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Larry and Doris Frese retire after 46-plus years at the Silver Dollar

New owner Lisa Murty takes over Chelsea’s well-known bar

August 10, 2019
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

After a long, long career, Larry and Doris Frese turned over the keys to their well-known Silver Dollar Sports Bar and Grill in Chelsea to Lisa Murty on Aug. 1. Lisa is long-timer herself, having worked for the Freses in the restaurant-bar since 2003. She plans to continue the operation with the current 11 full and part-time employees. "Why change a good thing?" Lisa says

Larry, 78, and Doris, 76, said last week they have been the owners "for 46 years and four months" and said, "It's time, we've got places to go and people to see."

However, new owner Lisa quickly said Larry remains "The King" and Doris "The Queen" of the Silver Dollar and she expects to rely upon them both, at least some of the time.

Article Photos

Doris and Larry Frese with their Silver Dollar’s new owner, Lisa Murty, on Aug. 2.
News-Herald photos/John Speer

Larry and Doris had been visiting her family in Chelsea (she is the former Doris Hilligas and a 1961 graduate of Chelsea High School- it's last year Doris notes) when they saw the business was for sale.

Upon returning to their home in Thorp, Wisc., they discussed buying the Chelsea spot and made the decision. Larry was working for an LP gas company. Doris previously had worked at Collins Radio in Cedar Rapids and then for the Allen Bradley Company in Milwaukee.

They came to buy what was then Ludy Sheda's tavern and cafe in 1973 "for no money down and $5,000 backing from Doris' mother to fill the back bar," Larry said. It was named the Silver Dollar after a bar with the same name owned by a friend of Larry's in Wisconsin.

Doris said they began serving food back then using a "Presto" grill device. That grew into a larger food offering with a fully equipped grill and deep frier.

How about beer? Larry says it was 50 cents a glass when they began. It's now $2.50 for a frosted mug. Today he says Bud Light, Busch Light and Budweiser are the top sellers at the Silver Dollar.

Back in '73 and onward Schlitz, Old Milwaukee and Pabst Blue Ribbon all had their days he said.

Larry repaired his own video games for many year. However, their works became a bit too complex in recent years, he said.

The Freses recall card games used to be a popular pastime for some of the local regulars. A particular memorable card game was when a leaky roof saturated a large ceiling tile and it came crashing down on a card player.

Of course there are memories of more water than that incident carried - flooding - of which Chelsea is known for having suffered through a number. Larry says since they have owned the business there have been five major ones and between 10-15 lesser floods.

The Freses have three grown children, twins Emmet and Tracey, daughter, Dorothy and daughter-in-law, Mary Beth, and four grandchildren.

Doris served six years on the South Tama School Board and is currently a member of the Chelsea City Council. Larry is a past member of the Chelsea City Council. During the Vietnam War, Larry, a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces was awarded the Silver Star after his unit charged an ambush. He is credited for revitalizing the then-dormant Chelsea American Legion in 1980 and has been re-elected as commander ever since.

In their 46 -plus years , the Freses worked a lot of 70 hour weeks and were open seven days a week. Over that period the Silver Dollar grew intoa true the mainstay business in Chelsea, especially after Mr. R's, grocery, hardware, barber and beauty shops and Ludy's enterprises and more faded away.

Larry and Doris agree "As far as the tavern itself, it has been great - great bartenders and terrific customers - it has really been good."

However, Larry insists the end of this Silver Dollar story is: "We've been through hell and high water."



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