By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN This year’s 2011 Winsted Winter Festival’s parade grand marshals are Jacob and Rachel Schlagel.
They are the owners of the Blue Note Bar, Restaurant, and Ballroom in Winsted, where they have made it their business, to wine, dine, and entertain area residents.
They not only know how to serve their customers, but they generously share their accommodations with others for many community events.
It’s one of the reasons they were chosen by the Winsted Area Chamber of Commerce as the festival’s grand marshals.
“Jacob and Rachel Schlagel have proven themselves to be great stewards of the community of Winsted over their years of owning the Blue Note,” Winsted Area Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Campbell said, “not only by donating the use of their ballroom, but through sponsorships, supporting local causes, and by donating their time, as well. They truly understand how giving back to the community can affect the quality of life of the residents of Winsted.”
To be acknowledged for their service by the chamber, and named grand marshals, came as good news to the Schlagels.
“We were surprised and honored,” Jacob said.
Rachel added, “It was nice being chosen grand marshals. We like being in this community. It’s a nice close-knit community where everybody knows everybody,” Rachel said.
The Schlagels are especially well-known to their Blue Note customers, who Rachel describes as, “kind of like family.”
It’s that “family” atmosphere at the Blue Note that makes it a very popular place to hang out for area residents, many who have referred to the Blue Note as an institution rather than a business.
It’s where everyone migrates during their visits home, to see friends, and catch up on the town news.
College students, service men and women, and former residents coming home for holidays come to the Blue Note for a reunion encompassing all ages and all schools. No one is invited, the time isn’t advertised everyone just shows up.
Because of the ballroom’s size, it has provided for many large gatherings for events like weddings, band performances, and holiday parties, and when the ballroom is not being used, the Schlagels are willing to share it.
“Basically we have a lot of space here,” Jacob said. “So if we don’t have something scheduled, and someone else can use it for something that is family-orientated or nonprofit, we don’t mind helping out.”
This year, some of those events included the bean bag league, the Knights of Columbus annual fish fry, which usually feeds about 1,200 people; the Catholic Order of Foresters dinner, the Women’s Expo, WHAT UP events, and it was Winsted Summer Festival’s back up plan for the street dance in case it rained.
The most recent event was the Blue Note’s annual Halloween party.
“I have always liked Halloween and it’s something we both enjoy celebrating,” Rachel said.
The Halloween evening has had great turnouts since the Schlagels started it five years ago.
In order to keep things running smoothly at the Blue Note, the Schlagels don’t get many days off from work.
“We are both here every day,” Rachel said. “We both do everything and rotate. Sometimes we bartend, sometimes we cook, or waitress.”
“And we both do the bookwork,” Jacob said.
“We have a few short days, but most days we are here, especially Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we’re here morning until night,” Rachel said.
Jacob added, “ten a.m. to 1 a.m.”
There are many things about owning the Blue Note that the Schlagels enjoy, but their least favorite thing is working so many hours.
“And the hours when we can’t work out our schedule and we have to miss one of our daughter’s games,” Jacob said. “That’s the part we really don’t like.”
Jacob’s and Rachel’s daughters, Abigail, 15, Emily, 12, and Isabelle, 10, help out at the Blue Note, too, depending on the event.
When Rachel and Jacob aren’t working, they like to spend time at home, catch up on home projects, or just hang out with the girls.
“And we like to go to the movies with the family. We all agree we like the same stuff,” Rachel said and added with a smile, “except maybe Jacob. He does get out-voted with all of the girls.”
Jacob and Rachel met at the Blue Note
It was in 2005 when the Schlagel brothers, Jacob and Neil, decided to buy the Blue Note.
Their parents, Brad and Barb Schlagel, had owned The Flame Lounge in Norwood Young America while the brothers were growing up.
“So we knew what owning a bar was about, and decided to give it a shot,” Jacob said.
Rachel had been working at the Blue Note for the previous owners, Craig and Jeff Campbell, when the Schlagels bought it.
When she first learned there were new bar owners, she was disappointed because she enjoyed working for the Campbells.
“I really liked Jeff as a boss, so I was kind of upset that they were selling and these guys were buying it (the Blue Note),” Rachel said, “but I didn’t know these guys (the Schlagels) at all.”
Rachel did meet the Schlagels and continued to work for them at the Blue Note.
And, like so many other couples that have met at the Blue Note, Rachel and Jacob married in 2007.
The couple became the sole owners of the Blue Note in 2009 and since becoming owners, they have been spending time giving the Blue Note a facelift.
They have already completed several remodeling projects.
During one of the projects, the Schlagels were going through a storage area and found treasured old pictures of Winsted that are in excellent condition. As the couple has done many times, they are sharing. When Winsted residents dine at the Blue Note, the pictures are hanging on the wall for customers to view.
“We have no idea how old or how many owners ago they are from,” Jacob said. “Once in a while, when we are going through things in storage, we find some neat things.”
The ballroom is currently getting a new coat of paint, and Rachel would like to collect old wedding photos, from wedding receptions that have taken place at the ballroom, and have them framed and hung up, too, to share with guests.
The Blue Note before the Schlagels
The building that is the Blue Note was originally built as a lumber yard by Lesters, of Lester Prairie, in July 1949.
In the fall of 1955, it was sold to Vern Miller and Doc Campbell of Winsted, who changed it to the ballroom and liquor store.
Miller and Campbell each had a share of the ballroom, and Miller was the sole owner of the liquor store.
Ray and Clifford Ruzicka bought Miller’s share of the business in 1956.
A new on-sale lounge and an off-sale addition were constructed in 1962.
In 1962 and 1963, the old bar was gutted and rebuilt into the supper club room.
The Ruzickas then bought Campbell’s share of the business and proceeded to add a new addition to the south end of the ballroom in 1967.
Ruzickas sold the Blue Note to Don and Bob Bayerl July 1, 1973, and Jeff and Craig Campbell purchased the Blue Note from the Bayerls in the fall of 1995.
The Campbells sold it to the Schlagels in 2005.
“We sold the Blue Note a little sooner than we had planned,” Jeff Campbell said. “But we knew when we were ready to sell, we wanted to have local people buy it, and not somebody with a deep wallet that would change the name and make it into something it was not meant to be.”