Schuler’s Continues a 100 Year Thanksgiving Tradition

There’s no question the holidays will be a little different this year, but Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub in downtown Marshall plans to offer a taste of tradition starting with Thanksgiving.

“Our team is working diligently to provide some level of normalcy for our guests while operating within the safety provisions issued by the state,” says Sue Damron, President and CEO. “We are looking forward to serving up all the comforts of this delicious holiday meal with a variety of options to fit each family’s individual needs.”

Even with state mandated limited capacity, Schuler’s has the space to accommodate families for a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings from 11am until 6pm on Thursday, November 26. As space is likely to be sold out quicker than normal, guests are encouraged to make their reservations now by calling (269) 781-0600.

Or, if you prefer to enjoy dinner in the comfort of your own home, you are encouraged to call ahead now and request a “Turkey Dinner” to go with two different options available this year – either a 10-12 pound whole roast turkey or 6 pounds of carved white and dark meat. Both options come with sage dressing, whipped potatoes and gravy, baked yams, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, Waldorf salad, Schuler’s famous cheese and crackers, a fresh baked loaf of bread and a whole pumpkin pie.

Each package, which serves 6-9 people, cost is $195.95 plus sales tax. Orders for the take-out orders must be made and prepaid by Monday, November 23 by calling (269) 781-600 – unless sold out sooner.

“The key this year will be advanced reservations and orders, as we expect all options to be scooped up quickly,” Damron says. “We appreciate everyone’s support and patience as we work under the state mandated restrictions through one of the busiest major holidays here at Schuler’s.

Founded in 1909, the iconic Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub epitomizes hospitality excellence as a family owned and operated business. Located in downtown historic Marshall, Schuler’s is recognized as world-class Michigan destination focused on offering guests’ quality food and excellent service, in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The History of Schuler’s.

For over 110 years, Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub kept it in the family – and beat the odds. How rare is this achievement? According to Family Business, rarely do more than 30 percent of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, let alone making it to the fourth-generation mark as Schuler’s has done.

Schuler's men at entrance

The secret to their success? Schuler’s attributes its longevity to the foresight of its founder and the succeeding family members who used their entrepreneurial skills to build a tradition of hospitality and fine dining to last more than a century.

This historical buffet provides a peek at the character of the people and the events that have brought the restaurant to this noteworthy time.

The restaurant’s founder, Albert Schuler, was a native of Rome, New York. The adopted son of a traveling butcher, Albert migrated to Marshall in the early 1900s. The owner of a local lunch counter and cigar shop befriended him, and after learning the trade Albert opened a similar business on Main Street in 1909.

In 1920, he purchased a hotel with a small dining room on Main Street and named it The Albert. It was during this period that Albert became deputy sheriff. It wasn’t unusual for Albert to be summoned at the restaurant to attend to matters of the law. He would take off his apron and was out the door. Minutes or hours later, his apron was back on and it was business as usual.

A photo of Marshall, Michigan around the time Schuler’s first opened. Photo from Marshall, an Images of America book by Susan Collins and Jane Ammeson.

In 1924, he was ready to expand his business. He sold the hotel on Main Street and purchased the Royal Hotel and Restaurant in Marshall and changed the name to Schuler’s. He built a seven-lane bowling alley and soon the combination hotel/restaurant/bowling business became a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors.

Win Schuler, Albert’s son, joined the family business in 1934. In 1936, Win, a former high school history teacher and coach, became full owner of the restaurant while his father continued to run the hotel and serve as sheriff of Calhoun County.

Schuler's History Image 1

Win is credited with expanding the family business into a highly successful string of restaurants across Michigan. His magnetic personality and salesmanship were his trademarks. He believed that personal service set his business apart.

Win’s personal service included remembering every customer’s name. He worked hard at this art and is legendary in his ability to remember names. After an introduction, he worked names into any subsequent conversation three times. He even wrote the names down and before he went to sleep at night he would go over the new names of the day.

The murals on the walls throughout Schuler’s and the sayings etched into the beams in the main dining room are the result of Win’s insatiable interest in history. Both have become part of the charm that continues to draw customers from hundreds of miles around to dine here.

In addition to acquiring other restaurants, in the late 1930s Win and his brother, Albert, bought a golf course in Marshall. They named it Alwyn Downs. Back then, they charged 50 cents to play a round of golf. They eventually sold the course.

During World War II, injured military men and women who were sent to Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek heard about Schuler’s. It became standard practice for the patients to come to the restaurant at some point during their recovery. Some of the more famous patients included Gene Autry and Bob Dole.

