In nearly five months of driving highways and byways across the country, "Going Out of Business" signs have seemed a standard element of the modern American landscape. I barely notice them anymore, even those hued in sense-shocking shades of florescent with four-foot letters screaming "EVERYTHING MUST GO!". At the 243 T-junction entering Osceola, Wisconsin, I make an uncharacteristically complete stop as my mind demands processing time for the unusual sight of a "Grand Opening" banner.
The driver behind me breaks the moment with a perturbed bleat of car horn. Still unsure I'd read the sign correctly, I circle through a gas station parking lot and return to the intersection for a better look. Peering through the darkness, I look for the numbers 2009 on the "Oktoberfest & Grand Opening" advertisement of a local bar and restaurant called Tippy Canoes. My planned route turned south at Osceola, but plans change when there's a party to attend, so I head north to go find out how the owners have managed to launch such an endeavor under the current economic circumstances.
Pulling into the packed parking lot of Tippy Canoes, I can hear Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" blasting from a canopy set up outside the restaurant. One minute wandering through the tent endows me with deep admiration for the local stock's endurance in bone-chilling cold, though the flowing kegs of beer and buckets of fire must help somewhat. Co-owner Allison Bahr is pouring drinks at the crowded bar inside, but I track down her affable Aussie husband of 13 years and new business partner, Rodney, who takes a break from chatting up guests to tell me their story.