Elberta’s cultural watering hole re-opens
By Jacob Wheeler
The tasteful nude painting of “Francine” has disappeared from behind the bar, but The Cabbage Shed’s funky, welcoming vibe has hardly changed under the ownership of Colleen and T.J. Hudson, the management of Tony and Beth (Hudson) Roethler, and the musical coordination of Colleen’s nephew, Ryan Zuker. Keeping it a family affair, the Roethlers are running the bar and restaurant for Beth’s parents, the Hudsons, just as Becky (Clapp) Hunt ran it for her father, Jim Clapp, who sold The Shed on November 6, 2015, after 30 years of business.
“We made a promise to Jim that we’d change the interior appearance a little bit to make it more functional, but we wouldn’t compromise the culture and history of what The Shed is all about,” says Tony Roethler. “There’s a sense of joy and camaraderie when you walk into this place—this is Elberta’s gathering place for any occasion.”
Tony would know. He and Beth held their wedding reception at The Shed on July 11, 2011, after a ceremony on the Frankfort beach. [See photos of their matrimonial celebration on The Shed’s website at CabbageShed.com.]
Tony is a veteran of the food business. He worked in a grocery store as a kid in a small town in Iowa. He met Beth while working for the Maggiano’s chain of Italian-American restaurants, and he has held nearly every position in the industry, from dishwasher to chef to general manager, including his latest stint in Phoenix. But he tired of working long weeks in a corporate environment and missing time with his family.
“I couldn’t look myself in the mirror any more,” Tony recalls. So when Tony’s mother-in-law, Colleen Hudson, called him last June and asked if he would consider moving to Northern Michigan to manage The Shed, Tony jumped at the opportunity.
“We’d been talking about making a change in lifestyle,” says Tony, who together with Beth has two daughters, three-year-old Jameson and 10-month-old Emerson. “We didn’t want to raise our girls in a large city.”
Clapp accepted an offer from the Hudsons in October 2015, and they kept the news discreet. Clapp and daughter Becky Hunt threw a send-off Halloween party, attended by hundreds, before The Shed closed for the winter. The deal was inked on November 6, and Tony and T.J. (his father-in-law, whom he calls “Dad”) loaded up a U-haul and drove straight from Phoenix to Elberta in mid-February.
“We took turns sleeping on a mattress in the back of the truck,” Tony says. “Luckily, the weather wasn’t bad during the drive.”
The Cabbage Shed continues to feature live music, eight handles of Michigan craft beer, and old menu favorites such as the Glarum Grill and the “famous” Shed Borscht. Frankfort’s Crescent Bakery supplies the bread, the soft drinks are Williamsburg-based Northwoods Soda, the ice cream is Moomer’s, and the kitchen will get its produce from the Elberta Farmers’ Market this summer. If you are into south-of-the-border eats, try the fish tacos or green chili mac & cheese, and wash it down with The Shed’s sangria or their fresh twist on a margarita, called the “Elbertarita.”
Under Tony’s direction, the menu has also taken a turn toward the Mediterranean. He saw a need for Italian-American food. In particular, The Shed will serve family-style, three-course, Italian meals for private parties in the restaurant’s northern annex, which accommodates 75 people. The restaurant will cater specifically to wedding rehearsal dinners.
And the music has not skipped a beat.
Fittingly, the Alfredo Improvisational Quartet was the last band to play at last year’s Halloween Party, and they also opened The Shed’s new era on April 1. The popular Thursday night “open mic” at 8 p.m. has returned, and frequently features Jim Clapp, himself.
Though they have been open for about two months, the Roethlers and Hudsons will host an official Cabbage Shed grand re-opening party on Saturday, May 28, beginning at 3 p.m. The event will feature live music, complimentary appetizers, and drink specials. The public is welcome. Awesome Distraction will play from 5-9 p.m., followed by a to-be-determined closing act at 10.
Click here to read “The Cabbage Shed: A Musical History,” a story that we ran last fall on Clapp’s reign. And to read the general history of the famous Elberta landmark, check out another article here.
Photo caption: The new crew at The Cabbage Shed, which features some familiar faces. Image courtesy of The Cabbage Shed.