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Country Gardens has new owners
In Soldiers Grove
Country Gardens - Gabe Williams
GABE WILLIAMS , new co-owner of Country Gardens in Soldiers Grove, is a hands-on manager. He and his wife Angiee also operate bars in Liberty, LaFarge and Yuba.

SOLDIERS GROVE - Country Gardens bar and restaurant in Soldiers Grove has a couple of dynamic new owners. Gabe and Angiee Williams took over the successful business in December, adding it to their portfolio of bar/restaurant businesses across the area.

When reached last week at the restaurant for an interview, Gabe Williams had his head under the hood of the icemaker.

“It’s always something in the bar/restaurant business,” Williams said with a smile.

He would know. In addition to operating Country Gardens, the couple also owns and operates the Liberty Bar in rural Viola, the Twisted Raven Bar in LaFarge, and the Pine River Inn in Yuba.

Gabe and Angiee both grew up in Viola, and graduated from Kickapoo High School. Gabe Williams grew up on the farm of his parents, Randy and June Williams. The couple has three children – Kirsten, 24, and two boys currently attending the Kickapoo School District, Barrett, 10, and Blake, 6.

“Angiee and I love Southwest Wisconsin, and always knew that we wanted to raise our family here,” Gabe said. “I’ve travelled all over the country in my construction work, experienced all the fun the big city has to offer, and those experiences have made me realize how special the Kickapoo Valley is.”

Williams said that the two intend to keep the menu at Country Gardens “pretty much the same,” but to add in some pasta dishes and other specials, and maybe some expanded offerings on the salad bar. He said that in the spring, he may undertake some projects to enhance the outdoor space available to patrons.

“I’m really excited about the possibility of working with Driftless Brewing Company and the other businesses in town to put on some outdoor events this summer,” Williams said. “The Brewery brings a lot of people to town, and I think there’s a lot of possibilities with that.”

Williams said that “he just had a good feeling about Soldiers Grove” when he and Angiee decided to buy the business.

Other businesses

The other new bar in the couple’s portfolio, The Twisted Raven, in LaFarge, was acquired, according to Williams just as the pandemic closed all the bars and restaurants in 2020. Deb and Homer Arndt, owners of the Old Oak Inn in Soldiers Grove, had a similar star-crossed launch. William’s grandfather had owned the bar back in the day, when it was called ‘The Raven.’

The two bought the business following the 2018 flood, when they were looking to relocate Angiee’s Viola flower business out of the floodplain. Williams commented that over the years, the floods have really beat up communities in the Kickapoo Valley, but that he’s happy to see all the recovery efforts currently underway. The upstairs of the Twisted Raven building has been remodelled, and serves as an AirBNB rental space for people visiting the area.

“It’s been pretty tough since we opened with the pandemic,” Williams said. “Angiee and I have lots of things to keep us busy, but who I really worry about is our employees. You can’t do restaurant and bar work from home, and when the business is closed or people are choosing not to dine out, then that really affects our employees.”

The Liberty Bar is a much-beloved venue in the Viola area, known for its smokehouse fare. After the 2018 flood, the bar hosted a benefit for flood survivors that raised funds to help people put their lives back together. They also offer an ‘Annual Chili Cook Off,’ which took place last Saturday, and patrons can often enjoy live music at the venue by local musician Ann Cristoffer, and other local musicians.

Williams said that the Pine River Inn in Yuba is, perhaps, best known for the ‘Testicle Festival’ they host every summer, as well as an annual car show. He says it’s “kind of amazing” to find a thriving business like the Inn in such an out-of-the-way place as Yuba, and commented that it reminds him a bit of the old Towerville Tap.

“Every year, we donate proceeds from the Testicle Festival to a charity,” Williams said. “Recipients have included charitable efforts like Greater Richland Area Cancer Elimination (GRACE), and the Yuba Fire Department.”