Tomah receives grant to build business at former Tee Pee Supper Club site

State and local leaders in Wisconsin announced today that $625,000 in grants will be invested in three development projects. One of the grants is being used to build on a Tomah site once owned by the brother of former Governor Tommy Thompson.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation awards match grants based on the potential economic impact a project could have on an area.

Mandy Gerke has lived in Tomah her entire life. She used to frequent the Tee Pee Supper Club owned by Ed Thompson.

“When the Gerke would have their Christmas parties and things and banquets, they would have them there,” Gerke said.

She was saddened to see the once-thriving restaurant fall on tough times.

“It closed its doors in 2014 due to failure to pay back taxes, loan payments, and city water taxes. For two years, the city sat vacant,” said Roger Gorius, city administrator of Tomah.

The site was empty until locally owned 3rd Gen LLC razed the property in 2016 for a new, mixed-use building.

“Today, rather than see a restaurant in decline, instead we see tremendous opportunity,” said Lt. Gov. Rebecaa Kleefisch, R-Wisconsin.

The building will be home to residential and commercial units. This will include an office space for three or four employees, a unit for some current Gerke Expediting employees, a salon and spa with two hairstylists and a massage therapist, a financial planning office and a locally owned family restaurant.

Mayor Mike Murray said the two sides of the city have seemed separated at times, but the new building could change that.

“But this, Superior Avenue, Main Street, is going to become the bridge between the north and the south,” Murray said.

The $11 million development, which could create more than 35 jobs, is not just an investment for the moment. This is an ongoing effort to bring people into this small city.

“Our small, rural communities– they’re great places to live, work and raise a family, and by having this partnership with the state and our local leaders as well, it solidifies that,” said state Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point.

With more people, residents such as Gerke hope to see this part of the downtown area get back to how it used to be.

“Cross our fingers, hopefully, it will turn it around and bring the excitement back,” Gerke said.

The property is expected to be completed by February 2019.