See photos of the nearly complete Bucyrus Club in South Milwaukee

Event venue, museum to open mid-July

The Bucyrus Club houses Skyline Catering on the first level and the Bucyrus Museum on the second level.

As the $5 million Bucyrus Club redevelopment project wraps up, Skyline Catering Inc. is getting ready to relocate operations to its new home in downtown South Milwaukee.

The catering company on Friday will officially take over the 20,000-square-foot ground floor of the former factory and Bucyrus employee club, which has been renovated into an event facility and bar-restaurant.

The venue is an expansive upgrade from Skyline’s current 6,000-square-foot location in Cudahy, having outgrown the space after 13 years there, said owner Ernie Wunsch.

He started the business in 1997; its portfolio has since grown to more than 600 clients across southeastern Wisconsin.

“We wanted our own place to call home. Instead of bringing a wedding of 200 to a site, with all of our staff and all of our equipment, we want people to come to us so we can more efficiently do things,” said Wunsch. 

Located at 1919 12th Ave., The Bucyrus Club has been under construction for the past eight months, with Milwaukee-based CG Schmidt Inc. as manager. A second tenant, the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum, will occupy the 5,500-square-foot second floor for its new Bucyrus Museum, which honors the history of crane manufacturer Bucyrus International Inc. The nonprofit will have its offices on the third-floor loft area, with windows overlooking the exhibit area.

Skyline’s ground-floor space includes the Grand Ballroom, which seats up to 220 people, as well as the 1893 Ballroom, which seats up to 120 people. Sandwiched in between the two venues is the Founder’s Room & Fireplace Lounge, which will operate as a full-service bar-restaurant Tuesday through Friday but is also available to book for smaller events.

So far, The Bucyrus Club has more than 50 events, such as weddings, class reunions and showers, scheduled on the books between this year and next year, said Wunsch. He was initially concerned there would not be much interest since the space hasn’t been available to tour. 

“It helps that COVID put all of last year’s weddings into this year, so there’s a double scramble for bookings,” he said. “A new venue is positioned perfectly right now for opening.”

Both The Bucyrus Museum and the banquet facility are slated to open in mid-July.

Parts of the historic building date back to 1892. It was added onto twice over its history. It was home to South Milwaukee’s first manufacturer, Schultz Bros. Furniture Co. Bucyrus eventually purchased the building and used it as a machine shop and steam-engine assembly shop. It was later reconfigured as a Bucyrus employee club, including a dining space, a bar, bowling alleys and a second-floor gymnasium, stage and handball court.

In 1994, the building became the South Milwaukee Community Center, operated by the local Lions Club. It again changed hands in 2006 and was operated as a restaurant.

The city bought the building in March 2020, with the help of a $1.5 million donation from the Bucyrus Foundation, as well as a $250,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., and their own commitment of tax increment financing.

The restaurant and lounge area next to the banquet room will feature 1920s-style design, as a nod to the time period when the building transitioned from its manufacturing use to the employee club.

For four years prior to the project, Wunsch said, he and Bob Jelinek, who’s director and chairman of the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum, had talked about joining forces to create a gathering place for South Milwaukee. Partnership support from the city and the Bucyrus Foundation ultimately turned the vision into a reality. 

“We’re all from this area and we have a vested interest in the city and pride in the community,” he said.

Skyline Catering has the exclusive rights to buy the building from the city once its lease is up in three years. Wunsch said he intends to go through with the purchase at that point. 

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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