The 920 | Upfront

UpFront – October 2021

Dave Vatland, Sound World

by Tim Froberg

Televisions were small and square when Dave Vatland was a kid.

The days of the old box TV are gone. Television screens have grown massive and home theaters — once a luxury that only the wealthy could afford — have become the norm.

Vatland, the owner of Sound World in Appleton, specializes in bringing the home theater experience to customers. Sound World sells, services, and installs high-tech televisions and accompanying sound systems to provide the big-screen atmosphere that was once available only at public movie theaters.

Vatland is a second-generation owner of a retail family business launched 56 years ago by his parents, Merv and Evelyn Vatland. In addition to home theater audio and video sales and installations — primarily for residential homes — Sound World offers a broad range of additional electronic services ranging from home automation and lighting systems to sound systems and equipment for automobiles

Dave shares the building at 3015 W. Wisconsin Avenue with his brother, Larry, who operates Computer World on the other side.  

How much has the industry changed since you began working in the family business?

“Technology changes every day. This industry is a rollercoaster — always changing. Samsung called me six months ago and said, ‘Dave, get your last order in for DVD players because it’s our last run.’ DVD players are done, and most people have no idea.”

What is the average size of the screens you sell for home theaters?

“About 110 to 120 inches diagonally. We just installed a screen that was 152 inches. If you have a 60-inch TV on the wall and surround sound, it’s fine to call that a theater. But in our industry, a true theater is going to be much larger. It will be some form of projection to get larger than a 100-inch screen on the wall at an economical price.”

What should people consider when installing their own system?

“Will it be a movie room? Or is it more of a sports venue where you entertain multiple people and want a bar and a billiards table? Those are the first decisions to make because it will change how the system is done.”

What’s the next big thing in your industry?

“We’re experimenting more and more with virtual reality. It’s exciting, but a little intimidating. The accuracy has become great. It’s going to be part of things.”

Upfront – September 2021

Rachel Haffley, Cleo’s Brown Beam Tavern

by Tim Froberg

As general manager of Cleo’s Brown Beam Tavern, Rachel Haffley doesn’t have too many bad days at work.

“No one really comes into here — the Christmas bar — in bad spirits,” said Haffley with a laugh. “We get all kinds of people. We get the really young college kids, and we get their parents. A lot of parents bring in their kids when they’re 21, and are like, ‘This is where I used to drink.’ And we have amazing regulars who really supported us through COVID.”

The downtown Appleton watering hole may be the most iconic bar in the Fox Cities. It opened in 1970 and is known for its colorful Christmas decorations that line that bar year-round. Haffley, an Appleton native and Appleton North alumnus, has been the bar’s GM the past three years and worked three previous years as an assistant manager.

How did the Christmas theme start?  

“The original owner, Cleo (Brown), worked for a bar in Milwaukee that had Christmas decorations. That’s how she wanted to start a bar here. She wanted to decorate for Christmas and the worst part of that is taking the decorations down, so she just decided to leave them up year-round. She bought a lot of ornaments and eventually it just turned into people bringing in ornaments or nutcrackers.”

Who’s the most famous person that’s visited Cleo’s?

“The infamous Marky (Wenzel) worked the door for many years. I guess Willem Dafoe was trying to come in, but he had an underaged person with him, so Marky wouldn’t let him in. He was like, ‘Well, you know who I am, right?’ Marky was like, ‘You can come in, but she can’t because she’s underaged.”’

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve seen happen at the bar?

“I met my husband (Ben Park) here. He was from Colorado and came here to buy a firetruck. We drank a lot of tequila. He wrote his name down on a napkin, and we got married a year later.”

What is Cleo’s signature drink?

“The Dirty Snowball. That’s a blended White Russian that gets creamy like a milkshake. That and our Old Fashioned. People come in from out of town, saying, ‘We’ve been craving an Old Fashioned from Cleo’s for years.’”

UpFront – August 2021

Saving a Life

by Tim Froberg

Saving a life is more than just the noblest of acts. It’s an actual skill and an important one that Ann Marie Koleske teaches.

Koleske owns Hands to Heart LLC., a private business in which a four-person staff of professional instructors teach classes on CPR, First Aid, Automated External Defibrillators, Blood Borne Pathogens, and Emergency Oxygen.

Known as “Annie,” Koleske started Hands to Heart in 2004. It travels to business sites and teaches on location. Her clients are primarily businesses in the industrial, financial, manufacturing, and construction fields, along with churches and other organizations.

