Since 1964, The Fireside Dinner Theatre in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin has been the premiere entertainment destination in the Midwest for superb musicals featuring Broadway performers, fine dining, and boutique shops in a one-of-a-kind setting. Consistently named as a top destination for travel tours across the United States, The Fireside is owned by the Klopcic family, who were awarded the distinction of “America’s Best Restaurant Family” by Jones Dairy Farm and the Culinary Institute of America in 2006. For more information on The Fireside, visit firesidetheatre.com, or call 1-800-477-9505.
Klopcic’s 47 years of Wisconsin hospitality and ingenuity recognized at Statewide Conference
Fort Atkinson, Wis. (March 9, 2011) —The Wisconsin Department of Tourism presented its Legacy Award to Dick Klopcic, founder of The Fireside Dinner Theatre at the annual statewide conference closing dinner on March 8 at the Kalahari Resort & Convention Center in the Wisconsin Dells. Klopcic was honored for his ingenuity, creativity and hospitality that turned The Fireside into one of Wisconsin’s top destinations, not only in the state, but across the United States. Accepting the award on behalf of Dick Klopcic, who passed away on September 28, 2010, were Rick & Jane Klopcic, and grandson Ryan Klopcic. From the time he built The Fireside in 1964 to his retirement in 1998, Klopcic helped put FortAtkinson on the map. His long-lasting vision and leadership garnered many awards for The Fireside and furthered Wisconsin’s tourism industry.
While operating a bowling alley in Fort Atkinson in the late 1950’s, Dick Klopcic dreamed of opening a supper club that would be in some way unique and special that would draw guests from far and wide. “Since FortAtkinson was then a town of less than 8,000 his friends and colleagues were skeptical,” said Rick Klopcic, Dick’s son and president of The Fireside Theatre. “Yet, my father believed and persevered, and in 1964 built and opened The Fireside Restaurant in what had been corn fields on the city’s south side. Over the course of the next ten years the restaurant proved to be so popular it was expanded four times to meet the ever-increasing demand. He continued to operate The Fireside until his retirement in1998. The Fireside continues to honor the family legacy of Dick Klopcic through not only Rick Klopcic, but his wife Jane, who serves as manager of The Fireside gift shops, grandson Ryan Klopcic, who serves as vice president, and Ryan’s wife Kristi Klopcic, The Fireside’s manager of human resources.
In 1978, the Klopcic Family transformed their popular restaurant into a true attraction with the addition of live, professional theatre-in-the-round. With ingenuity, creativity, and unsurpassed hospitality Klopcic welcomed the group tour market with open arms and grew The Fireside into one of Wisconsin’s top destinations. Over the years he hosted innumerable travel writers and FAM tours and was honored with such recognition as a Gemmy Award from the Midwest Travel Writers Association, named one of North America’s Top 100 Events by the American Bus Association, honored as America’s Best Restaurant Family in 2006, received numerous Reader’s Choice awards for Top Theatre, and was most recently named Milwaukee’s Best Theatre for Kids by Nickelodeon.
Klopcic believed in marketing and devoted resources for his long time Sales Manager June Brandow to participate in BankTravel conferences, Group Leaders of America events, American Bus Association marketplaces, National Tour Association conventions, Heritage Peer Bank conferences, Heartland Travel Showcases, Pennsylvania Bus Association shows and more over a 20 year period. The Fireside was one of a select few private businesses that committed themselves to marketing group travel to Wisconsin, knowing full well that, according to Dick Klopcic, “they weren’t just coming to Wisconsin to have dinner.”
“My father understood that you had to first sell someone on visiting Wisconsin, then the region, and then offer them an interesting itinerary filled with quality tourism partners in order to get his own piece of the business,” continued Rick Klopcic.” He was a master marketer and worked continually to improve The Fireside Experience through both the actual product and the customer service. While his sales staff may have been the ones out on the road and on the phones, Dick Klopcic was the one that was there to welcome each guest and see that they were well cared for. “He truly believed and instilled in every member of his staff that people will come to where they have been invited and will return to where they have been made to feel welcome.Whether it was someone’s first visit or 50th visit whether they were from across the country or across the street they treated them like a guest in his home," Klopcic shared.
“He would be so proud of this honor, and would want to share it with my mother, Betty Klopcic, the whole Klopcic family, and all of The Fireside staff, group leaders and guests, who continue to make this a top Wisconsin and national destination,” Klopcic concluded.
Since 1964, The Fireside Dinner Theatre in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin has been the premiere entertainment destination in the Midwest for superb musicals featuring Broadway performers, fine dining, and boutique shops in a one-of-a-kind setting. Consistently named as a top destination for travel tours across the United States, The Fireside is owned by the Klopcic family, who were awarded the distinction of “America’s Best Restaurant Family” by Jones Dairy Farm and the Culinary Institute of America in 2006. For more information on The Fireside call 1-800-477-9505.
Wisconsin’s tourism conference is the largest of its kind in the nation. The annual, three-day event attracts Wisconsin innkeepers, restaurateurs, community tourism officials, tourism attraction operators, state agency officials, tourism educators, and other representatives of the hospitality industry. More information about the Governor’s Tourism Awards.