Bucholz became ingrained in community shortly after buying bar
Longtime entrepreneur Fritz Buchholtz enters the new year with a new lease on life brought about by his decision to sell his popular Fredonia bar, Mr. Fritz’s.
It is just the latest in the myriad of changes Buchholtz, 70, has encountered in his working life.
In 2005, he bought the neighborhood bar at 504 Fredonia Ave. formerly known as Germaine’s.
His introduction to the tavern business came about after making another fateful career move.
“For 28 years, I owned a hobby store in Shorewood called Napoleon’s,” Buchholtz said.
“At the time, it was one of the largest stores of its kind anywhere. I started in one building and eventually expanded into another and then a third.”
On weekends, the basements of those buildings were filled with “gamers” immersed in role-playing battles and fantasy adventure contests.
“Eventually, they stopped playing games with lead miniatures and started playing video games,” Buchholtz said.
“I probably kept the store open a year or two longer than I should have.”
Buchholtz made a name for himself with the thriving business and was even elected president of the Shorewood Chamber of Commerce.
Before he started the hobby business, Buchholtz was involved in booking and promoting national music acts like Buddy Rich and Chuck Berry.
Once he closed the hobby store, Buchholtz — who was 58 at the time — realized he was too young to retire and decided to give the bar business a shot. He felt he had gained some familiarity with the local bar scene through his band work.
“I went looking for a bar and found this one,” he said of Mr. Fritz’s.
Almost apologetically, Buchholtz said he had never been to Fredonia before buying the bar.
It didn’t take long before the affable bar owner became a fixture in the community. Proof of that came on election day of his first year.
“I was in Fredonia for six months when I found myself getting elected to the Village Board,” Buchholtz said.
Actually, he finished in a four-way tie as a write-in candidate in a trustee election that failed to draw any declared candidates. Buchholtz was named a trustee after his name was drawn at random.
“I am ashamed to admit it but I didn’t even vote in that election,” he said.
Buchholtz served as a village trustee until September of 2015, when diminishing health and failing eyesight made it difficult to tend to his business and governmental duties.
Buchholtz was a voice for local business owners while on the board, although there were sometimes repercussions to his dual role as businessman and politician.
“When I got appointed to the board, one of my customers said, ‘Why would you do that? If you vote the wrong way, it is going to cost you business,’” Buchholtz recalled.
Being a village trustee actually turned out to be good for business, he said, with customers often stopping in to talk about the hot issues in the community.
After board meetings, village officials would frequently visit the bar to enjoy some socializing and commiserating before heading home.
“The joke was that the bar was the second Village Hall,” Buchholtz said.
However, he was concerned that such casual gatherings of officials could be construed as traveling quorums and checked on restrictions with legal authorities.
“We made a point of never talking about issues or how we planned to vote. The closest it would get to politics would be when a board member would say, ‘I disagree with you on that vote but it is nothing personal,’” Buchholtz said.
He said the role of bar owner covers a variety of functions.
“At times you have to be a promoter, a psychologist and a priest,” Buchholtz said.
Over the years, Mr. Fritz’s became a social hub for the Fredonia area, sponsoring horseshoe leagues, holding bingo games and hosting countless brat fries and Packer parties.
Community became a big part of Buchholtz’s business identity. He has been a strong supporter of the Fredonia Fire Department, the Fredonia American Legion Post and Divine Savior Catholic School.
“The one thing I regret is that I could never get the people behind bringing live music to the bar,” Buchholtz said.
“I guess the older set doesn’t like staying out past 9 p.m. and the strict drunken-driving laws have really cut into late night events.”
He did manage to bring the 1960s pop sensations Herman’s Hermits to town, but the appearance turned out to be more of a curiosity than a launching point for Mr. Fritz’s as a viable entertainment venue.
Since his arrival in town, Buchholtz has lived in a small apartment connected to the bar.
“I can’t stay up as late as I used to, but once I go home I can still hear everything that was going on in the bar,” he said.
With the sale of the business to John and Barbra Robillard of Grafton, Buchholtz is moving to Milwaukee’s East Side.
From that new home, he hopes to start an eBay retail business to unload many of the collectibles he has accumulated over the years, such antique guns, swords and thousands of books.
In addition, Buchholtz said he plans to spend more time with his family and traveling.
“I also intend to start enjoying life a little more,” he said.
“This time of year, I’ve never had time to enjoy things like watching people shopping for Christmas, going to a holiday concert or attending church services. Now, that is going to change.”
Image Information: FRITZ BUCHHOLTZ (center) posed with his son Franz Buchholtz and bartender Crystal Wilson behind the bar at Mr. Fritz’s in Fredonia. The 70-year-old Fritz Buchholtz has sold the business at 504 Fredonia Ave. effective Dec. 31. Photo by Mark Jaeger