By Bob Zientara
Dana Trott had “no past restaurant experience (and had) never waitressed a day in my life” when she began to think about buying Susie’s Café in Barron last summer.
“It just kind of entered my mind,” said the new owner, who opened the doors to what is now known as Seasons Café on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018.
The popular downtown Barron restaurant reopened a week after Trott bought the business from former owners Jeff and Susie Oleson, on Oct. 30.
The couple decided to close the café in June, after Susie’s health issues prevented her from working any longer.
The Olesons owned and operated the restaurant for parts of 12 years, from the time they purchased the business, in 2006, until it closed.
In the weeks after that happened, Trott pondered what to do.
“I just started to think this was my purpose, and the road I was supposed to go down,” she said.
The former Dana Campbell is the daughter of longtime Barron resident Lee Campbell (now married to Marg) and Eudra Shatley. A 1995 Barron High School graduate, she grew up in the town of Maple Grove. She is single and the mother of one grown son, James Humphrey, 23.
Five years ago, she lost her husband, Jacob Haas, who died after injuries sustained in a truck versus deer accident on Nov. 19, 2013, at Turtle Lake. Over the ensuing years, Trott remarried and divorced. It was when the Olesons put their business up for sale that she began to consider a new direction for her life.
“I was thinking it was too bad that the city of Barron wouldn’t have a breakfast place any longer,” said Trott. The idea of buying the Susie’s Café “just kind of entered my mind,” she added.
Although she didn’t have experience as a restaurateur, Trott said she understands what it’s like to run a business.
“I grew up on a farm,” she said. “I have managed a small company (for) eight years, and we had a fair number of employees.”
As she transitioned into restaurant ownership, Trott found some valuable assistance along the way.
“A friend who used to be in food service wanted to change her career, too, and was willing to come onboard and help,” she said. “Jeff Oleson is still in the background, directing and assisting me.”
The “friend” is Seasons manager Mikki Poeschel.
“I’m originally from Turtle Lake, but now I live in Chetek,” Poeschel said.
“I lived in Barron for 25 years, and I managed the Barron Dairy Queen for almost 20 years.”
Later, Poeschel said, she moved on to work at other Dairy Queen restaurants in Eau Claire for several more years, before returning to Barron County.
With the expertise of the Olesons and Poeschel behind her, Trott had a good start with her plan to enter the restaurant business.
“But then, I thought, what am I going to do about employees?” she said.
That’s when Trott got a social media message from Roxy LaBlanc, a long-term waitress at the restaurant.
“She messaged me and said she wanted to stay on,” Trott said. “Then, I heard from other gals who worked here.”
Finally, then, Jeff and Susie Oleson’s son, Josh, who cooked when his parents ran the business, “said he was also willing (to work at the café),” Trott said. “One door after another has opened.”
A week after closing on the property, Trott was still trying to fill out the Seasons workforce, looking for a part time cook, additional wait staff and a dishwasher.
“One of the ladies who used to fill in as a cook could not come back because of health issues,” Trott said. “Another is getting older and wishes to come in only two days a week.”
But by the time the month of October came to an end, Trott said she and Poeschel “pretty much knew we’d be open by Nov. 5.”
Most of the other preparations for reopening were all but complete by the start of the month.
“We had lots of support from the community,” Trott said. “The regular morning coffee guys came in and moved the equipment so that (the fixtures) and floors could be cleaned. My church family, biological family, and friends have helped. My ex-husband has been helping too.”
Trott said she and Poeschel wanted to stage a “soft opening” on Nov. 5, and gradually get the place up and running.
She said she hopes to establish her own brand as “Susie’s” transitions into “Seasons Café.” She said she named the place based on her experiences in life and “attending Growing Lights Christian Academy.
“Although what happened five years ago was difficult, I think God has a purpose, and now, that purpose seems to be for me to move toward this season of my life,” Trott said.
“So we’ll serve good food, in a friendly atmosphere, for all of life’s seasons. Jeff and Susie are going through their season, and I wouldn’t be here without my season, too.”
Trott now becomes the seventh owner since the ancestor of Seasons Café opened in 1950, according to information from the Barron News-Shield’s 2010 Sesquicentennial book.
Harland and Helen Gullickson ran the business until 1977. Other owners since that time were Tom and Debbie Lipke, Dev and Jean LaLond, Safei and Jennifer Ademi, and Charlene Lark, from whom the Olesons bought the business in 2006.