Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.
By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot and Review
Sharleen Bruder, 42, of Wausau
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Fort Atkinson. Born, raised, and graduated.
Q: What made you move from Fort Atkinson?
A: I didn’t move from Fort Atkinson. Kels and I moved here from Sheboygan.
Q: What made the move or transition occur?
A: I’ve lived all over. Washington state, Las Vegas, Kansas, and ended up in Sheboygan and that’s where I met Kels and then we moved up to the Wausau area so she could get her bachelor’s degree at UWSP. So, I sold my business down there to a guy up here actually and part of the agreement was I was to retain employment for two years while she completed her degree. We came up here and found a place to rent in Kronenwetter — loved the area, got up here, she graduated and we decided to stay. I think, when we moved up here, we moved up the weekend of 2012, St. Patrick’s Day, and it was like 75 degrees outside — that’s the weekend we moved. I think I fished the Wisconsin River at the end of Happy Hollow Road every day that whole summer. We loved the area – the outdoors, fishing, the people we met, the mountain – it was all pretty cool so we decided to stay.
Q: Could you tell me a little more about your business you mentioned? What was all involved in it?
A: It was a restaurant delivery service and I owned that for three years down in the Sheboygan area and I sold it up here and then I didn’t open 715 Delivery until October 1st of 2015 here in Wausau.
Q: What made you decide to sell your business when it became 715 Delivery?
A: You reach a point where you continue to grow, and grow, and grow and you cannot do it yourself anymore. So, when we were approached by Bite Squad, we listened to them and took us about a year talking to them and listening to them and then we allowed the negotiation to begin. I had no intent of staying on with Bite Squad and the way the contract was written, the closing date was June 1st so the contract said “you guys operate 715 until July 23rd and July 24th you become Bite Squad. I had no intent of staying on – Oliver was due, I worked my ass off for two and a half years and I was looking forward to time off and a maternity leave. Then, in that 10 days, they had three execs here, one from Minneapolis, one from Seattle, and one from Miami and as I grew to learn more about this company, being there, 12 hours a day, I grew a lot of respect for the company that I sold to because there was this fear of you bringing this big company to this small town of Wausau. What is that going to do for our customers? It was a big concern of ours, but we knew that it could be better. They could make it better. They have the technology, they have the resources that we just could not continue – we grew too fast, basically. We grew too fast to operate as two owners so we did it. The day before, July 23rd, they approached me and asked me “what will it take to keep you on at Bite Squad in Wausau? It’s in you, and Bite Squad Wausau needs you.” I’m still here a year later.
Q: What would you say you learned about yourself through that process?
A: How to be more patient with people.
Q: What would you say was the hardest age for you growing up?
Q: Why do you choose 25? I feel many people have been saying their mid-twenties as a difficult time.
A: I moved out as soon as I turned 18 mid-year of my senior year. 21 is 21 and you think you know everything and you don’t. I moved off to Vegas when I was 21 and you learn a lot about yourself and then 25 comes and your insurance rate goes down, you can rent a U-Haul, you can rent a car and the anger you get inside yourself as life goes on – your baggage, anger, kind of starts to subside at age 25 and you come into yourself a little more.
Q: How did you decide to move to Vegas?
