Happy memories: Bullwinkles was hot spot in Brillion

Former bar set to be demolished


By David Nordby

The Brillion News


Aug. 5, 2021


Please see the complete version of this story in the Aug. 5, 2021 print edition of The Brillion News.


BRILLION – New Year’s Eve 1988.


It had only been a couple of weeks that Doug Buboltz and Don Mathiebe had owned the bar at 306 North Main Street in downtown Brillion. They were not sure how that night would go. Now, more than 30 years later, that night is one of many happy memories they conjure up.


“We didn’t know what to expect and we were absolutely swamped that New Year’s Eve. It was wall-to-wall, shoulder-to-shoulder, and if you’ve ever been in there, it’s not a huge bar, and that night we had three or four bartenders just going nonstop. It was crazy, and I think that was kind of … a prediction of things to come,” Buboltz said. “It was a busy, busy place for the five or six years that we had it.”


The bar that became known as Bullwinkles under Buboltz and Mathiebe’s ownership has had a long history in Brillion.


Its days as a bar have come to an end, following Ariens Company’s recent purchase of the building. The demolition of the building and redevelopment of an unannounced project will happen in the coming weeks.


In the late 1980s, Buboltz and Mathiebe were young professionals who spent time at the establishment then known as Don’s Bar. Business at the bar was typically sparse, and when Buboltz and Mathiebe came in with a group of 10-12 friends, it made for a busy day at the bar.


“We had jobs and would meet there with our buddies on Friday afternoons for happy hour. We got joking around like, hey, we should buy this place. About a year-and-a-half later we actually ended up buying it. It was pretty crazy,” Buboltz said.


The bar was owned by the family of Don Nielsen, a retired state highway patrol officer, who in the 1950s was allegedly a part of the arrest of infamous Wisconsin murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein.


Nielsen settled in Brillion and operated Don’s Bar until his passing.


“It was just exciting to open a business and kind of carry on [Don’s Bar],” Mathiebe said. “We took it over and it just became more of a beer party bar, I guess. It was just exciting, something different for people in town to go to.”


Don’s Bar became known as Bullwinkle’s, the name people still often refer to the building as.