Archive for Sunday, March 24, 2002

Postcard from Madison, Wis.

March 24, 2002


— Frank Genna's tavern was the ultimate in neighborhood bars.

He deployed a tough-love sense of humor with regulars and just the right amount of lousy service for outsiders to make the joint endearing.

The place opened 38 years ago, the same year his daughter, Lori, was born in Madison. Lori recalls her father coming home at night during the protest-ravaged 1960s with tear gas burning his eyes.

He was unfazed.

Lori grew up and graduated from Kansas University with a fine arts degree in 1997. She still lives in Lawrence and works for Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Mo.

She's back in Madison for the Jayhawks' NCAA Tournament games. She stays in the home of her sister, Kristi, who has operated Genna's since Frank's health began to deteriorate in the 1980s. He died in 1987.

Lori said Genna's was Madison's longest continuously operated bar in the Capitol area. The name is the same, but the atmosphere has evolved.

"It's had two life cycles," she said.

While Frank was content running a local pub, Kristi thought bigger. She moved Genna's to an historic two-story, triangular-shaped building on Main Street across from the Wisconsin statehouse.

There's still an old-tavern feel, with a long bar and high ceilings. But there's also a great jukebox, poetry readings and, on Saturdays, Lawrence Welk Night.

"They show the TV program, turn on a bubble machine and drink martinis," Lori said.

Tim Carpenter

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