Koleske, a Hortonville High School graduate, has a medical background. She obtained her CNA (certified nursing assistant) by the age of 18 and earned a degree in respiratory therapy. She worked in the nursing field at St. Elizabeth Hospital before going back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing from Lakeland College and a master’s degree from Silver Lake College in organizational behavior.

Q: What inspired you to start your business?

A: “I wanted to stay in the medical field yet become an entrepreneur.  I love teaching people how to save lives.”

Q: What’s the most important thing a person should know in a medical emergency?

A:  “Every second counts. If you can just get started with that person and can get 911 on the way, their chances of survival really increase. It’s all about keeping the brain alive, more so than bringing that person back to life. If their brain cells aren’t intact when they get to the hospital, there’s not much doctors can do.”

Q:  How do clients respond to your classes?

A: “Most are open and receptive. We want people to not be afraid to step in during an emergency. Most of the time, people are afraid they’re going to hurt that person.”

Q: Do you cater your classes to clients?

A: “We adjust based on the client. If you’re in a dental office and a person is having a medical emergency, you’re going to get them on the floor because it’s hard to climb up on a dental chair and do CPR. If someone is stuck on a bridge beam at a construction site, that’s a totally different situation.”

UpFront – July 2021

Looking Out for Our Seniors:
Carrie Peters

by Tim Froberg

Elderly residents in the Fox Cities don’t have a better friend than Carrie Peters.

Peters, a senior sergeant with the Appleton Police Department, works diligently to assist those dealing with dementia and other age-related cognitive issues. She has guided various important initiatives at the A.P.D., including a new officer training program on dementia response. The program is partnered with the Aging & Disability Resource Center and Fox Valley Memory Project. Peters helps train officers and prepare them for experiences with individuals that have dementia and Alzheimer’s-related diseases.

Peters received a degree in human services and professional leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and has taken dementia courses offered by state, county, and law enforcement organizations along with the Alzheimer’s Association First Responder Training program.

Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Peters, a Winneconne High School graduate and an Appleton police officer for the past 13 ½ years, was recently named as one of Northeast Wisconsin’s Remarkable Women by television station WFRV-TV, Channel 5.

What inspired you to be a police officer?

“I had been looking at things more human services and social work-related, but I chatted with a couple officers from the Appleton P.D. at a career fair. I found out that social work and police work were really intertwined and very similar in the people we serve.”

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

“Dealing with people going through a bad time. What’s rewarding is you have the opportunity to help people navigate a very troublesome time in their life.”

Do you have a personal connection with dementia or Alzheimer’s-related issues?

“My husband’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He passed away in April of 2019 after a long fight with the disease. Later in his diagnosis, there were times where he didn’t know who we were, but we could still have positive interactions with him and do things that made him happy.”

What’s the most important thing one can do to help a loved one with these diseases?

“It’s really important to interact with them, because even though their responses and abilities may change, they’re still that person you love. Interacting with them makes them feel safe with you, because essentially, in their mind, they’re talking with a stranger.”

UpFront – June 2021

Meet the Piano Man

by Tim Froberg

Bill Steinert chuckles whenever people call him the Piano Man.

“Hey, that’s not a bad reference,” joked Steinert, referring to pop superstar Billy Joel who is best known for that nickname. “I’m his age and now I’ve got his hairline.”

Steinert plays the piano, too, and quite well. The 59-year-old Oshkosh native has been performing piano shows and popular sing-alongs for the past 38 years at George’s Steak House where he splits weekend duties with fellow musician Bruce Koestner.

Steinert grew up in a musical family, was introduced to the piano at the age of three, and has been performing since he was 15. But the piano was always a second gig for Steinert. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and UW-Milwaukee graduate taught English at Oshkosh West High School for 30 years, while also assisting in the counseling department. He is currently retired from full-time work but teaches college writing and research methods at Marion University.

What’s your most requested song?

“‘Piano Man.’ Every group that comes in from the dining room is like, ‘Hey, do you know … I’m like, ‘Yes,  I do.’ I still enjoy it even though I’ve done it so many times I could do it in my sleep.”’

Is there a particular song you play that you dread?

“I don’t know if there is a specific song. It’s more of a thing where someone may say, ‘Do you know anything by Poison?’ Or it might be some other 90’s hair band. I just kind of roll my eyes and steer them in another direction.”

What do you listen to?

“I like groups doing new things with old ideas merged into them — like Pink Martini. They’re phenomenal musicians. My daughter likes alternative music, and she’ll go into my online account and put something on there that she wants me to learn. She keeps me current.”

Any personal favorites you enjoy playing?

“I do a shortened version of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ that I really like. As far as singing, anything by Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett.”