” Williquette said. “We’ll see if anyone takes advantage of it.”

The program is geared toward façade projects that protect the historic integrity of the building and improve the overall appearance of the downtown area. The addition of façade grants to businesses in Barton was well received by business owners along N. Main Street.

Sheila Kruepke is the Urban Farm Girl at 1829 N. Main Street. “Who wouldn’t want to have their building renovated with a little help,” said Kruepke. “The façade grant is a huge opportunity.”

Over the past two months Kruepke along with Katie Fechter Laverenz turned a small building at 1829 N. Main Street into a cozy shop that’s home to a number of locally-owned businesses.

“We’re hoping more people are going to join us and we’re not just some area where people are passing through,” said Fechter Laverenz, owner of Kiera’s Kloset in the Meraki building.

John Backhaus, owner and master plumber at Albiero Plumbing, 1940 N. Main Street, said the facade grant is coming at a good time. “Barton is usually the neglected child when it comes to the city of West Bend,” he said. “There’s a lot of history in Barton and people have been making upgrades here.” Backhaus felt the inclusion of the facade grant program was encouraging.

Pizza Ranch update

One of the most frequently asked questions is about Pizza Ranch and when is it going to open. Drove past this week, 2020 W. Washington Street in West Bend, and saw roofers at work.

The back of the building (north wall) has been framed out and the wall is up. This is going to be the pick-up door. The windows have all been removed and big honken pieces of plywood cover up the holes until the new windows are in place.

The Dumpster outside the building is filling up fast. The groundbreaking for the new Pizza Ranch in the former Ponderosa was Nov. 21, 2017 and contractors are really moving along. Owner Stacy Gehring said they are still “hoping for an early 2nd quarter opening, but we will know a more exact date as construction continues.”

On the job front, Pizza Ranch is now accepting applications for kitchen manager and guest services manager.  If you know someone who is interested, please apply at

WB School Board candidate steps out of race

For the second time in two years a West Bend School Board candidate has pulled out of the race although a primary will still be held and their name will still be listed on the ballot. Carl Lundin said he is withdrawing his candidacy.  Lundin declined to expand on a reason.

Because five candidates filed to run for two seats, a primary must be held. That is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2018. The top four vote getters will advance to the April 3 Spring Election. The names listed in ballot order for the Feb. 20 primary include Monte Schmiege, Chris Zwygart, Mary Weigand, Kurt Rebholz, and Carl Lundin.

In 2017 a similar incident happened in the West Bend School District when one of the seven candidates running for West Bend School Board bowed out. Tina Hochstaetter announced she would not be part of the Spring Election. However, her name still remained on the ballot.

Assistant superintendent for HR in West Bend School District resigns

Hired in August 2017, Russell Holbrook the assistant superintendent for HR and operations, has now announced his resignation.

According to a memo from Laura Jackson, superintendent of teaching and learning in the West Bend School District, “Russell Holbrook announced his resignation which will go to the School Board on Monday, January 22, 2018. More information about the transition in leadership will be shared following the School Board meeting.”

The memo continued, “We appreciate the effort Russ Holbrook gave as he served in the role of Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Operations.” Calls have been place to the district for more information about the reason behind the resignation.

Holbrook was hired after Chief Operating Officer Valley Elliehausen and Director of Accountability and Assessment Kurt Becker resigned in June 2017.  Elliehausen had been with the district since 1997.

The open H.R. position adds to the number of administrative positions the district has yet to fill.

Currently the district is without a superintendent and a director of finance person as Brittany Altendorf, the director of finance and support services, resigned in July 2017.  Altendorf’s successor Michael Fischer also resigned several months later.

West Bend School District pays out Superintendent

Following an open records request the West Bend School District released its resignation agreement with former Superintendent Erik Olson. Olson was hired June 2016 and officially resigned effective Dec. 14, 2017.

When hired the School Board approved a two-year contract with Olson at a salary of $155,000. In 2017 that contract was extended another two years. Olson’s salary upon termination was $155,000 a year. The amount of benefits received in the agreement were not disclosed and are part of a second open records request.

The agreement also indicates Olson would receive full salary “less applicable withholdings” for the remainder of his contract. He will also receive moving expenses of $10,000 and unused vacation of $10,432.63.

Updates & tidbits

The new shelter for men and women in Washington County will host a grand opening Tuesday, Feb. 6 from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.  The $1.4 million facility designed by American Construction Services of West Bend is located on Water Street will be called Karl’s Place in honor of Karl Glunz of Richfield.

-There’s a motivated seller for the West Bend Wash, 2110 W. Washington Street in West Bend. The six-bay car wash features 2 automatic bays, 4 self serve bays, 3 vacuum pods, various dispensers and large billboard sign with LED scrolling message board. It is located to the west of the new Pizza Ranch. There sale price is listed at $750,000.

-The 3rd annual Rock and Jazz Fest at the West Bend High School Silver Lining Arts Center is Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. The Rock n’ Jazz Fest is a concert designed to showcase a variety of the co-curricular offerings in the West Bend band program.  Prior to the concert, from 4:30-6:30 in the East Cafeteria, the West Bend High School Bands will host a soup fundraiser that includes a silent auction and raffle.    

