News: Neillsville - Business of the Year (Honor – 2017)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 1/24/2018
Neillsville ‘icon’ Business of the Year (Honor – 2017)
The Neillsville A&W restaurant, with owners Veronica and Jerry Becker, is being honored as this year’s Neillsville Chamber of Commerce business of the year. The Beckers will received the award Jan. 27 during the Chamber of Commerce’s banquet at Fanny’s Supper Club. (Scott Schult/Clark County Press)
By Scott Schultz
When Jerry and Veronica Becker were looking for new business opportunities 23 years ago, they turned to an old friend and to a bit of nostalgia.
The decisions that resulted led them to purchase the Neillsville A&W restaurant, which on Jan. 27 will be recognized as the Neillsville Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year.
“We were looking for something hew to do,” Jerry said. “It was the risk of a lifetime.”
Jerry, who at the time was 40 years old, had followed his father into the meat-cutting business; Veronica had been managing a Pizza Hut restaurant when the urge to move into a new business struck them. They were living in La Crosse at the time, and sought ideas from an old friend of Jerry’s, who happened to be the executive director at the A&W corporate office.
The friend told the couple about the chance to purchase the A&W restaurant in Neillsville.
Jerry said their work backgrounds seemed to be good fit for such a move.
The couple worked with Jerry’s father and an uncle to develop a business plan for the restaurant, and then went ahead with the purchase. The Neillsville restaurant, which had opened during the 1950s, held the nostalgia they felt was needed for an A&W “root beer stand” to be successful.
“It’s kind of been a Neillsville ‘icon’ for a long time,” Jerry said.
An extensive remodeling was done on the facility immediately after the purchase, keeping it closed until the renovation was completed.
The renovation was meant to modernize the restaurant to meet A&W franchise standards.
“We did a complete renovation; we didn’t open for three months after we bought it,” Jerry said. “It was a new look when we opened.”
Operating the restaurant has come with many challenges, the couple said. Jerry said A&W has been a corporation that has been careful about how and where franchises are maintained – it being among the slow-growth chains that works to assure its restaurants have success.
“It’s a tough business,” he said.
One of the most challenging years occurred in 2016, Veronica said.
That year, Jerry contacted a serious infection after stepping on apiece of glass at their home. Veronica managed the restaurant alone while Jerry underwent a long recuperation.
Jerry couldn’t work at the restaurant and couldn’t drive during his recuperation.
When he finally was cleared to drive, one of his first trips was to a family funeral – Veronica remaining in Neillsville to work at the restaurant. That was the day she slipped on the restaurant’s floor and fractured one of her hips.
“That year was a real struggle,” Veronica said. “It was a tough journey.”
Getting through their 2016 health issues showed the couple that “if things get tough, you just have to get up and get through it,” Veronica said.
Many things have made them happy about having decided to follow their instincts in purchasing the restaurant, Jerry and Veronica said.
Veronica said their customers; their employees and the community have been the best factors in operating the restaurant.
The Chamber of Commerce’s recognition banquet will be Jan. 27 at Fannie’s restaurant and Motel.
Other special recognition will include Schmitty’s On Main, Special Business Salute; Christie Country Quilts LLC, Entrepreneur of the Year; C Dairy, Agri-Business of the Year; Dan and Denise Clough, Making a Mark on our Community Award; and Judy Lindner, Spotlight Award.
Business anniversary salutes include The Clark County Press, 150 years; Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC), 105 years; American Legion Post 73 and Boy Scouts of America-Chippewa Valley Council, 95 years; Heinzen Printing Inc., 85 years; Foster Primary Eye Care and Neillsville Country Club, 80 years; Urban Sales and Service Inc., 70 years; Central Wisconsin Broadcasting Inc., 60 years; Attorney Thomas Harnish, 45 years; Personal Development Center, 40 years; Hilltop Tavern and M&M Wood Floors, 35 years; Figi’s Inc. and Cougar Enterprises Inc./Hardee’s, 30 years;
Sunrise Real Estate Inc., 25 years; Associate Bank, Golden Dreams Fine Arts Studio and Randy’s Electric 20 years; Russell’s of Neillsville, The Green Lantern, and ServiceMaster of Clark and Jackson Counties, 15 years; OEM Fabricators Inc., 10 years; and Shopko Hometown, The Thirsty Bookworm, TLC Wellness Center, and Advanced Chiropractic and Laser Centers, five years.
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