History

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Sleder's History
Since 1882, people have been coming to Sleder's Family Tavern to enjoy good food, good drink, and good talk in an intimate and nostalgic family atmosphere. One of Michigan's oldest, continuously-operated taverns, Sleder's is an important piece of the unique tapestry of Traverse City and a treasured part of the area that locals proudly share with visitors.

It all began in the heart of what was once known as Slabtown, a working class neighborhood on Traverse City's west side. Vencel Sleder, a Bohemian immigrant and wheelwright, wanted to build a tavern where everyone could relax after a day of hard work. With the help of neighborhood men, Vencel began construction using wooden slabs from nearby sawmills.

"It took three years to build because the crew could only work on Sundays," said Louie Sleder, the last of three generations of Sleders to own the tavern. "Afterward they would eat, drink, and tell lies."

Louie's mother, Polly, helped establish the "good will is good business" attitude that still prevails at Sleder's today. When patrons bought a case of beer from Polly for $1.50, she threw in a double shot and a beer for free. She even dispensed regular medical advice to clientele, like her guaranteed cure for a neckache - heat salt in a fry pan, mix in some egg white, soak a rag in the mixture, and then wrap it around your neck.

There was little doubt that Louie would end up in the family business, and he learned it from the floor up, literally, by earning 25 cents apiece to clean out the 21 spittoons in the tavern. By the time Prohibition rolled around, his business savvy helped him manage to keep the tavern open for loyal customers (which is why Sleder's is one of the state's continuously operated taverns). He kept barrels of special "root beer" (bourbon and rye), which he served in tea cups and for free, of course, to law enforcement officials.

Sleder's decor still contains the original bar along the east wall, an impressive 21 feet of solid mahogany sided with cherry wood and fronted with a brass rail. Under the warm glow of antique lamps are old wooden booths and an array of century-old round oak tables and ice cream parlor chairs. The 12 foot ornate stamped tin ceiling is higher than those of most similar structures today, and remains virtually unchanged except for the conversion of gas lights to Thomas Edison's new electric ones. And many of the signs and memorabilia, trinkets and unique conversation pieces, and photographs that document the inseparable history of Sleder's and Traverse City have been here since the 1920's.

A few structural changes have taken place over the years. Prior to 1930, women weren't allowed in the main barroom, but had their own social area in the back room which they entered through a special door. There was also a small, private "courting" room, but Louie opened up both rooms in the 1930's, to the dismay of some of his more outspoken male patrons. And he converted the Columbia Hall Ballroom upstairs into living quarters, though a sign on the outside of the building still proclaims its presence.

Around the time of Sleder's centennial, Bob and Sylvia Classens, who had bought Sleder's in 1975, uncovered the hardwood floors, re-finished the wainscoting, and added a Victorian-styled side porch that immediately became a popular venue for private parties, receptions, banquets, and even weddings! When they sold the tavern to Deb and Brian Cairns in May 1992, the Cairns held their own wedding there, and the tradition shows no sign of slowing down!

The numerous hunting trophies and stuffed animals that decorate the walls are some of the favorite conversation pieces at Sleder's. The most impressive of these is the moose named Randolph, located over the entrance to the back room. Most people who pass through Sleder's don't pass up a chance to "KISS THE MOOSE FOR LUCK!"

"Sleder's is such a special part of Traverse City that the entire community feels a little ownership in the place," say Deb and Brian Cairns. "We know that if you visit us once, you'll come back again. How many places can you say that about?"

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A Parisian Night of Music with Pierre Bensusan at Sleder's

Sleder's first concert performance of the "On The Porch" Fall Concert Series will feature the legendary guitarist, Pierre Bensusan. From the streets of Paris, to the porch at Sleder's, Tuesday, August 29th, 2017, at 7:30 pm. Tickets on sale now at Sleder's, Oryana Food Coop, The Silver Swan or Brilliant Books in Traverse City.

Described by the LA Times as "one of the most unique and brilliant acoustic guitar veterans in the world music scene today," Pierre's name became synonymous with contemporary acoustic guitar genius, long before the terms New Age, New Acoustic Music or World Music were invented. He has the ability to make a single guitar sound like an entire band as he brings the audience on a mesmerizing journey.

Winner of the Independent Music Aware Performance Album category for his latest triple live album, and many other awards along the way, you won't want to miss this exciting musical event.  

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