Jim Gantner has learned that in some ways you can go home again.
The former Brewers second baseman and his wife, Jeannine, have moved back to Jim's hometown of Eden, about an hour north of Milwaukee, near Fond du Lac.
They have joined with long-time friends Johnny and Janey Baumhardt in keeping the area landmark open, and renovating it into what could turn out to be a great sports bar for the region.
The Eden Hotel once operated as a rooming house, restaurant and bar. In more recent years, it was almost more like a private club, providing a close-knit group of friends a place to hang out.
"The locals loved the place," Gantner said last summer when first announcing the venture in Eden. Locals should still love the place, now known as Scud's Bud's. Area sports fans also should find it a great place to go.
A lot of Brewers and Packers memorabilia hangs on the wall. Some of it comes directly from Gantner's collection of things he gathered during his playing and coaching days.
At a grand opening this fall, patrons could take batting practice against Gantner. Other events, some including former and current Brewers, are possible in the future.
For out-state fans going to a Brewers' game, or football fans from southeast Wisconsin going to Packers' games, the bar is a natural place to stop. A bus load of Brewers' fans stopped there late this season on their way back to Wausau.
The name of the place requires a brief history lesson. The Eden Hotel was originally operated by "Skinny" and Marie Scudella. The Scudella family lived in the building. The business was later taken over by one of their sons, Robert Scudella, who is affectionately called "Scud" by the locals of Eden.
As the years passed, Scud stopped operating the rooming house and the restaurant, but he did maintain the bar. Scud preferred to operate his bar in a very low-key manner, and it was jokingly referred to as a "private club" by those who did not frequent the establishment.
Last fall, Scud began to have some memory lapses and fell down a few times. He knew that he was not well. He contacted his good friend Baumhardt and proposed that he and Gantner purchase the building from him and keep the bar going.
"It was very important to Scud that the long history of the Eden Hotel continue," Jeannine Gantner explained in an e-mail. "Scud had hoped to continue living at the Eden Hotel, where he had lived his entire life, and Johnny and Jim could take over running the business."
John and Janey Baumhardt were the owners of J&J Baumhardt Trucking and Twin Lakes Trucking. At the time that Scud contacted Johnny, he was working on selling the trucking businesses to other members of his family. Johnny and Janey were looking forward to retirement.
The Gantners were in the process of selling a home in Wind Lake and moving back to Eden. Jim was finishing up the Northwoods League, in which he managed the Wisconsin Woodchucks in Wausau.
"We knew that they would be looking for some type of project once they were settled in Eden, but a bar was the furthest thing from our minds," Jeannine explained.
Then, Scud was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor which required surgery and then chemotherapy and radiation. He was no longer able to live by himself in the big, rambling building. His friends and family moved him to an assisted living facility. They volunteered to keep his bar open, taking turns opening up each day to serve their friends.
The Baumhardts and Gantners decided to plunge into the venture and buy the bar. Jim was still in Wausau, so the responsibility of going forward with the transaction was
left up to Johnny and Janey, with the help of another good friend of Scud's, Kathy Gourdine.
"We hired Jeannine's brother Russ to do some quick renovation," Gantner said. "He came up with a crew and quickly got to work repairing walls. Johnny's brother-in-law, Dick, a retired electrician, was called upon to do some electrical updates."
Jeannine added, "It was a whirlwind renovation, with locals stopping in each day to make sure too many changes weren't made. They loved the old bar and wanted it to remain the way it was. The old wallpaper, black with martini glasses and dancing couples, had to stay!"
The renovation went well. The bar area retained enough of the traditional look to please the local clientele, yet enough Brewers and other sports stuff to attract fans from in and outside the immediate area.
Friends still bring in Scud when he is feeling well enough. The bar is named in his honor.
In the old dining room, where Marie once served her rooming house guests spaghetti dinners, the Lions Club now meet the first Monday of each Month. The old maple floors were refinished, the walls were painted and the old curtains were washed and re-hung.
The room that Scud used as his living room is now an office. A beautiful staircase that leads to the bedrooms of the old rooming house has been untouched, including Scud's old bedroom and the other near empty bedrooms. Those could be made into rooms for tourists over time, but for now they will remain reminders of the history of the place. Other reminders still pop up in unexpected places.
"Recently we found an old notebook in a cabinet behind the bar," Jeannine Gantner said. "In Marie's flowing handwriting she kept close track of the names and dates of guests and who paid for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lunch was 40 cents, dinner was 50 cents. The first entry was dated 1938.
"We hope that we can continue to operate the business as a place where people can come in and celebrate old friendships. The clientele has expanded a bit from the small close knit group of friends. We have a great mix of customers, young and old, locals and visitors from outside of Eden.
"The 'regulars' still come in, of course, and on Sundays we continue to pop popcorn, just as Scud always did."