The Red Circle Inn in Nashotah has been sold and the dining room will be closed for six to eight weeks.
After three decades of ownership, the restaurant’s most recent owners, Norm and Martha Eckstaedt, decided to sell the Wisconsin restaurant that has been in operation since 1847, making it one of the oldest restaurants in the state.
Former owners include brewer Frederick Pabst and Aat Groenevelt, the owner and founder of Provimi Veal. The restaurant’s original Pabst bar was built in 1889.
A few months ago, the Eckstaedts reached out to Geronimo Hospitality Group of Beloit about the potential sale, and the restaurant group jumped on the opportunity.
“Martha and I have been very blessed to be the caretakers of The Inn for the past 29 years,” Norm said in a news release. “The events, the guests and the staff are all most memorable, but the relationships and friendships that have been built over these many years are priceless and will endure forever. We are both looking forward to the next exciting chapter that Geronimo Hospitality will write. One that will embrace the history while providing an excellent product with gracious Lake Country hospitality.”
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Jeff Whiteman, chief operating officer for Geronimo, said the restaurant’s history and opportunity to preserve that wa what sold the group on taking over as only the fifth caretakers in the last century.
“As we looked at it, we saw the ways we can do our part to honor the history, and we just knew from that point of view that this is the perfect spot for us,” Whiteman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “This place is so rich with history and important to not just Lake Country, but the entire state of Wisconsin as one of the oldest operating institutions.”
New ownership has already begun, and it starts with refreshing the dining room, which will be closed for at least the next six to eight weeks, Whiteman said.
The plan is to restore and update parts of the restaurant, both interior and exterior, as well as furnishing and decor, including using and retaining old photographs that don the walls as a guide to restoring and refreshing the room.
While the dining room is closed, the banquet hall remains open for the events that it had previously scheduled. Geronimo plans to continue operating as an events venue.
“We want to bring that original vibe of the place with us into the future and hang on to that history,” Whiteman said. “We want to create an environment that caters to today’s diners. We’re pretty excited about the direction and have a crew already working on it as of today (Sept. 21). As along as supply chain is cooperating, we should be opening up again soon.”
In addition to keeping the aesthetic around the history of the place, Geronimo is also planning to have its menu reflect both recent and historic menus of the Red Circle Inn.
“There’s a lot of people saying, ‘What the heck are we going to do to it, for it and with it?’” Whiteman said. “We’re going to pay respect to the place. We have records of all types of menus over the decades, and we plan to build out our menus with different things that have been on the menu over the decades and mixing that with that of a Wisconsin supper club. We want our menu to appeal to people who have been coming there for decades and maybe some who don’t know it exists yet.”
This isn’t the first restaurant or historic property that Geronimo has purchased and refreshed in Lake Country. In 2016, the group purchased the Delafield Hotel, which led to the opening of I.d., Blue Collar Coffee and be Fitness as well in the city. They also own properties in Beloit, Indianapolis and Boise, Idaho.
“We’re just super excited to become the new caretakers of this property,” Whiteman said. “We plan on having a long run just like Norm and Martha did, and we’re looking forward to the future.”
Drew Dawson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-289-1324.