The Pine Tree Supper Club has kept the Birkholz family working together for over 50 years. Fred and Arlene established the business in 1963. Since 1985, Pine Tree has been owned and operated by four of their children.
The important thing is to spend time with family away from work, said Arlene. When the children were young, they closed Pine Tree for a week every July and took a family vacation. She said the Birkholz children learned to wait tables and help with the business at an early age. She noted work at Pine Tree has helped put many of her grandchildren through college.
The family makes it a point to get together as often as possible, which is hard when they run a supper club that is only closed on Mondays. Pine Tree is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Thanksgiving. Those are considered family holidays and the door stays locked at the Pine Tree - the parking lot may be full, but it's all family members inside.
Pine Tree History
The original building, the Pine Tree cheese factory, was built in the 1930s. It was named Pine Tree because of the large white pine trees located out in front. Coincidentally, Arlene’s father was part of the crew that cut down those trees in order to build the new highway. Years later the building was converted into a dance hall and small bar, still named Pine Tree. Fred and Arlene Birkholz were married in 1950 and had a dairy farm in the Weyauwega area. They both had always loved the New London area and knew it was the right thing for them to purchase the property in 1963. In the early years, Pine Tree was quite a bit smaller than it is today. The current bar area used to be the entire restaurant. That included a bar, dining room, kitchen, and single bathroom. Pine Tree almost tripled in size in 1984 with a large addition including a large dining room, party area, hostess station, new kitchen, additional bathroom, and rooms added to the upstairs apartment.
Pine Tree Supper Club offers a fine dining experience complete with the highest quality meats, seafood, and cocktails. An original definition of a supper club was a place where guests were brought to the bar area to order dinners and refreshments, then later seated at a table where everything was brought to them. Pine Tree is known for its old fashions and "melt-in-your-mouth" prime rib. Many of their soups, spices, dressings, and sauces are old family secrets, so good luck trying to get the recipe for their wine and butter sauce or bar mushrooms.
Pine Tree has had only two main chefs over the past 50 years. Marilyn Oertel was their main chef for the first 25 years of business. The current chef is Patty Pantalons, who has worked at Pine Tree for over 25 years. Pine Tree relied mostly on family help until their expansion 30 some years ago. They currently have a full staff of over 35. A large majority of their employees have been with them for over 10 years, making them more like family. All four owners also continue to work there full time, although they all hold other jobs as well.
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