Electric blue barns — they're a thing in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. Now in the land of the red “See Rock City” barns, folks soon will be getting acquainted with the story behind the blue barns.
Farragut residents Ron and Anita Dresen have stopped their lives as a chemical engineer and stay-at-home mom to work together to launch the first Culver’s in Tennessee. They are bringing a taste of Wisconsin dairy to West Knox County. The couple opened this fast-casual restaurant Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 9113 Kingston Pike.
You can order a Butterburger [the buns are buttered] for $3 to $5, or maybe a North Atlantic cod or butterfly jumbo shrimp or beef pot roast dinner — or maybe a salted caramel pecan custard sundae — at the counter, and then have a seat and wait for your food.
The crew of nearly 70 employees includes both Dresens, since the corporation requires owners to be hands-on. It also includes two of their four children: Max Dresen is a student at The University of Tennessee, and Maddie is a junior at Farragut High School. Their siblings, Alyssa, who lives in Kansas, and Scott, who lives in Nashville, came in for the grand opening.
Natives of Wisconsin, the Dresens have personal photos of their families’ dairy farms on the walls.
The barns are emblazoned with the name "Culver's," a 638-store chain well known up north.
“When Anita and I were in college, we stopped at the No. 1 store before it was franchised or anything like that. Culvers started in 1984 in Sauk City, Wisconsin," Ron said. "We’re in 28 states and we’re number 638.”
Ron said he and Anita started talking about bringing Culver’s to Knoxville 12 years ago, but that was when their oldest child was heading off to college and the time wasn’t right.
“About a year ago now we decided to look into it again. People have looked at Knoxville before, but they never just pulled the trigger and bought a franchise here," Ron said.
With its Wisconsin roots, “Culver’s is really big into supporting farmers,” he said. “There are blue barns all over Wisconsin. I grew up baling hay for my aunt and uncle. They milked 600 cows in Wisconsin and Anita’s sister's [family], they milk 25 head of cattle in Wisconsin, so those pictures are in the back over there.
"We’re [Green Bay] Packers fans, so there’s Packers paraphernalia," he said pointing to a framed piece on the wall. ‘I have my engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin and I got my MBA from UT, so I’m a Vol, and the back side of this wall is Vol stuff.”
Although Anita has been busy at home, she worked in her family’s grocery store and has experience with family-owned businesses. Neither of them has worked in the food industry before, so working together 24/7 is a new adventure.
“I’ll do a lot of the back-of-the-house stuff,” she said, “marketing, office-type work.”
Ron will be on-site working with the employees, being the main manager and owner.
“Our little town of Mauston has a Culver’s,” she added. “We’ve been in No. 1 and we’re No. 638. We saw them all starting.”
What’s her favorite sandwich on the menu?
“The cod is really good. A lot of people love the pork tenderloin. The butterfly shrimp would obviously be my favorite," Anita said. "The buffalo chicken tenders are really good.”
To get a look at the menu, go to www.culvers.com.