Marcy Skowronski never set out to be a trailblazer, but after 65 years of tending bar, throwing bras and signing butt cheeks, she’s inspired generations of mixologists, and her audacious wit and humor continue to draw in clientele from across the globe to her little bar on Milwaukee’s South Side.
“Oh, God, I love people,” says the 92-year-old bartender and owner of the Holler House. “You’ve got to have fun. You’ve got to laugh, that’s the thing. There were times I went through hell, but I just take it day by day.”
Skowronski began her bartending career not at her Holler House, but at Helen’s Maplewood Tavern out on Okauchee Lake in Oconomowoc in 1954. Helen Zamsky, the owner, hired her to be a cocktail waitress, but Skowronski ended up bartending.
“It was illegal for women (who weren’t owners) to bartend in Oconomowoc, but Helen liked to have a good time,” Skowronski says. “She’d just leave, and if I didn’t know a drink, the customers would help me out. I was young, and I had a blast working there.”
Skowronski became so popular that the other bar owners in town took notice. “This worked until somebody blew the whistle on me,” Skowronski says.
So, Skowronski ended up working for her father-in-law “Iron” Mike, and eventually, she and her husband Gene took over the bar which, at the time, was called Mike’s before becoming Gene and Marcy’s and, finally, Holler House in the ‘60s. Though Mike and Gene have long since passed, Skowronski, her daughter Cathy Haefke and her son-in-law Tom Haefke still run the bar. Whenever Haefke or her husband have to take care of something at the oldest certified bowling lanes in the country, which are in the bar’s basement, Skowronski steps back behind the mahogany to tap a brew or pour a shot.