A South Superior landmark has changed hands but kept its personality. Les Birds Bar was purchased by members of the family who ran the Office Bar in Superior's East End neighborhood.
"The community history of both places is such an amazing fit," said Kim Moore, daughter of James and Bonnie Gatzke. "The way my parents ran their business, they were just the type of people you wanted to stop in and see and connect with, and I know Les and Nellie (Bird) were also. It's just the same feel, that same sense of community. That's pretty great."
Both families have been in the tavern business for decades. Les and Nellie Bird opened Les Birds in 1959; the Gatzkes opened the Office in 1989. They even knew each other.
"Nellie and my dad were good friends," said Moore's brother, Cory Gatzke.
"My father always said to Nellie, 'If you ever want to sell that place, you let me know,' because my father's always loved this bar, and it's been a family stop for decades," Moore said. "I think he's really happy that it's in the family now."
The bar at 5801 Tower Ave. changed hands Dec. 28 and was renamed Birds Bar. The first few weeks have been fantastic, Moore said.
"It's just going so amazing," she said. "We're so thrilled with the customers introducing themselves. The staff is upbeat and happy."
New owners Moore, Cory Gatzke and James Gatzke retained all 11 of the bar's employees.
"I think the reason it's going so well is the staff," Moore said. "They've been here a long time ... and they've been just amazing with the change."
Some things will remain the same, including Friday night karaoke as well as Wednesday meat raffles for the Evening Lions Club and Matthew I. Pionk Park. The new owners plan to honor the tavern's history of backing the green and gold.
"Nellie was one of the biggest Packers fans you ever met," Cory Gatzke said.
"Most bars have a bell, and usually they're when somebody wants to buy everyone in the place a round, you ring the bell," Moore said. "This bell is unique. That bell's only rung when the Packers score."
The siblings plan to add touches from the Office as well, from March Madness to baseball bingo.
And the tavern is on tap for a face-lift - from the name of the bar to a fresh paint job and roof.
"It's in pretty decent shape," Gatzke said. "It just needs lots of upgrades. There's going to be lots of little repairs that need to be done."
But improvements will take place slowly.
"We don't want to change things too fast, because the people who come here, this is their second home, and too much change too quick is not good," Moore said.
They aim to offer the same sense of family that patrons have come to expect - a spot where people can host a birthday party and where women can feel comfortable coming out alone.
"Nobody should feel like a stranger," Gatzke said.
The small-town feel of Superior brought Moore home from the Twin Cities a few years ago.
"The sense of community here is unlike anywhere else I've ever lived," she said. "I watched people help each other through hard times and celebrate milestones and celebrate birthdays and comfort each other. It's so much more than a bar. It becomes like your extended family."
The Office Bar at 2129 E. Fifth St., which the Gatzke family rented, closed Oct. 24 and is being prepped for demolition. The space was tucked into the middle of a failing section of buildings, flanked by the East End Drug Store and a former radio- and furnace-repair shop. The buildings were showing signs of overall structural failure, and the roof overhead was giving out, according to Building Inspector Peter Kruitt.
Owner Arthur Haugen did not take steps to restore the buildings, Kruitt said, and they are slated for demolition. The city is completing asbestos and hazardous material removal at the site, and the structures should be razed by spring.
Gatzke said the family had a few months to prepare for the Office's closing. They briefly looked into leasing the Old Towne bar along East Second Street but decided to buy Les Birds instead.
"They say everything happens for a reason," Gatzke said, and he thanked everyone for their support during the transition. "It was pretty crazy, but all the help we've had has been astronomical."
More information is available on the Birds Bar Facebook page.