The Slinger Cub Scout pack is holding its annual Pinewood Derby on Saturday, Jan. 27 from 9 a.m. – noon in the old EVS dealership, 1180 S. Spring Street in Port Washington

Food will be collected for Slinger Food Pantry.

– The 18th annual Bridal Fair at the Washington County Fair Park is January 28. There will be over 70 vendors on hand with everything from dresses to cakes, wedding venues to entertainment. Tickets: $5 Pre-Sale $6 Day-Of *Children 12 and under are free. Tickets available at the Fair Park office and Amelishan Bridal.

– The 31st annual Washington County Breakfast on the Farm will be at Gehring View Farms this year, 4630 Highway 83 in Hartford. The host family will be Eugene and Christine Gehring and their family Derik, Jordan and Emily. This year’s Breakfast will be Saturday, June 9.

Stop in Saturday, Jan. 27 at Cedar Ridge for the annual Chili Social and Book Sale, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Enjoy a warm, delicious lunch, browse the book sale and take a tour of the independent-living apartments at Cedar Ridge, 113 Cedar Ridge Drive in West Bend.

– The Washington County Fair Park will be celebrating this St. Patrick’s Day with an indoor concert featuring Irish and Scottish folk tunes and classic pub songs from bands Tallymoore and Ceol Carde. Headlining the event will be U2 Zoo.

– Cast Iron Luxury Living has a unique short-term leasing special. The remodeled West Bend Aluminum Company located on the scenic Milwaukee River is offering a month of free rent if you move-in before the end of January 2018. There are one and two-bedroom apartments available. For more information 262.334.7943 or

-Help is available to families in Washington County that need assistance with winter heating bills. Contact Kay Lucas with the Washington County Human Services Department which oversees the Energy Assistance Program. The number is 262-335-4677.

The old Barton Opera House has been sold

The old Barton Opera House has been sold. According to records in the West Bend City Assessor’s office Mike Smith sold the property, 1741 Barton Avenue, to Jay Mundinger for $332,500. Mike “The Mailman” Smith died in Nov. 2017. He was 67.

The 2017 assessed value was $235,200. Smith originally purchased the property in July 1997. He acquired it on a land contract for $220,875. Smith tried to sell the property in July 2012. He listed the multi-unit building at $399,900.

The property was previously home to the disco 2G’s, Dan Berres Studio, C&C Business Management and In Your Face Tattooz.

On a history note:  The property used to be Gerhard Otten’s Farmer’s Home Hotel, also known as the Barton Opera House. According to Richard H. Driessel’s book “A History The Village of Barton” there were a number of “events and appearances” at the Gerhard Otten’s Farmers Home saloon between 1892 and 1919.

The list includes: Electric piano concert, The Quaker Doctors entertainment, The Quaker Medicine Co., lecture on “WHITE SLAVERY,” The Don C. Hall Co., a play, “Duke Costello.”

Another segment of Driessel’s book reads: “Most of the traveling shows used the Otten hall, after Van Bree sold it, first called the

Farmers Home and later the Barton Opera House operated by Henry Otten and later by his brother Gerhard, but there were other halls associated with hotels or saloons which continue to be busy with public dances or semi-private and private parties.

These were so frequent and popular that it is sometimes hard to believe. The period between 1890 and 1917 seems to have been the heyday, so to speak, for public dances just as it was for traveling shows, although the dances did continue as a weekly event for a while after the war.

The occasional dances of the earlier years became more and more frequent until in some weeks there were three or more.

The list of reasons for having a dance party became longer and longer. Besides regular Saturday night dances there were leap year parties, birthday parties, honorary dances, dances by fraternal organizations and clubs, “Fastnacht” parties, Easter dances, Easter Monday dances, harvest dances (sometimes two in a week), masquerade dance is called mask balls, (again sometimes two a week), masquerade golden wedding dances, Sylvester eve (New Year’s) balls, barn dances, July 4 parties, mid-summer dances, dances for the summer visitors, grand opening balls, married people stances, and hard times parties.

Between January 14 and 21, 1916 there were a leap year dance, married people‘s dance, a Fireman’s ball, a fastnacht ball, and a grand opening ball, probably in anticipation of the Lenten season.

The music for the dancers was provided by live bands and orchestras most of them either from the village and its environs or from West Bend. Some of them survived for years; some were heard but one time.

Luckow and Bantin’s orchestra, The Williams Combination, Brown’s band, Obermeyer’s orchestra, the Schloemer, Koch, and Wolf orchestra, Willkomm’s orchestra, Seliger’s orchestra, The Harmony orchestra, Kocher’s orchestra, and the Neu Family Orchestra all performed during that time period, 1892 to 1917.

In 2015 the Facebook page, ‘You know you are from West Bend if….’ Carol A. Feypel chimed in with a post about the building on Barton Avenue.

“That building Barton Opera House was built by my grandma Elizabeth (Lizzy Obermeyer) Bastian’s brothers who were builders during the day and musicians evenings and weekends. Most of the musical entertainment for Barton was held in the Barton Opera House. 1800’s and early 1900’s. Second floor large dance and music hall. Including weddings and etc.”


0920, 20 January 2018


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