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Back in business: Audubon Liquor Store purchased by brothers-in-law

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The newly owned Audubon Liquor Store will keep many of its old food items but may expand its menu in the future. (Meagan Pittelko/Tribune)2 / 3
Other new features of the Audubon Liquor Store include high-top chairs and tables, which is something that owners said they hope makes the bar look more modern. (Meagan Pittelko/Tribune)3 / 3

The people of Audubon can rejoice and cease living in a dry town—the Audubon Liquor Store is back on the map after being purchased by two long-time friends and brothers-in-law, Bob Spilman and Brian Johnson.

Johnson says the "pieces just started falling into place" for the two new bar owners. It started with Spilman retiring from radio and Johnson selling The Bridge to the owners of Zorbaz. While the two were enjoying "retirement," they still had their eyes peeled for opportunities, and the chance to purchase the Audubon Liquor Store presented itself.

"Neither one of us wanted to run it full time," said Johnson.

That's where Johnson's youngest daughter, Samantha Ullrich, who just happened to be looking for a career change at the time, came into play—and kept things local for the two tycoons.

Ullrich and her husband, Darren, are Audubon inhabitants, who are sure to be familiar with their new customer base. Samantha used to teach at the school and Darren is the assistant basketball coach for Lake Park-Audubon. Not to mention, their three daughters all go to school in the community.

Needless to say, the townies were happy when the family took over.

"Instantly people came back and said, 'Wow, are we happy'," said Spilman.

And Johnson said he's heard much the same since they reopened the establishment a few weeks ago.

"The locals really wanted to see this place open," said Johnson.

It's just the way "rural America" works with its small-town locals who much prefer drinking at the local liquor store.

"In rural America, your local bar is the hub of the community," said Johnson, adding that it's where people meet and come to catch up after a work, maybe play a game of bingo or two, which the new owners will still partner with the local fire department to host.

As for the rest of the business, the new owners haven't changed a whole lot...yet. Right now, they're just focusing on restocking and "enhancing," with the possibility of looking into more live entertainment and event opportunities down the road.

"I'm a big motorcycle enthusiast," said Johnson, mentioning the possibility of hosting a Too Broke For Sturgis event.

They're also looking at building on a deck and potentially expanding the food options down the road.

But, for now, they'll keep the locals happy with that same old "sports bar without being a sports bar" feel.

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