Champs reopens after months of renovationLiving up to its name, Champs is not allowing itself to be defeated.
By: Julia Ybarra-Young, New Richmond News
Living up to its name, Champs is not allowing itself to be defeated.
Champs Sports Bar and Grill, 220 S. Knowles Ave., is back open for business as of June 1, after sustaining major damage from a fire early October 2009.
“There was some doubt in the beginning about whether to rebuild in the same spot,” said Linda Soifakis, co-owner of Champs along with her husband George. “But we’ve been here 20 years; we love the business and the community is awesome.”
The October fire started in the ceiling around 8 p.m. It destroyed about 75 percent of the business and affected two neighboring businesses: Swenby’s Insurance and Real Estate and Greaton’s Jewelers. No one was injured in the blaze and the other two businesses were open within a few days.
Champs was a different story.
The entire building had to be gutted, meaning the business was closed during the eight-month renovation.
Soifakis said the biggest challenge was getting the new roof in place.
“It took three months to get the roof trusses,” she said. “It was a challenge to get the roof up before the snow came and we didn’t get them until just before Christmas.”
The owners decided to go with local companies for the renovation, such as Rivard Carpentry and American Classic Exteriors.
“All the workers were either from Somerset or New Richmond,” Soifakis said. “It was important for us to stay with local people.”
As for the 15 Champs employees, they were kept on the Soifakis payroll for about six months after the fire.
“They were very good to us,” said Michelle Weyer, Champs employee for more than eight years. “Linda hired Servicemaster (a business that specializes in disaster restoration) so we could work for a couple of months – we all came in with crowbars.”
Weyer said that after the Servicemaster job ended, she managed to find other bartending work. However, when she was told Champs was going to reopen, she came back.
In fact, Soifakis said that the original 15 employees were all coming back.
Although the restored Champs will have the same menu, employees and “homey atmosphere,” there will be new additions to the layout. About 75 extra seats will be available, thanks to a new rooftop dining area and inside loft. There will be 28 beer tappers, more TVs and a room for smoking customers.
Although the smoking ban in public Wisconsin places does not take effect until July, the restored Champs does not allow smoking in the facility at all.
In the eight-month process of getting Champs back up and running, Soifakis said they were encouraged with the amount of help and support they received.
In fact, Ready Randy’s – another bar and restaurant in southern New Richmond – hosted a benefit for Champs and its employees on Nov. 8, complete with auction.
“We’re just a small bar,” Soifakis said. “We never thought we meant this much to anyone.”
Champs is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to close.