It’s been just shy of a decade since Allison Bahr tipped the canoe that gave her restaurant its name.
“When I purchased the building, the canoe hanging over the bar was sitting right side up,” she said. “I didn’t like looking up at the bottom of the canoe, so I tipped it over, hence the name Tippy Canoes. … I felt the name was fitting and customers immediately nicknamed us Tippy’s.”
Under Bahr’s charge the family restaurant developed its fun-loving side, evolving into sports bar and restaurant where everyone seemed to know each other.
“I tried to find that balance of making Tippy’s into a place everyone could go to,” Bahr said. “A place you could bring your sweetheart for a steak dinner and, at the same time, somewhere you could saddle up at the bar and watch a friendly football game with a burger in hand.
“Plus being a mom, I loved settings that I could bring my kids to and still feel comfortable enough to order a cold beer without being frowned upon. So I built a place that really catered to almost every need.”
Now Bahr is saying goodbye.
In May, she sold the establishment to Paige and Jason Karnes. The couple moved to Balsam Lake about seven months ago. At the time, owning a restaurant was no more than a dream.
Jason had more than two decades of experience in the restaurant business and was overseeing back-of-the-house operations for 10 steakhouses in five Midwestern states.
Paige brought him to eat at Tippy Canoes and, knowing he dreamed of owning his own place, told him it was for sale.
“We love to eat out and try different places, so after moving here we have tried a lot of places around the community,” Paige said. “We really appreciated Allison’s menu. That was the first thing that stuck out to us, good homemade food. Also the location. Being so close to St. Croix Falls and Taylors Falls was definitely a plus.”
They plan to keep the name and theme of the restaurant, and are planning only minor changes to the menu.
“Allison has done a great job so far and we are excited to build upon her success,” Paige said. “We are very excited to meet everyone and live this dream!”
Ten years at Tippy’s
Bahr, who bought Tippy’s in August 2009, said Osceola itself was a major factor in her decision to purchase.
“What I really loved about buying the restaurant was the quaint, nostalgic little town of Osceola that it resided in,” Bahr said. “I remember driving through and it reminded me of a small version of Stillwater, Minnesota, the town I grew up in and love. From the little shops, to the friendly people, to the river backdrop, there was so much happening and it just seemed like the right fit for me.”
She drew crowds with events from bingo and bands to Oktoberfest and hypnotist shows. She also added an outdoor patio with a fire pit. Although the patio was inspired by the imminent Wisconsin smoking ban, it appealed to a broad audience.
“The patio was always a different vibe and seemed like the customers were just more comfortable without anywhere to be,” she noted. “I loved watching people sit back, relax and just enjoy themselves.”
For Bahr, connecting with customers and employees has been one of the most rewarding aspects of running the establishment.
“I have met so many people over the years and received so much love and support, it’s truly amazing,” Bahr said. “I made millions of mistakes but they have been so forgiving and loyal, and kept coming back again and again. The dedication and hard work from my employees is what truly kept me going. They believed in me and trusted me even when I didn’t know what I was doing. I’ve had several employees stick with me for years, even from the beginning of time and I had amazing managers in place that also allowed me to travel, spend time with my children and take time off. They always had my back and acted in my best interest. Their heart, dedication and loyalty to me was the best part of the business.”
Still, owning and managing a 35-employee business as a single mother hasn’t been easy, especially living 40 minutes away.
“The struggle of always trying to be there for my kids and being at work on nights and weekends when the business flourished was very stressful,” Bahr said. “My kids come first no matter what, but I also had to support them and keep a roof over their heads so every day was a challenge. It was a 24-hour–a-day, 7-day-a-week job with many calls in the middle of the night, on weekends, vacations and holidays and the business could have easily failed.”
Bahr is proud to be leaving on a high note.
“I had no choice but to power through the struggles of being knocked down, slandered on social media, constant training with quality and consistency, dealing with employee no-shows and unethical behaviors and being a woman owner in a sometimes brutal business. I had to truly prove myself when so many expected me to fail, even myself sometimes.
“However, I got up every day and kept going no matter what. I never shut my doors. I worked through no heat on the coldest week of the year, no air conditioning on the hottest week of the year, and no electricity with a packed house full of bingo people. Instead of shutting down, I scrambled and grabbed candles, put them on every table and called it ‘Moonlight Bingo.’ Somehow, some way, it all worked out, and even when I wanted to, I never gave up.”
Eventually, she sensed it was time to sell.
“I knew it was time when I was running out of steam, I was tired of the battles and my children needed me more at home,” she said. “I was missing holidays and weekends with them to be at work when the business thrives on these times. I still had so many plans and dreams to take the business to, but I believed I had done all I could do and it was time to let go and move on. I took a business that failed twice before me and succeeded in so many ways that I was proud and able to walk away knowing I did the best I could, and truly that’s all I can ask for.”
What’s next? Quality time with her kids.
“Summers are so short and it’s the time of year I was busiest at the restaurant, that I couldn’t fully give my kids my 100% attention,” Bahr said. “I have two summers left with my daughter before she heads off on her own, I want to make the most of them without the stress of getting called into work. After that, we shall see.”
Smooth waters expected
Bahr said she believes new owners Paige and Jason Karnes are the best people for the job.
“They have the excitement, willpower, ambition and the experience needed to continue the success of Tippy’s and accelerate it to its full potential,” she said. “I always say change is good and it’s the right time for me, for them, the employees and the community. We’re all ready for a change and I’m so excited to witness their success and future here at Tippy Canoes!”
Paige reported that things have gone well since the mid-May purchase.
“The support and love we have felt has been enormous our first two weeks,” she said May 28. “Being able to meet all of our guests has been so wonderful. We are so grateful to Allison for helping with such a smooth transition.
“We are looking forward to showcasing our new summer menu and bringing in some of our family favorites for a new menu rollout soon. We are also getting some new musical talent and planning a lot of fun events to come. We are beyond excited to be able to be a part of the Osceola community!”