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Renovations complete at CupOJoy’s new location

By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor

After three long years of renovations and many hours of volunteer work, construction is finally complete at CupOJoy’s new venue — just in time for the organization’s annual benefit concert.

For the past 33 years, CupOJoy has served as a family-friendly, nonprofit venue for local musicians and national acts alike in Green Bay.

CupOJoy is a family-friendly music venue for local and national performers alike. The Isaacs, pictured here, are a nationally-touring musical group that performed at CupOJoy in September. Submitted photos

Director Jan Oettinger has been with CupOJoy since its beginning and said the organization started out as just a place for local musicians to hold performances, but has grown significantly since then.

“When it started, there was never any master plan,” she said. “There was never any master vision. It was just a place to play music and to reach out and offer inspiring music to the community. The local musicians that became a part of the board for the organization really wanted a place to play and it was just more like a clubhouse.”

Oettinger said a clubhouse is all anyone who was involved with CupOJoy in its early days expected it to amount to.

“Nobody expected it to last,” she said. “If nothing else, we kind of thought it would be here for a while and then we’d move on.”

But Oettinger said a while quickly  turned into a decade.

“Then we got to about the 10-year mark,” she said. “We thought, ‘maybe we should really think about this being a permanent thing.’ And it started to become a little more organized.”

For those first ten years, CupOJoy called a rental property at 335 North Broadway, but Oettinger said the stars aligned to allow the organization to purchase its own space and move into its second, larger location at 232 South Broadway.

“When we moved to the second building, we purchased it because we had saved up just enough for a little down payment and then we were able to get some financing through the person who sold it,” she said. “It was just like a series of miracles that we even got that building.”

The second home of CupOJoy, Oettinger said, was much larger than the first and was a bit intimidating.

“Our first building was maybe 1,500 square feet — like a small ranch,” she said. “And when we moved to the second building, we just thought we were way in over our heads because that was around 6,000 square feet with the upstairs and the downstairs.”

Oettinger said CupOJoy had no problem filling the additional space and eventually outgrew it, which is what prompted the search for their next location.

“We were in our second building for almost 20 years,” she said. “But the last eight years or so we were actively looking for a different building because people were outside lined up around the block for the big shows.”

There are three main spaces at CupOJoy’s new location — Cup 1, Cup 2 and Cup 3. Cup 1 is named after CupOJoy’s first location and features some of the original furniture. Cup 2, pictured here, resembles the layout and vibe of the organizations second venue. Cup 3 is a much larger performance space than either of the two previous locations could offer.

Looking for a larger venue, though, Oettinger said was no easy task.

“We were looking for quite a few years,” she said. “And we looked at strip malls, empty warehouses, land and old churches. We looked at so many things but nothing really had enough parking or unobstructed views or all of the things that you need to have a music venue.”

Unable to find that perfect location, Oettinger said she and the board had just about given up searching.

“We kind of thought, ‘good, now we’re just going to stay here. We love our little building. We’re going to do some new carpet and paint it and get it ready to go,’” she said. “And we’d just take the money that we’d saved for a down payment and put it into our endowment and think about the next generation.”

About six months after ending the search, Oettinger said she got the call that the perfect building was available.

“We all showed up and we walked in and we went through the building and we were all thinking ‘this is what we do,’” she said. “You could see the open spaces and you could see the possibilities. We walked out the door and stood in the parking lot and everybody said, ‘this is it. We’d be crazy not to do this.’”

So, in September of 2019, CupOJoy officially had a new, much larger home at 525 North Taylor St. in Green Bay.

“We bought it in September of 2019,” Oettinger said. “Then volunteers basically took the whole building apart. We took out flooring, we took out ceilings, we took out everything.”

When COVID-19 hit in March of 2020, construction on the new venue had only just begun.

“We shut down our other venue because we couldn’t do shows, but then we spent all of our energy doing this,” she said. “So it kind of worked anyway.”

Although construction was slow-moving at times, Oettinger said there were plenty of volunteers who played a part in building CupOJoy’s new venue over the last three years.

“The only way it works is through volunteers and community support,” she said.

Oettinger said many elements, including things like countertops, floors and cabinetry, were donated by local businesses and individuals.

Now that renovations are finally complete, Oettinger said it’s time to start thinking about what CupOJoy’s future will look like.

“The long-term goal right now is probably to continue to create a great community space for people to hear amazing music and other things — we don’t even know what all the other stuff will be yet — and to create a space that’s sustainable for another generation to come,” she said. “We’ve invested so much into this building. We kind of feel like it’s only prudent at this point to look at being really sustainable, kind of like the Meyer or any other theater.”

One of the ways CupOJoy can work towards sustainability, Oettinger said, is by making sure there are enough funds to keep the organization running.

“We want to be accountable and we want to be good stewards of the community’s money and the people who’ve invested in this and we want them to have something going forward,” she said.

Saturday, Dec. 3, CupOJoy will host its annual benefit concert, featuring a Christmas performance by Tasha Layton, where members of the community will have the opportunity to come show their support for CupOJoy.

“Individuals donate because they see the value in having music that inspires people,” Oettinger said. “And it’s totally family-friendly. You can bring your kids and you can bring your grandma.”

Seeing people be inspired by the music CupOJoy brings to the community, Oettinger said is what the organization is all about.

“There are a lot of nights where I’m watching a show from the back,” she said. “And I’m thinking, ‘this is why I do this.’ It’s just so poignant and you can see it reaching down into people’s hearts and that it touches people. It’s such a weird crazy world and it’s just so good that they have this time to just let some of those cares go.”

All shows at CupOJoy can be attended with no cover charge, but reserved seats and early bird admission are available for purchase online.

For more details about how to support CupOJoy, attend the benefit concert, and a line-up of upcoming shows, visit cupojoy.com.

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