Wausau Pilot & Review
Editor’s note: Business of the Week is a sponsored feature that shares the stories of locally-owned and operated businesses in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways they contribute to the metro area’s unique flavor. Learn how to feature your business by emailing email@example.com.
This week’s featured business is Wausau’s only true night club, where the new owner is making major changes and renovations to attract a wider and more diverse audience. John Troemel purchased Nightschool, 320 Ross Ave., just over a year ago with dreams of transforming the spot into a thriving nightlife destination – then, COVID happened. But Troemel, who has decades of night club experience, was not deterred. He used the time to clean and remodel the club – and map out his ideas for the future. Now, he’s added a VIP area for groups that includes a separate bar, opened up the side space for quieter entertainment – named “The Library” – implemented ID-scanning technology that ensures troublemakers are barred at the door, and hired world-class DJs and VJs to spin and entertain the crowd each weekend. Here’s what John had to say about Nightschool – and his plans for the future.
Q: When was your business established and what prompted you to start?
A: I bought this from the previous owner a little over a year ago. I’ve spent a lot of years in the nightclub business, starting when I got out of the military and moved to Wausau. I was a “shot seller” at a bar that no longer exists here. Basically, a shot seller buys a bottle of liquor and walks around the club selling shots to customers. I loved talking to people, getting to know them. At the time, I was going to school to pursue a career in IT, which I did do, but I was really drawn to the music. The DJ at the bar helped me learn the basics, and it went on from there. I started a mobile DJ business and did that for quite awhile, and I was also tech manager for a couple of local companies. But now I bought this, and I’m concentrating on what I love the most – making people happy and sharing the music.
Q: What’s the story behind the name of your business?
A: The club was already named when I bought it, and I did consider changing it. But there was already a solid social media following, so it was smart to keep it the same, at least for now. We just renamed the smaller bar adjacent to this one “The Library,” and eventually we’ll open that at 3 p.m., a spot for all the hard workers in the area to stop by and relax after work.
Q: Tell us about Nightschool. What do you offer?
A: Right now, we’re open Thursday through Saturday nights starting at 8. Later, we’ll add more hours, starting earlier for happy hour. Our kitchen opens at 10 p.m., so it’s a great place to stop for late night bar food; sometimes it can be hard to find a place serving food later at night. We have a well-balanced crowd, some young, some more in their 30s and 40s, and we’re really open and welcoming to everyone! We invested in an ID scanner, so we scan everyone at the door. If someone causes trouble, they’re banned – and the ID scanner lets us know that the minute they try to get in. We have a zero tolerance policy for any kind of trouble, and we’re serious about that. There’s a reason there’s no trouble here. We bring in DJs and VJs from all over the country – from Nashville, Florida, California, Minneapolis, you name it – they’re well known and they know what they’re doing. Two or three times a year we bring in DJ Deville, who is internationally known. We don’t usually repeat DJs during a month and at least twice a month we bring in someone who has never been here before, to keep things fresh. And a lot of them mix in retro music, which is really in right now, so there’s wide appeal. We also have a new VIP area for groups, which is perfect for parties and adds a new dimension to the club.
Q: What makes your business unique?
A: For one thing, we’ve got the only dance floor in the area. There’s seriously nowhere else you can go to dance and listen to great music. We invested in a state-of-the-art sound system and light show, plus there are 75 video screens. About half of our DJs are also VJs. One thing that really sets us apart is our new VIP area upstairs, and I’m pretty proud of that. That area has its own separate bar where people can go in small groups, up to 30 people, and have their own space and exceptional service. It’s perfect for bachelor parties or birthday parties. Rather than taking a bus and bar hopping, we’d love to have those groups here having a good time, able to stay in their own area or mingle with the rest of the crowd. We really take care of our customers. Anyone who wants to reserve that space can give us a call and we’ll work out the details to make it happen.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: When everyone is having a good time. I love people, making them happy and knowing that they’re enjoying themselves. And I love music, so this is just the best possible thing I could be doing right now.
Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing?
A: Transforming this place. It’s nothing like before. And I mean, it’s been through a lot of changes over the years, from back when it was Bruisers and every other club that’s come and gone. I’m proud that we are offering a great place for music and dancing, and it’s so much fun. And making sure our security is exactly what it needs to be.
Q: What challenges have you had to overcome?
A: Getting the word out, for one thing. I still have 21-year-olds who say, “What, that’s a night club?” Shutting down during COVID took its toll, too, but we’re past all that and just looking to the future.
Q: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see your business going?
A: In the short-term, we’re looking at bringing in some special events earlier in the evening, adding more hours for The Library, opening up for happy hour, and having a grand reopening this summer. In the long-term, it’s all about staying on top of trends, understanding the customer base and responding to what they need. Any good night club knows how and when to evolve, and that’s a constant process. We’re here to stay.
Connect with Nightschool
Nightschool Night Club, 320 Ross Ave., Schofield