Couple has plans to reopen iconic White Springs Supper Club

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Fifteen years after White Springs Supper Club served its last meal, the iconic McGregor establishment has a new lease on life. Jennifer Yager—great granddaughter of White Springs’ long-time owner, Ethel Mann—and her husband Robert are working to rehab the site on Klein Brewery Road and reopen the restaurant in its former glory. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Fifteen years after White Springs Supper Club served its last meal, the iconic McGregor establishment has a new lease on life. Jennifer Yager—great granddaughter of White Springs’ long-time owner, Ethel Mann—and her husband Robert are working to rehab the site on Klein Brewery Road and reopen the restaurant in its former glory.

Robert, who has 20 years of experience in the restaurant business, said he’s contemplated the idea for awhile.

“But it just seemed like such a big undertaking, and I was like, ‘Eh, we’ve got kids,’” he shared. “Then, one day, my son and I were coming back from Postville and we swung down here and took a look around, and I just got the bug in me.”

Jennifer was supportive.

“I’ve been coming here since I was little,” she said, recalling fond memories of Ethel behind the bar, and the notable laugh of Harold Landt, who ran the business with Ethel for many years. “It always made me sad when I went by and it was unoccupied. Now that we’re starting it, I feel like it’s part of grandma coming back. Hopefully we do her proud.”

The couple admits the task won’t be easy. White Springs, which opened in 1936 on the property that once housed the Klein Brewery, has been closed since 2005—a year after Ethel’s death. An antique business later operated out of the location for a short time, but the building has sat empty for the past few years.

The Yagers have been busy clearing debris from not just the building, but the cave area behind it that once cooled beer. They’ve also done extensive cleaning and are working to improve handicap accessibility and bring the site up to code.

“We haven’t really done much outside yet because it’s cold,” said Robert, “but we’ve done some scraping and painting the walls, cleaning the carpets. We mounted the bar. I have a buddy who’s going to repaint the sign.”

There’s no timeline yet as to when White Springs might reopen.

“We’re trying to get it to the state when Ethel was running it at its prime,” Robert said. “It’s going to take a little bit.”

The interior will feature historic pieces like the bar and two large buffets. The Yagers also hope to incorporate some original beer signs, as well as enlarged photos from White Springs’ past. There are plans to utilize the upstairs space, which one hosted dances, roller skating and wedding receptions, for some of the same activities.

“When my great grandma owned it, they didn’t have AC, so there was a big airplane propeller up there they used for air,” Jennifer said. “It’s really neat looking. I was surprised it’s still here.”

“I would like to do a kids night or something, so kids can come over and roller skate,” Robert added. “The floor is so nice up there.”

Most importantly, the reinvented White Springs will offer the supper club’s traditional recipes. They’ve been passed down to Jennifer from her grandmother, Doris Barrette, who is Ethel’s daughter.

“The biggest thing, when everyone talks about [White Springs], is the relish trays,” noted Robert. “We’re keeping the relish trays for sure, and we still have the original relish trays to use.”

“And the onion rings,” Jennifer added. “[Robert] has those down.”

Other highlights will include ribs, catfish, lobster, coleslaw and potato salad.

Jennifer said Doris and Harold are excited to see White Springs back in the family. Community members and friends have been supportive too.

 “I hope it brings back a piece of history, a piece of their childhood,” she reflected.

“It’s such a legacy,” Robert said. “We’re doing it in her grandmother’s name, and we want to take pride in good, quality food. Hopefully we can make people happy and ourselves happy.”

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