A: Being from a small town of 7,000, I think we had 100 people in our graduating class, but I knew there was always more out there. I never traveled much as a kid, and grew up as a welfare kid. I didn’t have much and mom worked really hard to get off that and we didn’t have many family vacations. I remember going out to the Badlands once and it was pretty cool and then I got this travel bug. I would literally sit in my car and flip a coin and heads for Carolina, tails for Colorado. One time, I flipped it and went to Nashville. I drove by myself . My first girlfriend had a gambling problem. If I wanted to spend quality time with her, we would drive from Lake Geneva, where we lived, to the casino in Wisconsin Dells. She was a slots queen and I hated slots. So, she introduced me to the game of Blackjack and I met this cool dealer, my buddy Woz. We’ve been friends since I’ve been 19, so 20-23 years. He was this big, funny guy with this big gap in his teeth. He taught me how to be a dealer, and he taught me how to play Blackjack. He’d come down to Lake Geneva and we’d go to the dog track and we developed this friendship that still exists to this day. He and his roommate, both from Milwaukee, were at Ho-Chunk dealing and then one day they just decided: Let’s get out of here. Let’s go to Vegas and make some real money. Let’s go deal cards. So, they did. They packed up and got this dumpy apartment down there and then, boom! I turn 21 and basically I wanted to go, too. So, then my relationship ended and I packed up my wiener dog and called my mom to tell her I was moving to Vegas. I let Woz know and he went and got a three bedroom townhouse expecting me. I partied it up, tore it up and he showed me everything. You actually have to go to dealer school down there. You can’t just walk in. At dealing school they teach you all these games and it was actually really cool. It’s better told over a bonfire and beer, but I saw a lot down there, but I made a ton of money. But then you just get burned out. Then I met someone and U-Hauled it all the way to Kansas and that didn’t work out so then I ended up back home.
Q: What is your favorite local spot?
A: We really enjoy Rib Mountain. I don’t want to do something cliché. Every time we’ve been up there, it was cool. It’s where we did our one year anniversary pictures and we all should get up there more.
Q: What motivates you each day?
A: My kids and family – that’s probably cliché too, but teaching them the work ethic. When we decided to stay in this area – we decided to buy a house and have kids.
A: What hidden talent do you have?
A: I don’t play the clarinet, or the drums, or guitar, but I think it’s parenting. I never wanted kids, ever. It wasn’t in my life plan at all. So, with kids and growing up, I didn’t believe anything lasts forever. I grew up in a broken home with a piece of shit Dad. I think that kids are best raised by two parents and I was always under the saying that “nothing lasts forever.” Not only that, but you get selfish traveling and I didn’t want to put any roots down, you know? In a new relationship you always have that initial discussion of “what’s your sports teams? What’s your thoughts on abortion? Religion? Kids?” Kels is a natural, wonderful, parent and that was always in her game plan. When we decided to get together and then get married, I had to decide if that was going to fit with me and my life plan because I was already old at that time. So, we did it. But I was nervous. But I actually naturally had it in me and I shocked myself and I guess it was a hidden talent because I think I’m pretty good at it.
Q: What is one moment that changed you as a person?
A: There’s so many. I’m gonna go with parenting or having the kids and becoming a parent. It has because you’re nervous about doing it. Are you going to be able to do it? Can you handle it? Are you patient enough? The patience that I’ve been able to learn or develop with a toddler is amazing and I’m okay with it. The joy in her eyes is pretty cool.
Q: If you had any advice to give anyone, what would it be?
A: Stop hating. Just stop hating. There’s too much of that in this world. You see it all over Facebook groups. Just stop the hate. As a parent you try to raise productive, happy, loving kids, and what went wrong? Where did it go wrong? Stop the hate.
Q: What is your favorite memory from living here?
A: Fishing. I need to do more of it. When we moved here my pole was in the water every day. It’s fishing, being outside – we were using the river walk before anything was even there. Also, the beauty in the fall. I look forward to it every year.
Q: What has made you stay in Wausau?
A: I always joke that Kels is so accident prone and she got cleated in the leg and we were really impressed with Aspirus. Then on July 4th, Em, my daughter, got a concussion. She jumped and went to give her grandma a hug at bedtime and slipped on a rug and cracked her head in two spots. We thought she’d be okay, but then she went to sleep and ended up vomiting so we took her into the emergency room in Sheboygan and there was a huge difference between that hospital and what we have here. Yeah sure, the city hall is a freaking mess and taxes are high. In retrospect, we chose the area of town that we live in for the Riverview School, but D.C. Everest has a good one too and we actually considered putting our house on the market this spring because we outgrew it and to get away from the city taxes. But the people here are great and you meet great people, and there’s a lot of friends.