Flemings follow their dreams and buy Black Bear Bar
Sara (left) and Shaun Fleming, took over Black Bear Bar & Campground, officially opening Dec. 2. The couple says owning a business in the bar and restaurant industry has been a lifelong dream of theirs. During the first month, Shaun has spent a lot of time in the kitchen, while Sara has spent more time bartending, though they are both trying to learn all the facets of the business. Photo by Julia Wolf By Julia Wolf A pool table and a pandemic, brought Sara and Shaun Fleming for a visit to the Holcombe area. A friendly and welcoming atmosphere encouraged them to stay. The Flemings bought Black Bear Bar & Campground, located west of Holcombe on 250th Street, and moved to Holcombe from the St. Paul, Minn., area, with their first official day in business, Dec. 2. Sara says the opportunity brought them to the area. “To be completely honest, how we found it (the opportunity), was COVID,”said Shaun. Shaun says everything in St. Paul, Minn., closed, as of Saint Patrick’s Day, 2020. He says, during the closure, he bought a pool table for their basement, because he couldn’t go to any pool houses to play with his team. “The little fold-out table wasn’t cutting it, so then I started looking for a bar for our basement,” said Shaun. He says he looked at furniture stores, but couldn’t find anything that he wanted. Shaun says he resorted to online shopping, which eventually led to Craigslist. “I found a couple nice bars,” said Shaun. “Then, I found this place in Holcombe, Wisconsin.” He says he had never heard of Holcombe, and hadn’t considered running a bar during COVID. “It was more of an adventure, let’s just see what is potentially out there in the world,” said Shaun. Sara says Shaun showed her options of bars around the Twin Cities area on his phone, before showing her a picture of the pool table in Black Bear Bar, with a posting for a small, family-owed bar for sale. Shaun researched it some and they decided to pay a visit, since it was less than two hours away for them. “It was something we could do, a drive, hang out for a little while and drive home, and it wasn’t a big deal,” said Shaun. When they came to visit, just to check out the place, Sara says the bar was busy and everyone there was very friendly, adding Cathy, one of the owners at the time, even came out to say hi. “It was such a friendly and inviting environment,” said Sara. Sara says they wondered if the atmosphere is always that friendly, or if they just happened to catch it on a good night. “We definitely came back a few other times to check it out and see if this was just a fluke,” said Sara. Shaun says they also took the time to look around the area on their visits, as well as look at the campground sites at Black Bear Bar. He says they realized it was the opportunity of a lifetime. “And it’s so beautiful here,” said Sara. “It’s such a beautiful area. We fell in love with that right away.” The couple moved to Holcombe in the middle of November, after quitting their jobs and selling their house. Sara says taking over Black Bear Bar has been a welcome change of pace for them and everyone has continued to be wonderful. “It’s definitely a super fun experience so far,” said Sara. Shaun says he and Sara met working in a restaurant 18 years ago, with Shaun bartending and Sara waitressing, and they have both been involved in the bar and restaurant industry in various ways since that time. “This was always a dream of ours, to do this,” said Sara. Sara added that it was Nick and Cathy Balistreri’s dream, too, and the Flemings say they are grateful they passed their dream on. “We’re very fortunate to have them as the folks we purchased the bar from,” said Sara. Sara says Cathy has given them all of her recipes and gave them tips. She says they plan to continue those offerings until they hear from patrons that they would like something added or changed. Shaun agreed, since Nick and Cathy ran the business successfully for over 20 years, there is no need to change things right away. The Flemings also took over the 20-space campground, with many of the seasonal campers choosing to carry over from the previous owners. Right now, they say their goal is to get to know the community and other business owners, as well as build relationships with their customers.