Swede’s is one of the most popular places in downtown Kenosha, so we decided to pull up a barstool and order an old fashioned as we chat it up with Joan Spair
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you were doing before you got involved with Swede’s?
I’m married to Sam, have four children, and 4 grandchildren. Before Swede’s I worked at UW Parkside in the cashier’s office and at The Coffee Pot for Janis and Julie.
How did Swede’s get started in 2017 and what made you want to get into the bar business with your family?
It’s something we had talked about with my nephews’ Frank and Jonathon, the
opportunity came up and we went with it.
Swede’s has a fantastic up north Wisconsin vibe to it, what made you decide on that vibe and decor?
Up north vibe is all Jonathon’s doing, and also his Dad, Jon’s. They have a great looking boathouse up north with that same vibe so that’s how that look came about. Jonathon is very good at decorating and is always adding new things.
How did the name Swede’s come to be?
We chose the name Swedes in honor of my nephews Uncle Eric Olson who they and my husband were very close with. Some people referred to Eric as the Big Swede so we decided what better then to name our bar Swedes. Eric was a great guy!
Swede’s is family owned and operated business, How is it working so close to family?
It’s been great working with Jonathon and Frank, we receive a lot of support from our families and occasionally you will find a family member working behind the bar. We all get along great and have a lot of fun.
Swede’s is know for a GREAT Old Fashioned, what’s the secret?
Before we opened we all sat down and came up with our way of making an Old fashioned, after all this is Wisconsin! It turned out to be our most popular drink.
What makes Swede’s stand out from all the other bars in the area?
I wouldn’t say Swedes stands out, we blend in nicely with all the others here in the downtown. We all have something a little different to offer which makes it nice.
What do you love about owning a business in Downtown Kenosha?
I love being able to see our beautiful lake Michigan when I come to work. It’s a great place where there is always a lot of fun things going on. I’ve gotten to meet and make friends with a lot of great people.
Swede’s throws one of the best St. Patricks Day parties, can you describe this event and how much prep time goes in to it?
St Patrick’s Day has always been a big deal in the Olson family. When Jonathon and Frank were young their Uncle Eric owned a bar in downtown Kenosha called Rafferty’s Irish in. They had a big St Paddy’s day parade and my nephews were always in it. We now carry on the tradition for their kids and all the wonderful families that join us. It’s a fun event and a great tradition!
Swede’s is also know for their cribbage leagues, how can people get involved?
Our cribbage league runs from fall through the winter, we just ended our last session. I will be doing some tournaments this summer. Follow us on Instagram and facebook because that is where I will post the dates. Whenever you want to play come see me!
What is your favorite drink at Swede’s?
Our Old Fashioned or Bloody Mary!
What can someone expect when they come to Swede’s for the first time or as a regular?
You can expect to see peanuts on the bar and a friendly bartender!
What is your family connection to Anna’s on the Lake?
My brother Marty and his daughters Anna and Natalie are running the day to day operations, Swede’s lends their support when needed.
Thanks for sitting down and chatting with me Joan, as you know you are one of my favorites and thanks for the BEST old fashioned I’ve ever had, so cheers to you and all your success at Swede’s, anything else you’d like to say?
I’d like to give a shout out to my great bartenders, they make running Swede’s a lot easier for me!
Q&A and photos by Donny Stancato