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'It's our goal to be what our customers want': Talking ghosts, history and boom boom shrimp with the owner of the Sheeley House Saloon

The Sheeley House Saloon on the corner of River Street and Hwy. 29 just passed the four year mark since it was taken over by the current management, and is still holding down its historic spot.

The pre-Civil War building is the only remaining of a group of boarding houses which used to run along the river.

In 1905, the property was purchased by James and Kate Sheeley. They and their three children moved into the second-level living quarters and revamped the ground level into a saloon, keeping the upper levels as they were.

Gallery: Sheeley House Saloon advertisements through the years

Some believe both James and Kate’s spirits are haunting the Sheeley walls and still can be seen to move things and make noises in the building, along with the spirits of others who had died on the property throughout its history.

It was revitalized in 1981 to be a functioning restaurant and bar. In 2010 the outdoor patio was added to the east side of the building and in 2013 it was closed.

Jessica Jensen took over the business April 1, 2015, after reopening it the previous Halloween. Along with her husband, co-owner and head chef, Brian Jensen, she now runs the historical building with the restaurant and bar on the first floor, with the second and third levels available for rent as a formal dining room and banquet area.

The Chippewa Herald sat down with Jessica Jensen to learn more about the restaurant and building. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: What do you guys think is a signature dish at the Sheeley House?

A: Our boom boom shrimp is probably the most standout, most popular. I would say in our dinner selection, our filet mignon is the most popular. But, yeah for signature I’d go with the boom boom shrimp for sure.

Q: Do you have a personal favorite?

A: I do, but it changes every week.

Q: Since you’ve been running this for four years now, is there anything that really surprised you?

A: The amount of hours that really do go into it all. It’s such an old building there is always something breaking.

Seasonal changes are not really that affecting here; it stays pretty consistent, strangely enough. Even when we have, like, winter blizzards, people still seem to travel out. The weather doesn’t change business all that much, that was kind of surprising, I expected it to change it more.

Everything is just a learning experience, one day at a time.

Q: Is there anything you found that you like about owning the restaurant that you didn’t expect?

A: I’ve worked in the service industry all my life, so I kind of knew what I was getting into.

I guess my favorite part of this is just being in front of your customers, and being able to be face to face, serving your product. I enjoy being the one behind the bar, the one waiting on tables.

Q: Was it interesting to take over a place that has such a long history, and is already established?

A: It was, just because I was submerging myself in its history. The place, in my opinion, is haunted. And since the building was closed before I took over I did feel like we were starting with a fresh start, starting on own foot.

It wasn’t just like stepping into the other owner’s shoes. So that was nice, I think I preferred it the way that it happened.

Q: Since you brought up the ghosts, do you believe it?

A: Myself and the other staff, we experience things on a regular basis. It’s not something that happens every day, it does go in waves. There doesn’t really seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.

Q: Is there anything else you’d want people to know about your business?

A: Being owned by a husband and wife, we work hard and take pride in what we’re doing, in our product and our service. It’s our goal to be what our customers want.

We take pride in what we do and we’re happy doing it.

Gallery: Sheeley House Saloon advertisements through the years
Gallery: Sheeley House Saloon advertisements through the years

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'It's really the birthday of beer': Chippewa Falls brewery celebrates St. Gambrinus Day

One of the Chippewa Valley’s most prominent alcoholic beverage destinations celebrated the release of their seasonal beer with an event that would’ve made the patron saint of beer proud.

The Chippewa River Distillery & Brewster Bros. Brewing Co. celebrated Saint Gambrinus Day Saturday at its Chippewa Falls location with a jam-packed event. From 3 to 10 p.m., attendees were treated to alcoholic beverages, music from Bardbaggedon and southern BBQ from Smokin’ Joe’s Food Truck.

St. Gambrinus Day is a celebration of all things beer. Gambrinus is considered to be the patron saint of beer and brewing in addition to widely considered the first person to put hops in beer.

