Wise move: Family opens fun spot in Jefferson
The Wise family describes their entertainment facility in Jefferson Township as a family gathering place.
“It’s kind of like the local meeting spot on Sunday,” says owner Vicky Wise. “And that’s exactly what we wanted.”
It’s been about seven years since Wise and her husband, Rick, opened Wise Guys 4 Fun along Dinnerbell Road, across from the South Butler County School District complex.
In addition to having an arcade and batting cages, Wise Guys is an ice cream and hamburger joint. A miniature golf course is planned to open this spring.
“We have 2.5 acres and we want to fill it all up,” Vicky said.
It took the Wises and their two grown children, Chris and Lisa, a few seasons to get the hang of running their own business. But they say the hassles were worth the results.
“I enjoy meeting people and greeting people, watching their kids grow,” Vicky said. “We usually know what the regulars are going to order and will have their burgers cooking before they get to the window.”
After spending a just few minutes with the family in early February, it was clear they’re a fun group to be around.
Although Wise Guys is closed for the winter, the Wises met to reminisce over old photos and toss a few snow balls at each other while making a new brand of snow cone — regular ice cream cones packed with snow.
Despite the hard work, the family has had a blast getting to know the community and is looking forward to opening for the season.
While the Wises have had fun learning the ropes, it took them awhile to figure out what they were doing.
“You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to do this,” Rick Wise said. “But it’s a lot of work.”
“I didn’t know anything about making soft-serve ice cream,” said Vicky Wise.
“We’ve remodeled the place about five times in six years,” said daughter Lisa Wise, now 22 and a student at Slippery Rock University.
The Wise family had never owned a business when they bought the property, which came with a small ice cream shop and batting cages.
Rick said he passed the lot often and discovered that he worked with the lot’s owner at AK Steel.
“I told him if he ever wanted to sell to give me a call,” Wise said. “About a year later, we got the call. Three weeks later, we owned it.
“We sold the camper and this became our summertime fun,” joked Lisa.
Vicky said it took awhile before they really knew what they were doing, but they learned as they went.
“We needed to know the sizes of cones and dishes, where to get them, what they were called even,” Vicky said.
To make matters more difficult, Vicky was in a serious car accident shortly after opening. With a broken ankle, she worked in the ice cream shop from the seat of a rolling chair for a time.
“You almost need to be in your 40s to start a venture like this,” said Rick, 49. “Trying to do this with little kids I don’t think we could have.”
It was hard enough with Lisa, their youngest, in high school when they opened Wise Guys.
“In the evenings we’d run over to watch her and the band at halftime,” Vicky said. “At least the school is close.”
“This will be a nice retirement job someday,” Rick said.
Within a few years, the business was going well and the Wises wanted to offer a bit more to the community.
“We knew when we started we’d either be accepted or not supported. And I think we’ve been accepted,” Vicky said.
Vicky said they chose the Dinnerbell Road property not just because of the existing facilities.
“I’m what I call a Saxonburg transplant,” Vicky said. “I really love the area and the people here.
“Plus, there wasn’t much for kids to do around here. We wanted to provide a safe place for kids to go.”
Vicky said they’re considering staying open later in the summer.
“Come 9 p.m., Main Street (in Saxonburg) pretty much closes up,” Vicky said. “I’d like to give it some night life.”
In response to community interest, Wise Guys also began hosting Farm Days several years ago. They have kids’ tractor pulls and other farm tractors on display. A dirt path between the ice cream shop and the batting cages formed the track on which kids would ride the miniature, antique tractors.
“We have such a blast,” Vicky said. “And so do the kids.”
Wise had pages of pictures from past Farm Days, with kids pedaling up the track on their mini tractors and more kids milling around an assortment of barnyard animals.
“People were worried when they saw we were putting in the golf course,” Vicky said. “‘What about Farm Days?’ they’d ask, but we still have the room for it.”
Wise Guys also hosts Praise Days, which involves area churches.
Rick said he’s thinking about building a permanent stage behind the ice cream shop for future events.
“We don’t want to get so big that we lose the intimacy with our customers,” Vicky said. “But we do want to offer them as much as we can.”
|Rick and Vicky Wise|