EATON RAPIDS – It sits on the nook of South Main and West Knight streets, a small nook bar in the town’s downtown. White letters on a green awning putting over the bricconstructing’s front door off South Main Street read “Abie’s Bar,” the tavern’s identification for the closing 5 a long time. From the side of the constructing, you may find of the snapshot of its records from 75 years in the past — an growing old commercial painted at the bricks in yellow and exposed six years ago that reads, “3V’S CAFÉ, MEALS, BEER-WINE.” The property at one hundred S. Main Street has been home to a local watering hollow on the grounds that 1887, longer than every other building in Eaton County. Before it turned into Abie’s, it becomes D&G Tavern, 3V’s, Darrow Brothers Liquor, Herrick’s Cafe and Sol Middleton’s Drinking Emporium. The most effective exception become during Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, when it housed a pool corridor and card room. Fred Wager has been its caretaker considering 1982. For 37 years he venerated the constructing’s history, sharing its 120-year run as a bar on the back of Abie’s laminated menus and being concerned for the status quo’s bar manufactured from darkish Mahogany wood that turned into introduced through horse and cart from Jackson within the early 1900s. This month Wager, 74, handed the torch, selling the bar to lengthy-time employee Natalie Steward, 37, who targets to run Abie’s similar to he did.
Small changes, like adding bacon to the burgers, are just nice, she said, but staying real to the motto Wager has lengthy upheld — continually pressure ‘Hi,’ and ‘Goodbye’ — is the only way to assist Abie’s closing any other century as Eaton Rapids’ community bar. Just ask Wager. “It expenses you nothing to do that, and it’s labored some of these years.” Retirement and a Spartan win To recognize the perfection of Wager’s retirement party, first you need to recognize his love for Michigan State University. The wager is a die-difficult Spartan fan. “I’m terrible,” he stated, on a Monday morning from a desk interior Abie’s.
And there are tell-tale signs and symptoms everywhere. The partitions of the commercial enterprise are decked out in MSU posters and decor, mock street signs that read “Go inexperienced” and “Go white” hang above the historical wood bar and a Spartan head are etched into the mirror at the back of it. The bar’s televisions are always tuned to MSU basketball and football games. Wager’s retirement party become held on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, the same day MSU’s guys’ basketball group bested its in-country rival, the University of Michigan, to clinch the Big Ten Championship. Abie’s, with potential to seat 81 human beings, become packed as clients cheered the sport and celebrated Wager’s ship off. After MSU’s win, “Fred gave a speech that lasted about 30 seconds,” stated long-time consumer and friend Marty Backofen.
“What does a Spartan do when this system’s over?” Wager asked the room that afternoon, before leaning over the Spartan etching to kiss it. Customers cheered and gave him excessive fives. “It worked out spectacularly,” stated Debra Wager, his spouse, who called the basketball win “the icing at the cake.” Wager said the moment capped off his run as the bar’s proprietor, a process he could have, fortunately, “died” doing. “I couldn’t have had it any higher,” Wager stated. “I did precisely what I wanted to do in life.” Local nostalgia Former owner Roy Bontrager approached Wager about buying Abie’s Bar in the early Nineteen Eighties. Wager had been working as a salesperson for a beer company, and the Eaton Rapids’ bar changed into certainly one of several debts he serviced. He visited Abie’s every few weeks returned then, and said the business turned into small but had capacity for growth.
It changed into closed every Sunday. That changed into one of the first things Wager modified after he offered it. “There had been quite a few bucks to get preserve of in case you were simply open 365 days,” Wager said. He doubled the bar’s gross annual earnings in 12 months by using increasing its hours, he said, and invest in renovating and being concerned for the constructing. The work protected new insulation within the walls, new carpeting, and new windows. The bar’s unique ceiling above its wood bar is tin, however, changed into in terrible shape, so Wager got as near as he could to the authentic look, putting in tin-like ornate tiles above the bar that appearance the part. Wager bought timber from 5 bowling lanes at Rapids Bowl, an Eaton Rapids bowling alley, when it closed in 1998. They were become table tops at Abie’s Bar and became one greater piece of nearby nostalgia there. “It’s conversational,” he stated. “People come to peer them. They surprise at it.”
Owning a bar in a small network is not like proudly owning one in a large city, Wager stated. “More people note what’s occurring,” he stated. Steward started operating at Abie’s 15 years in the past. Over the years she’s cooked, waited tables and bartender. Wager runs a smooth, organized enterprise, she said, however never asks his body of workers for anything he isn’t inclined to do himself. “He suggests you, proper away, who he is and what he expects,” she stated. “All the employees here, stay here a long time. People who paintings for Fred live right here. Fred’s an awesome boss. His type and conscious of your difficult work.” Wager’s “gruff” exterior is a smoke display, said lengthy-time worker Janet Cords. He’s bought appliances and wedding attire for employees through the years. “Once you get to realize him, he’s very beneficiant,” Cords said. Backofen stated when his home in Eaton Rapids wished a brand new roof, Wager came through with cases of beer for friends helping to work on it. “He’s that type of individual,” he said. A neighborhood bar Wager had been considering retirement for a while, however, waited due to the fact he wanted to discover a person he may want to agree with with the commercial enterprise. Then Steward proved she had the identical pressure and determination to the carrier that he has, he stated.
“What are you talking approximately?” became her reaction when he first approached her approximately it eight months in the past. “I notion, ‘No manner, should I ever make this work, however then I thought, ‘Can I make this painting?” Steward ordinary the keys March 4, and has been adjusting to her new position given that. Wager nevertheless plans to walk the 4 blocks from his residence to Abie’s for Spartan games, and Steward stated Abie’s will stay a neighborhood bar.