For Scott Schultz, the tears and hugs kept coming last Saturday as he said goodbye to the many dedicated patrons that filled the Casino Supper Club for decades.
After owning the Casino, in rural Fall River, for 15 years and having a stake in the supper club for 35 years, Schultz decided it was time to do something else. Sept. 28 marked the popular restaurant’s final day. While Schultz has closed the Casino’s doors, the supper club remains for sale. Schultz would like to sell the business before the end of the year.
As he said goodbye to patrons last Saturday, Schultz recalled all the friendships forged since he walked into the Casino in 1984. Schultz’s mother, Jo, owned the supper club from ’84 until her son purchased it in 2004.
“I started bartending for her in ’84, worked for her for 20 years,” Schultz said. “I also had a full-time job at Seneca Foods in Cambria for 24 years besides helping my mom. It was always busy. I gave up a lot of weekends and missed a lot of events to build my business up.”
The final night was filled with emotion.
“I was really surprised with all the people we’ve affected or touched over the last 15 years-plus,” Schultz said. “The tears shed by so many of the customers was very surreal. I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t know it was going to be that tough. It’s just unbelievable.”
Through the years, the Casino was known for its Saturday night prime rib, Friday night fish fry and salad bar, Sunday chicken dinners and of course, serving a classic Wisconsin old fashioned, a supper club favorite.
“Our broasted chicken was always a No. 1 hit, pretty much with everybody,” Schultz said. “Our prime rib was always very good, we had a lot of good comments on that and people kept coming back for it.”
On Wednesday nights, the Casino featured a different buffet every week with broasted chicken and three entrée options. In the past few years, the supper club has offered corn beef and cabbage every three months, along with liver and onions.
“Believe it or not, that was a big hit on Wednesday nights, too,” Schultz said.
After leaving his position at Seneca Foods, Schultz thought operating the Casino would be more laid back, less stressful. He soon found out running a popular supper club is a 24-7 endeavor.
“When you own your business you have to work the hours to make it successful and I did that,” Schultz said.
Upon purchasing the Casino, Schultz shut it down for a month to work on renovations. He painted much of the establishment, installed new carpeting, table cloths, bar stools and several kitchen upgrades, including new flooring and coolers. Schultz said he also built a salad bar and buffet area, replacing an old portable model.
“We did lots of renovations,” he said.
Looking back, Schultz said it’s difficult to pin down specific memories at the Casino. He said developing life-long friendships is what he’ll recall the fondest.
“It’s about getting to know people,” Schultz said. “Whether people come from Columbus, Fall River, Rio, Sun Prairie or Lake Mills, you get to know them, their family, what they do. … Those are the memories, just the relationships built through the years.”
According to Schultz, the Casino’s history dates back to the early 1940s, when it was called the Fountain Prairie Inn. He believes the building became the Casino in the 1950s. In the past 35 years, Schultz would meet patrons who celebrated milestones at the supper club. Whether it was a birthday party or wedding rehearsal dinner, the Casino touched countless lives.
“I would meet people who had their 40th birthday party here and now they wanted to have their 80th birthday here,” Schultz said. “It’s just amazing all the people who came through here.”
The Casino’s closing is part of a trend in the Columbus area. The Capri Steak House closed in late 2018 and, in the past decade, other local supper clubs have bitten the dust. Schultz can’t think of a reasonable explanation.
“The days of a guy going to a nice place, grabbing a drink and sitting down to a nice meal are kind of over. I don’t know why that is,” Schultz said. “But, we did not close due to lack of business. That wasn’t a problem for us.”
Time to move on
After 35 years of devoting his life to the supper club, Schultz is ready to enjoy retirement. He plans to take time for activities pushed to the side through the years: hunting, fishing and spending time with grandchildren.
“As I get a little older, I get a better perspective on life,” Schultz said.
The Casino has been for sale since January. In the summer, Schultz decided that if the supper club was not sold by the end of September, it would close. With another holiday season approaching, Schultz didn’t want to schedule parties and events into next year.
“You have Christmas coming around, pretty soon it’s Valentine’s Day … it just never ends,” Schultz said. “This is a bit of down time where not a lot is going on. It was a good time to end it.”