But that's not the only marriage the
"I met my wife here," Parisey said of Karen, whom he married in 1976, four years after buying the bar at
"She is 13 years younger than me," the 73-year-old Parisey said. "She was a patron who came in on Friday nights, and we got talking."
Karen does double duty -- as Parisey's bride and the tavern's accountant -- and their son, Dan, is night manager. Dan also met his wife, Katie, at the Popcorn, when they were both tending bar.
"I enjoy it when people who met here and got married come in," Parisey said.
"It was a good starting place," said Shelly, noting that the
Asked whether it was love at first sight, Shelly hesitated before saying, "Well, they had been there since noon, and we got there at 8 ...," and then trailing off.
Randy and Shelly struck up a friendship, eventually started dating and tied the knot 1 1/2 years later, she said.
Now, it's a family tradition to drop by the Popcorn -- also known simply as the Corn -- with the Pulses' three adult sons and their friends during
"Our sons like it," Shelly said. "They know we met there, and it hasn't changed.
"There still is writing on the wall in the bathroom," she said, referring to the hundreds upon hundreds of signatures and messages on those walls, as well as the panels throughout the back room.
Parisey acknowledges that letting graffiti artists have their way is by design, if not by default.
"The bathrooms are covered with expressions of people's 'emotions,' if you will," he said with a chuckle. "We can't beat 'em, so we let 'em go."
Shelly said, "Pear (Parisey's nickname among friends) is a great guy, and he has kept it what it was. You go in there and you know you will run into somebody of our age group who went to UW-L or belonged to Phi Sig."
Parisey, a native of
"It was our favorite when we were 21," said Parisey, adding that he dropped in for nostalgia's sake several years later and discovered it was on the market.
"The former owner (
Parisey, who was managing a Prange department store in
The night spot, which employs six part-time workers, has endured its ups and downs, partly as the drinking age bounced around among 18, 19 and 21, Parisey said.
"Oktoberfests in the 1970s were insane -- those early years with 18-year-olds drinking," he said. "It's petered down some, but we still have good Saturday nights during
"People's habits are changing, too," he said. "Working blue-collar guys drink in neighborhood bars. Laws are stricter, as they should be, because people shouldn't drink and drive."
Parisey adjusted, building a stage in 1989 and booking live entertainment and open mic nights.
"I went to live music because business dried up. It was tough, but when it's tough, you don't want to give up," he said. "I'm optimistic."
The optimism appears to be well-founded, said La Crosse Center Director
"We went once a week," he said. "I think it was just a fun corner bar, if you will, to go to. Dave and Karen were always good to us and made us feel welcome. The personality of the owners is the personality of the tavern.
"People are drawn there for a variety of reasons," Fahey said. "Now, it's the music, of course. It certainly has held the test of time."
The bar, which Parisey acknowledges "is not pretty, but it's got an ambiance that's homey," bills itself on its Facebook page as "
It offers free popcorn, as its name might imply, giving rise to one of Parisey's frequent quips: "I'm glad they didn't name it the lobster."
Hominess starts from the ground up, with several layers of linoleum worn down to the bare floor in some spots.
Parisey recalled that a customer once observed, "I think there's a spot in that floor where you can see where time began."
The back room, home to two pool tables and a foosball table, features not only graffiti but also bumper stickers and posters of bands that have performed there.
Decorations are eclectic, from a bumper sticker on the popcorn machine proclaiming, "Friends don't let friends vote Republican" to one behind the bar declaring, "I still voted for Zappa."
The patrons are friendly and rarely raise a ruckus.
"We don't even hire bouncers because I've found that bouncers create more problems than they solve," Parisey explained. "They are usually aggressive. I consider it a neighborhood bar downtown."
So does a neighborhood rival, who is more of a friend than a competitor.
"He's my mentor," said
"When he's busy, I'm busy. When I'm slow, he's slow," Schneider said.
"He's the last survivor," Schneider said of Parisey's tenure at the Popcorn during four decades when other bars and owners have come and gone.
Asked how Parisey does it, Schneider said, "I think he just was stubborn. You have to be stubborn because it takes real tenacity to stay in this business, with all the hoops we have to jump through."
"We do good with jam bands and bluegrass," he said.
The Corn, which levies a
Grimm, whose career has blossomed into gigs throughout the nation, said he performed at the Popcorn every Sunday for two years when he was at UW-L. He still returns periodically to play there, most recently on
"The Popcorn has a certain charm, and
It's especially necessary in the technological age, "where people get into their own little corner of the world. It's important to witness different cultures and live music, because music is one of the best ways to share experiences," Grimm said.
The tavern's atmosphere contrasts sharply with that of "American Idol," which Grimm said involves so much marketing and branding.
"At the Popcorn, it's about the music itself," he said. "It's so intimate that musicians have very connected moments with the audience. I'm not saying you can't do that on 'American Idol,' but when you're able to see everybody and really connect, there is some deep magic in that experience."
Parisey said he had thought he might retire at 70 but now intends to hang around for a few more years.
Dan, who started working at 14, sweeping up at Yesterday's when the Pariseys also owned that bar, said he is "up in the air" about whether he would like to take over the tavern.
"The only thing I don't like are the hours," he said, noting that he normally cleans the bar from
"I'm getting a little old to deal with 21-year-olds," said 32-year-old Dan. "I'd like a normal job with normal hours."
Asked what job he aspires to, Dan said, "Maybe a mailman. That's a strange dream job, but you get to be outdoors all the time."
Meanwhile, the Corn continues with its magic moments, and occasional matchmaking.
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