Schuler's generations

Big Ten coaches and teams have been attracted to Schuler’s too. For decades, during the fall football season, Marshall has been referred to as the “Crossroads of the Big Ten.” Duffy Daughtery, Biggie Munn, Bump and Pete Elliott, Ara Parshegian, Bo Schembechler, Don Carhau, George Perles and Mark Dantonio are just a few of the Big Ten coaches who have frequented the restaurant.

In 1959, Win’s son, Hans Schuler became the third generation to join the family business. He grew up in the business and always knew this was what he wanted to do. Under his guidance at one time the family of restaurants grew to nine. And in the Marshall restaurant he was responsible for major expansions and significant renovations. He also proved to have an unusual ability to develop the people working on his team. He has been instrumental in making the transition of the well-established and successful business to his longtime confidant, Sue Damron, the latest steward of the Schuler family legacy.

Photo of downtown Marshall around the time Schuler’s first opened. A photo of Marshall, Michigan around the time Schuler’s first opened. Photo from Marshall, an Images of America book by Susan Collins and Jane Ammeson.

In 2012 a lifetime of leadership and exceptional performance by Hans Schuler was recognized as he received the inaugural “National Restaurateur of the Year” award from Independent Restaurateur. “This award represents the highest level of excellence in all aspects of the business and recognizes an exemplary commitment to owning and operating a successful independent restaurant,” says Jim Young, publisher of Independent Restaurateur.

Like his father, Hans enjoys greeting customers at the restaurant. He continues to be a civic leader in the Calhoun community, and on any given night you may well see him and his wife Nancy dining in the Pub or the Centennial Room.

Representing the fourth generation, Larry Schuler remains active in the restaurant industry, currently serving as an executive in a Florida restaurant group, 23 Restaurants, LLC. He provides a valuable family perspective by serving on Schuler’s Restaurant Advisory Board.

Very few families in the nation have been in the restaurant business as long as the Schuler family, marking 110 years in 2019. And even with a challenging economy and changing marketplace, the iconic restaurant continues to thrive while evolving with the times by delivering great food and hospitality the “Schuler Way.”

In the fall of 2019, Sue Damron – who has spent more than 20 years working her way up the management team – became the owner of the company, now serving as President and CEO of the legendary restaurant. Starting as Hans Schuler’s Executive Assistant in 1998, Sue worked her way up the management chain, culminating in being named President and Managing Partner and acquiring a minority ownership share in 2014.

Much like the Schulers, the Damrons are a family affair. Sue’s husband, Shannon, has been a constant support, and her children, Josh and Elizabeth, have both had jobs at the restaurant. Elizabeth currently serves on the Schuler’s management team and has chosen the industry for her career.

“We have the benefit of generations of experience behind us that will continue to guide us toward the future as one of Michigan’s longest-established restaurants,” says Sue. “The Schuler’s brand remains dedicated to providing an unparalleled experience. We are excited about this new chapter in our classic history and plan to be welcoming guests to Schuler’s for a long time to come.”

So, from one family to another, the “Schuler Way” remains the focus.

“I felt it was time to complete handing over the reins of our successful business to someone who has consistently shown herself to be a capable and innovative leader in our industry and in our community,” says Hans. “In 2014, we announced Sue’s new role as President and Managing Partner with the observation that we were ‘introducing the future’ of the restaurant. I’m pleased to say that we are now able to complete that transition, handing over a successful, established business to a proven partner and someone who will be an excellent steward of our family’s legacy.”

For almost 70 years, Schuler’s Heritage Cheese Spread has been a big hit. Served to customers when they first sit down, it’s also sold in stores. Or if you want to make your own, here’s an introduction to the recipe and the recipe itself.

“My family’s restaurant has been in business for over 100 years and for many of those years when you would sit down at a table and you’d be welcomed with a crock of horseradish cheddar cheese spread and some crackers and homemade bread. This is one of the versions and it is the one that I make at home for my friends to welcome them to my table. It is tasty and super welcoming. – “MyCommunalTable —

Schuler’s Heritage Cheese Spread

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces garbanzo beans
8 ounces cream cheese
5 ounces sour cream
1/4 cup butter
1 ounce prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
Dash brown ale

With cutting blade in a food processor, finely chop cheese and the garbanzo beans. I find using the pulse button on my processor makes the beans & cheese less gummy.

Add cream cheese, sour cream, and butter. Process until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir. You can add more buttermilk or ale a drop at a time if you need make the cheese more spreadable.

Keep in fridge until ready to serve. I like warmed crackers served with this tangy cheese.

Jane Simon is the co-author, with Susan Collins, of Marshall, an Arcadia Images of America book.