In 1997 Wohlers took ownership of the building that once housed the VFW Post 5039. When purchasing, he guaranteed the members of Post 5039 that they would still have a home, and today, the VFW Post membership and the VFW Auxiliary still meet at the same site they always called home. “I promised to take care of them, and today, we continue to provide for their meeting needs.”
There have been several changes and renovations on the site since Wohlers took over the building. Through all the construction work, Wohlers and his staff have kept the doors open to patrons. With a tight budget, a newly remodeled kitchen was the first area to be redone during that first year of ownership. Wohlers kept the bar and grill open downstairs while remodeling the upstairs.
The most recent renovation was just completed in January.
“New and improved seating for diners, including comfortable seating for those who prefer a casual bar atmosphere, are featured in the remodeling project just completed,” Wohlers explained, including improvements to the floors, ceiling and electrical needs. “My family had a hands-on involvement in completing this project, putting in many hours to create the new interior. My wife Amy and I designed a custom-made bar for Old No. 1. She used a carving knife to carve Old No. 1 into the bar-top,” he added.
The Old No. 1 has a unique quality that makes it “home” in Wohlers’ hometown of Morris. In renovating the old VFW building, Wohlers used salvaged materials from barns and other buildings to create a rustic and historic atmosphere in the new dining and bar spaces. Wohlers, his wife Amy, and other family and friends have brought in weathered wood and tin, wood pieces, signage, and even a barn door. He said, “Creating a trendy new vibe while highlighting and respecting the history of the community has given Old No. 1 its uniqueness.”
A 12-person meeting room has been added, with a sliding barn door to provide privacy.
“With computer capabilities and a big-screen monitor for PowerPoint presentations and various media/video presentations, this room is the perfect location for business gatherings,” Wohlers explained. It can also provide a private dining experience.
Throughout the entire Old No. 1 establishment, a touch of nostalgia is apparent, and Wohlers emphasizes comfort for dining groups of all sizes. Old No. 1 provides a special space for the ladies who gather to play bridge, and the pool table is a regular gathering place for the guys. Wohlers honors his dad, who passed away four years ago, saying “He’s here with me every day,” as the senior Wohlers old letterman’s sweater hangs in the entryway. Not far away, in a private booth, the carved initials of Wohler’s parents can be found, the plank taken from an old barn. Nostalgia abounds in all corners of the Old No. 1.
The newly remodeled downstairs hosts the VFW Post 5039 meetings and the ladies of the Auxiliary. Keepsakes of the VFW can be found hanging on the walls. The Kiwanis and the Lion’s also meet at Old No. 1. Wohlers accommodates all of their needs.
The Southside Reception Hall and Conference Center is located where the Grady’s Building once stood. The Southside is designed for wedding receptions and large group gatherings. It has a 400-person capacity and can be divided into smaller areas to accommodate banquets or meetings of any size. The banquet hall is a perfect setting for fundraising events, school functions and even comedy nights. Wedding receptions and dances are now being booked for the entire year, and the bridal party can have access to the Southside the day before their special event to decorate. For the convenience and safety of patrons, the Old No. 1 Bus Service is available for transportation to local events when you book your event at the Southside Reception Hall and Conference Center. To ensure availability, please request the bus service at the time you book your event.
If hosting a party off site is more to your liking, Old No. 1 can bring the food to you. No matter what size, catering includes private parties or large fundraising events. Wohlers’ wait staff knows how “to work discreetly and quietly to ensure a distraction-free and productive meeting or event.” Call Donny or Matt at 320-589-2270 for booking and rate information.
But Donny is quick to point out that the Old No. 1 wouldn’t be what it is today without some of the great people who have supported him in the past, including Brian Solvie, who originally invested in the bar; Jon Thorstad, the first bartender; Barb Riley, who showed the boys how a kitchen should be run; and customers such as the late Willie Martin, Erwin Anderson and the late Curt Kolden, who taught Donny that customers can become unforgettable friends.
The food and service…the people, the atmosphere, the nostalgia… …it’s what matters the most at Old No. 1. The weekly menu for Old No. 1 is one of the largest in the area. Senior specials, burger and chicken baskets, weekly and nightly specials are always available. Throughout the Lenten season, don’t forget the Friday night all-you-can-eat seafood buffet is available. It includes crab legs, broiled and deep-fried shrimp, broiled salmon, pollack, scallops. Barbecued ribs are also available.
Taking to heart the advice given by Willie Martin, “to show them love,” Donny Wohlers has tried to make Old No. 1 the finest place to go in Morris, whether alone, as a part of a group, business or service organization.