Gary Strothmann and the Boulevard Inn
Boulevard Inn was owned by a second generation of German immigrant family. Albert Gaulke and his wife Marie started this business at 4300 West Lloyd Street in 1946. Albert’s daughter Joan eventually got married to Warner Strothmann, who worked part-time at Boulevard Inn after serving the United States Navy. In 1968, Warner bought the business from Albert and ran it until he had a severe stroke in 1991. One of his sons, Gary, took the lead after his father’s stroke.
Gary entered the business at the age of fourteen (around 1967) as a cleaning boy.[i] He worked also as a salad boy, a busboy, and finally a manager. According to Gary, the business was very successful while having the expected crowds for both lunch and dinner. The luncheon crowd consisted mostly of managerial people from the surrounding businesses such as Miller Brewery, Harley-Davidson, and Master Lock. At night, Boulevard Inn had a dinner crowd from the surrounding “affluent” neighborhoods, such as Washington Heights, Washington Highlands, and Sherman Boulevard. For the rest of the West Siders, it was a “special occasion restaurant.” In addition, families stopped to have a dessert after enjoying an evening at the theaters along North Avenue and Lisbon Avenue. People also visited the restaurant before and after the events in Washington Park across Lloyd Street.[ii] Boulevard Inn thus became “a place to go” for the people in the area.[iii]
In 1992, Boulevard Inn relocated to the East Side location at 925 East Wells Street by taking Michael Cudahy’s invitation to his property, Cudahy Tower.[iv]taken over by a night club, but the building burned down due to arson in 1993. The West Side location was immediately taken over by a night club, but the building was burned down due to arson in 1993.[v] A new Milwaukee Public library branch has been operating at the location since 2003.[vi] Although Boulevard Inn had a big following at its East Side location, Gary sold that business to the restauranteur Joe Bartolotta in 2003. Bartolotta remodeled the restaurant and opened a new supper club of Bacchus at the location in 2004, which still operates today.[vii] Boulevard Inn, as a physical space, no longer exists. However, as one customer recalls, the memory lingers on.[viii]
Excerpt from a research paper by Yuko Nakamura, Spring 2014.
Gary Strothmann talks about what his family's restaurant was like.
Gary Strothmann talks about the changing nature of Milwaukee's restaurants.
Gary Strothmann gives details about what his typical day working at the Boulevard Inn was like.
Gary Strothmann talks about the activities he used to partake in in Washington Park.
Sample menu from the Boulevard Inn, Christmas Day, 1978
[i] Gary Strothmann, interview by Yuko Nakamura, Milwaukee, March 2, 2014. Gary was born in 1953 and that he entered the business at the end of fourteen (at 1.25 dollars/hour). He replaced the cleaning lady who left the job due to the 1967 riots – she lived in the “inner city” and was hit in the Milwaukee riots. For more about the riots, see, for example, Wisconsin Historical Society, “Civil Rights and Desegregation,” Turning Points in Wisconsin History, accessed May 7, 2014, https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/tp-049/?action=more_essay; and John Gurda, The Making of Milwaukee (Milwaukee: Milwaukee County Historical Society, 1999), 371–376.
[ii] Strothmann, interview, March 2, 2014. At the age of fifteen, Gary worked in the salad department and washed the dishes after school; and at the age of sixteen, he started working as a busboy serving alcohol in the dining room (to serve alcohol, people should be sixteen years old or older). After finishing college at Marquette University, he stayed in Germany for a while, and when he came back, he became a manager with his brother Mark.
[iii] Barbara Stein, interview by Yuko Nakamura, Milwaukee, April 11, 2014.
[iv] Tom Vanden Brook, “Sherman Park: Restaurant is heading downtown: Boulevard Inn owners say the neighborhood scares off suburbanites,” Milwaukee Journal, January 24, 1992, 1, 4.
[v] Tom Daykin, “Fire razes former Boulevard Inn: Firefighters gain control after 3 hours,” Milwaukee Sentinel, February 18, 1993, 5A; Kevin Harrington, “Fire probed at former Boulevard Inn,” Milwaukee Journal, February 18, 1993; Meg Kissinger, “Old Boulevard Inn set to come down: Former restaurant was a favorite of Milwaukee’s elite.” Milwaukee Journal, March 1, 1993, B5.
[vi] Milwaukee Public Library, “Washington Park,” accessed July 13, 2014, http://www.mpl.org/hours_locations/washington_park.php.
[vii] Tom Daykin, “Boulevard Inn is sold,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 15, 2003, 1D, 2D.
[viii] Stein, interview, April 11, 2014.