Gus Gusler describes how he became the proprietor of Players' Retreat, a bar and restaurant on Oberlin Road, Raleigh, NC. Interview on July 24, 2012. (3:47)


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Well it was the bar in Raleigh. When I got here in '67 00:00:00.000 - 00:00:04.145
it was the first place I went and had a beer, 00:00:04.145 - 00:00:06.437
so it's like a legend. It's been around forever. 00:00:06.437 - 00:00:09.456
It's always been a very eclectic place where 00:00:09.456 - 00:00:12.824
you'll walk in and there'll be a plumber sitting there drinking a PBR 00:00:12.824 - 00:00:17.337
on Friday afternoon and at the next table the governor's sitting there 00:00:17.337 - 00:00:21.710
or the mayor, dressed up, eating an early dinner to go to the symphony, 00:00:21.710 - 00:00:25.530
and everybody gets along. It's always been like that. 00:00:25.530 - 00:00:28.061
But I worked there my senior year in the kitchen, 00:00:28.061 - 00:00:33.215
the year I was student body president, for Bernie Hanula, and Mickey, who owned the place. 00:00:33.215 - 00:00:36.396
It was always funny because Bernie thought it was just really cool. People would come in 00:00:36.396 - 00:00:42.751
and he would go drag me out of the kitchen and say, "Can you believe I got the student body president making pizzas back here?" 00:00:42.751 - 00:00:46.703
He just did that all the time. 00:00:46.703 - 00:00:49.311
But I loved Bernie and Mickey and it was just a great place. 00:00:49.311 - 00:00:54.002
I never thought about owning a bar 00:00:54.002 - 00:00:56.408
and a restaurant but the guy who bought it after him, 00:00:56.408 - 00:01:01.281
from him, Pete Jarrell, 00:01:01.281 - 00:01:04.628
Pete had never been in the hospitality business 00:01:04.628 - 00:01:08.762
and it was a struggle for him and it started going downhill 00:01:08.762 - 00:01:12.026
and a new person bought the building and tripled his rent, 00:01:12.026 - 00:01:17.070
and it wasn't doing very well anyway. It was in bad shape. 00:01:17.070 - 00:01:20.535
He called me up and said, you know I've got people who want to buy it 00:01:20.535 - 00:01:24.036
but they want to change the whole thing and just bastardize the name 00:01:24.036 - 00:01:27.582
because it's a brand. People know the Players' Retreat. I mean it's been there for sixty-one years. 00:01:27.582 - 00:01:31.800
He said, "I would rather close it than let that happen, but I know you love this place so much that you would make sure it stayed the PR, 00:01:31.800 - 00:01:38.370
so I want you to buy it." I said, "I'm not interested in buying it." 00:01:38.370 - 00:01:41.414
So he said, "No, you want to buy it." I said, "No. I ain't got any money and no interest." He said, "You don't know what the deal is yet." I said, "I don't care what the deal is." 00:01:41.414 - 00:01:47.250
Finally he tells me the deal 00:01:47.250 - 00:01:50.976
and I, quote, said, "Why the ____ are you doing this to me? I mean come on." 00:01:50.976 - 00:01:57.820
And he said, "Because I know you'll keep it," so he pretty much gave it to me. 00:01:57.820 - 00:02:02.610
I bought it with my heart, not my head. 00:02:02.610 - 00:02:09.445
I got in there and every piece of equipment in there was 00:02:09.445 - 00:02:14.293
old as it could be, falling apart, had been held together with baling wire. 00:02:14.293 - 00:02:18.195
The air conditioner in the kitchen didn't work and I didn't know it because I bought it in November when I didn't need it. 00:02:18.195 - 00:02:23.515
The first three years, four years, I was spending sixty, eighty hours there. 00:02:23.515 - 00:02:28.854
It greatly interfered with my law practice. I still was able to do it, I was just killing myself work wise. 00:02:28.854 - 00:02:34.660
And we've turned it around. I mean it had six employees when I got there; we have fifty-six employees now. 00:02:34.660 - 00:02:41.145
It's doing really, really well. I've got a great Johnson & Wales graduate chef who studied two years in France 00:02:41.145 - 00:02:51.094
and had two restaurants of his own. He's probably one of the best chefs in North Carolina. 00:02:51.094 - 00:02:54.944
He's an old friend of mine and he's in there cooking, and it's just doing great. 00:02:54.944 - 00:02:59.217
We're still a big part of the university. 00:02:59.217 - 00:03:03.400
We do-. Elliott Avent, when the baseball team was flying off to go play in the regionals 00:03:03.400 - 00:03:11.508
at Florida their last dinner was at the PR that night and then they went out and got on the plane and flew down to play, 00:03:11.508 - 00:03:18.281
so I get all the coaches in there. The chancellor's in there all the time 00:03:18.281 - 00:03:21.711
and his wife, of course not as much since they moved him over there in the boonies at the new place. 00:03:21.711 - 00:03:26.416
He can't walk across the street at 11:00 and get a PBR anymore like he used to do. 00:03:26.416 - 00:03:31.682
But it's just an important part of North Carolina history and NC State history 00:03:31.682 - 00:03:38.040
so I'm just glad we were able to save it. 00:03:38.040 - 00:03:40.618

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