Archive for Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Downtown club changes ownership

Lifelong city resident buys Wander Inn

December 29, 2004

Tuna's Tavern is taking over at the Wander Inn.

Charlie and Barbara Conrad recently purchased the drinking establishment from Gary and Wanda Williams, who've operated the downtown Tonganoxie private club for 14 years.

Wanda Williams said she and her husband enjoyed operating the Wander Inn, but said it's time to rest for a change.

"We've enjoyed it a lot," Wanda said. "We've tried to run a decent place, and we have, with no problems."

It helped, she said, that the club was private.

"By having a private club and knowing your people you don't have problems," Williams said. "We've always watched that very carefully, making sure they didn't go out there when they couldn't drive. Usually when we would tell someone we think you've had enough they'd say OK. We never had a problem -- that's the good thing about being a private club -- you don't have to put up with the people that you don't know."

They had bought it after they both had retired from other jobs.

"We just bought that to have something to do after retirement," Wanda said. "You can make a very good living if you work it."

And, it proved to be a good investment, as well. The Williams sold their business without even having to advertise.

"It sold by word of mouth," Williams said.

Sprucing it up

Now the Conrads, who've been doing a little painting and updating at the business, plan to be open for New Year's Eve.

Charlie Conrad, whose brother began calling him "Tuna" (after Charlie the Tuna, a character in the 1960s Star Kist tuna commercials), found his nickname to be a fitting title for his new business.

In fact it's likely, Conrad said, key helpers in the business will be family members.

That's how it's been so far, with Charlie and his wife working there, as well as their children, and even Charlie's parents, Don and Shirley Conrad.

"Family is what's going to make the whole thing work," said Charlie Conrad, whose family has lived in Tonganoxie for more than a century.

As it always was

The business will continue operating as it did with the Williams -- as a private club that sells only drinks, and no food.

But Conrad said he might consider the possibility later on of adding a grill and turning the business into a restaurant that serves drinks.

"We'll take a look at it and see," he said.

Conrad said this is something he and his wife had long considered.

"We were actually looking at opening a bar and grill and calling it 'Memories' and doing the same thing," Conrad said.

And as it is, there will be plenty to spur memories at Tuna's Tavern. The Conrads plan to decorate the building with local memorabilia, including old editions of The Tonganoxie Mirror newspaper and photographs.

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