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.
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.