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TOWER- Twenty years ago Randy and Carol Semo opened a 1950s-themed bar and grill with a décor that echoed both their love of that era and a healthy dose of Green Bay Packers fandom. Good …
TOWER- Twenty years ago Randy and Carol Semo opened a 1950s-themed bar and grill with a décor that echoed both their love of that era and a healthy dose of Green Bay Packers fandom.
Good Ol’ Days Bar and Grill’s interior still showcases Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy. A large-scale model train choo-choos its way on tracks that wind through the bar’s interior. It was also a place that honored veterans, with photos of area veterans who had passed away and a special table in honor of “The Fallen Soldier”, an empty place setting to honor those who had served, were away from home, and those who had not come home.
On July 1, ownership of the business passes to Dan and Greta Burandt, who live in Eagles Nest Township.
Customers can rest assured that almost everything, except the Green Bay Packer memorabilia, is remaining, including all the current employees. There will be some changes in the menu, of course, as the new owners put their own touches on the business.
“I am going to miss my help the most,” Randy said. “The people who work for me are invaluable. I couldn’t have run the business without them.”
Second-most, he will miss his regular customers, many of whom have become close friends over the years.
The business has established a statewide reputation, especially for its award-winning Bloody Mary’s, concocted with a house-made mix and too many toppings to count.
“We would sell 500 on the Fourth of July,” said Randy. The bar set up a Bloody Mary take-out window in the adjacent laundromat to efficiently assemble and sell that many in one day.
But the bar also sells between 300 and 400 in an average month.
The bar won a statewide contest for the best Bloody Mary sponsored by Absolut Vodka and the Food Network in 2017, after placing second in the contest the three previous years.
“We were one of the smallest businesses competing,” said Randy.
The bar and grill offers a classic selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner items cooked to order in a kitchen so small it only comfortably fits a single person.
The most asked for item, Randy said, is Lila’s Italian Sub, a holdover recipe from Lila Carlon’s Sportsman’s Bar and Grill, which pre-dated Good Ol’ Days and was located in the adjacent building. Good Ol’ Days sits in the building that housed Skala’s Bar, which first opened back in 1984. The Tiny Bubbles Laundromat shares space on the ground floor, and upstairs has apartments.
The most popular beer on tap is Hamm’s, a Minnesota main stay.
“The whole reason to be in this business is to please people,” said Randy, who was always happy to honor special requests with a smile.
But he says the reason the business became successful was on account of his staff.
“They all deserve kudos,” he said.
Randy and Carol’s generosity to the community was also important. They were often the first in line to help with fundraisers, especially for anything that benefited youth or the school.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “That’s all.”
Carol echoed Randy’s fondness for the staff and customers.
“I love meeting all the great people who come in,” she said, “and my employees are my friends.”
Carol got her start in the restaurant business working at the Goal Post (now Benchwarmer’s) with Gary Mellesmoen when she was in high school.
The restaurant was buzzing on Saturday morning. It had been busy since they opened at 6 a.m. Randy was somehow cooking what looked to be eight breakfasts all at once, with eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, and veggies all on the grill. Carol was busy bringing up food from the basement coolers and freezers, as well as keeping up with the dishes, and two other staff were waiting tables.
Long-time customer John Mroszak Jr. was getting his usual hot breakfast in anticipation of his wedding later in the afternoon. He first met Randy when he was in elementary school and Randy was his Little League coach. He noted that his wedding anniversary was going to be the same day as Randy’s and Carol’s, who are celebrating their 23rd year of marriage by attending John and Jolene’s wedding later that day.
“Randy will never be able to forget his anniversary, because I will always be reminding him,” said John.
Carol said she didn’t mind spending the morning of their anniversary working together, something they truly do enjoy. The bar was closing in the afternoon so they could attend the wedding, another perfect way to celebrate their anniversary, she said.
John said he attended the grand opening of Good Ol’ Days 20 years ago.
“It’s like an interesting show to watch,” he said, “and that show just gets better and better.”
Casey Sundahl was eating breakfast with fellow fishing enthusiast Dennis Highby, retired CEO of Cabela’s. It was too windy to be out on the lake fishing, so the two were doing their second favorite thing, eating a delicious breakfast. They both are regulars.
“It’s good food and good coffee,” said Highby, who added there were also good pictures in the bathroom (enough said about that, you will have to visit to check them out).
“I come here every morning if it’s raining,” Highby said.
Randy, who worked as a contractor before opening Good Ol’ Days, is looking forward to having more time for fishing, and for using the couple’s RV for camping trips. He is also looking forward to playing pool on the Good Ol’ Days team, now that he has the free time. The couple lives in Tower, only a block away from the bar and grill, so they will certainly be frequent guests, but not workers, in the future.
Carol, who works part-time at the bar and also has a full-time job at Minntac in the agglomerator building, is not ready to retire from Minntac just yet.
Good Ol’ Days will be closed a few days during the ownership transition, but should be up and running under new ownership by the Fourth of July.
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