The actual Gambrinus day is April 11 annually, but the patrons of the Chippewa River Distillery decided to celebrate it the same day as the release of their seasonal beer, said Joe Lynch, general manager of the brewery.

“It’s really the birthday of beer,” Lynch said. “It’s recognized as a celebration of beer and so we decided to make a day of it. We’ve been settling on a release date for the Hefeweizen and the date we were thinking of just so happened to be within a few days of St. Gambrinus Day, so we figured why not just celebrate both at the same time.”

The main attraction of the event Saturday was to celebrate the release of Brewster Bros. award winning seasonal beer, Tilden Weizen Hefeweizen. The traditionally brewed German alcoholic delicacy is now available at its Chippewa Falls location, and owner Kurt Schneider said the beer is as authentic to the roots of beer as you’ll find on the market.

“It’s a very traditionally brewed and tasting beer,” Schneider said. “Our brew master is born, raised and trained in Germany and all of the ingredients come from Germany as well. Overall, it is just very traditional and always popular every year.”

Lined up and dawn the wooden bar at the Chippewa River Distillery were glasses filled with the newly returned Tilden Weizen Hefeweizen and music and the aroma of barbecue filled the dimly lit Chippewa hot spot. One of the patrons at the event Emily Harris, a regular customer, said the event was just one of the great nights the location has shown her and her friends recently.

“We jump at the chance to come here and have a few drinks,” Harris said. “It’s cool to see a bunch of people getting into the spirit of the day and just having a good time.”

Beer was flowing, music was blasting and smiles could be seen from wall-to-wall. All in all, it was an evening St. Gambrinus would’ve been proud to be a part of.

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Jim Falls man sentenced to prison for child enticement

A Jim Falls man who had multiple videos of child pornography on his phone was sentenced Friday to serve two years in prison.



Lucas A. Lapham, 22, 13527 Highway S, pleaded no contest in December to child enticement in Chippewa County Court. Lapham was originally charged with eight counts of possessing child pornography. The criminal complaint states that Lapham’s phone had multiple short videos of young children engaged in sexual acts. The videos were discovered by a technician who was working on Lapham’s phone, which Lapham had turned in on a warranty claim.

Judge James Isaacson noted there were no victims in the courtroom.

“I wish they could be here; obviously they are not,” Isaacson said. “The videos, in some cases, (show) toddlers. This viewing history went on for two years. In reading the narrative of what those videos depict, was very difficult. It’s hard to read what is being done to those kids, and you apparently had some satisfaction of watching them.”

In addition to the prison sentence, Isaacson ordered four years of extended supervision.

Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell said Lapham’s assessment shows he had issues. A pre-sentence investigation recommends four years in prison along with three years of extended supervision. Lapham would receive treatment while confined, Newell said.

“This is a several-year process to take him from the offender he was to the safe community member we want him to be,” Newell said. “But I am not willing to risk the safety of the community in that two- to three-year period of time.”

Newell reiterated that these are “not victimless crimes,” saying that every time someone views those videos, the children in them are re-victimized.

However, defense attorney David Field asked for probation and a conditional jail sentence, noting that Lapham hasn’t violated his probation. Field questioned the PSI report, saying it doesn’t take into consideration that Lapham is seeking treatment.

“He’s been going for counseling for a significant amount of time,” Field said. “The PSI writer is discounting the counseling he’s been doing for the past year or so.”

Ashley Miller, an Eau Claire psychologist who has done 20 sessions with Lapham, testified that he has been “receptive to treatment.”

“He has shown progress in the sessions we’ve had,” Miller told Isaacson. “His risk for re-offense has decreased since he began treatment.”

However, Newell pointed out that Lapham has missed nearly a third of his scheduled appointments.

Lapham’s mother testified, saying that her son doesn’t go to places where juveniles congregate, and she doesn’t believe he is a danger to the community.