- Associated Press - Saturday, October 22, 2016

RENWICK, Iowa (AP) - Like most small towns, Renwick has had its share of businesses closing down.

For as long as anyone can remember, one of the oldest buildings in town was home to the local bar. When it shut its doors, a group of friends banded together to make sure it wouldn’t stay empty.

“When doors start closing in town, the town folds up fast,” said Hal Skiye, who is now the owner of the Blue Moose Saloon.

“We’ve known each other forever,” Skiye said of the group that purchased the building. “And everybody here had the same concern - what do we do now? Everybody still wants a social life, and driving isn’t the answer anymore.”

The Messenger (https://bit.ly/2elr11z ) reports that the bar was once called the “One More?” The previous owners closed up shop June 21.

Just one month later a group of seven came together and formed an LLC to purchase the building. Remodeling work began Aug. 10.

Skiye was joined by Jeff and LaDonna Thompson, Brian and Stephanie Thompson, Ron Oberhelman, Rod Nelson, Vaughn Reekers and Todd George.

They had a big job ahead of them.

“It was unbelievable,” Skiye said. “The ceiling was - that was probably ceiling tile that had been in here for 30 years. They were all sagging. The biggest thing was the floor. That was basically rotted out.”

“The cooler behind the bar was just about ready to fall through,” Brian Thompson said.

Everyone pitched in and had something to do, Skiye said.

“Fortunately everybody had their own calling,” he said. “Three of the partners are good construction, carpenter workers, so they did that; another partner helped with the ceiling, and then three of us sawed boards and did whatever needed to be done. It was a joint effort.”

“Once they got going, there was somebody in here every night and weekend,” said Jeff Thompson.

Working without missing a day, the remodel was complete in 3 ½ weeks, Skiye said, in time to be open for the Iowa-Iowa State game in September.

“It didn’t turn out quite like we planned, but it was open,” he said, adding that an official grand opening has been scheduled for Nov. 12.

According to plan or not, the bar’s opening has gone over well with the town.

“We’ve been busy every night since it opened,” said bartender Cari Sisson.

“I can’t thank the people enough for supporting it like they have so far,” Skiye said.

“A lot of them are really surprised in the change. The atmosphere,” Jeff Thompson added.

The bar has a light, family-friendly atmosphere now, Skiye said.

“This building has basically been open forever,” he said. “It’s closed two or three times when owners changed hands, maybe for remodeling.”

None of the group could say what the building was originally, though they said it was one of the first businesses erected after the town was founded in 1881.

The deed shows names going back more than 100 years, to Jacob Funk and Cyrus Smith, some of the original founders of the town, Skiye said.

“When we were growing up, it was always a bar,” said Amy Schneider, one of the bartenders.

“I remember coming in here 50 years ago with my dad, and her dad, and just different people throughout five decades,” Skiye said. “Fifty years ago it was just a beer joint or pool hall. The farmers would bring in their little pints in their pockets, they’d buy the pop from the bar and mix their own drinks.”

Skiye remembered a lot of good times at the bar under numerous different owners.

But the bar’s name is based on another memory, that Skiye thought had been forgotten.

“Back in the ‘70s with CB radios, that was my CB handle,” he explained. “I had a blue Torino and I’m kind of big, so I ended up being the Blue Moose back in high school days.

“I thought everybody had forgotten about that.”

After going back and forth for weeks seeking a name, the Blue Moose moniker finally stuck.

It wasn’t Skiye’s idea.

“The only thing I like about it is they came up with a good logo, but as far as the name it’s one of the dumber ones,” he said.

Keeping the shop alive, providing a local place for Renwick residents to gather and supporting the town are all important to the investors.

They work here, they farm here, and none want to move somewhere else.

“No way,” Skiye said.

“We grew up here,” Schneider said.

“My family’s here,” Brian Thompson said.

“It’s a pretty good little town,” Skiye said.

“It’s funny; this town can pull together,” he added. “People from other towns say I don’t know how Renwick does that. When something happens they’re all just there for everybody.”

The Blue Moose Saloon sells fried foods - french fries, fish, chicken strips - and is open seven days a week. Stephanie Thompson takes care of sales of sweatshirts with the Blue Moose logo, and LaDonna Thompson, who is also the manager, keeps the saloon’s Facebook page up to date.

The bar once had only two TVs, but now has four, and can bring a TV outside to the beer garden for special occasions, LaDonna Thompson said.

The investors also hope to draw visitors from convertible clubs, motorcycle groups and poker runs.

They plan on having a big Halloween party and pheasant season opener Oct. 29 with prizes.

“We’re hoping for a lot of good times in here. That’s the main thing,” Skiye said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide