SHERIDAN — The COVID-19 pandemic upended the plans of many Wyoming businesses, but for Geri and Christer Johansson, it turned out to be a good thing.
The Johanssons own the Warehouse Gastropub in Sheridan, a relatively new restaurant that’s become quite the scene in Sheridan. But it was never meant to be a restaurant at all.
Christer bought the building as storage space just a couple of months after buying the historic Cady building.
“Back in 2020 I was looking for some office space, and I found out that my favorite building in town was for sale,” Christer told Cowboy State Daily. “That’s the Cady building. It’s a beautiful old building that was built in 1893. We ended up buying that building and started having plans for restoring that building and turning that into something exciting.”
But Gina had other ideas for the warehouse space. She was seeing a dance floor, and a place for young families to bring their children.
In the midst of these deliberations, the pandemic hit. They ultimately lost all the tenants in the Cady building, where they’d been planning to put their office workers. During the pandemic businesses were also encouraged to go to a remote model for work, if possible, making office space suddenly less pressing.
“Some of those businesses that were in the building were failing greatly during COVID and wanted out of their lease,” Christer said. “And we didn’t want to hold them to their lease, so we allowed them to essentially break their lease and move out.”
That gave the Johanssons two suddenly empty buildings that each needed a new purpose.
“I spent a lot of time looking into the history of the Cady building and ended up, when I tell this story I say ended up having a love affair with the building,” Christer said. “I started falling in love with the building and the history and having a desire to really do something special with it, because it’s a really special building in Sheridan and it ought to be taken care of, which it hadn’t been for many years.”
The Gastropub Concept
But first, the couple went to work on Gina’s vision to turn the intended warehouse space into a new dining option in town.
“We wanted something different,” Gina told Cowboy State Daily. “We didn’t want to be something exactly like what Sheridan already has and just be one more of those.”
It didn’t hurt, as Gina and Christer threw ideas at the wall to see what would stick, that the two are both travelers and have seen lots of interesting places.
One thing that Sheridan didn’t have at the time was a bona fide sports bar, so that quickly became part of the aesthetic.
But unlike many sports bars, they didn’t want their food to be so-so.
“Pubs in London are notorious for serving really good drinks and good beer but having shitty food,” Christer said. “But there’s this place called the gastropub. These guys wanted to do good food and they wanted to focus on gastronomy which is to study the relationship between food and culture, so they coined the phrase gastropub.”
That was really the perfect concept for what the Johansson’s were going for in their establishment, so it became part of the name.
“We wanted to make the statement that we are equally concerned with the quality of the food that we are providing as we are with the selection and quality of the wine and drinks that we offered,” Christer said.
To that end, the restaurant offers high-quality, locally sourced Wyoming beef on its menu that is so tender, even a patron ordering a well-done steak will have a palatable experience.
They’re also sourcing as much produce locally as possible, to create an exceptional dining experience, and the bartenders will make just about anything a patron wants on the fly. Even an espresso martini, which is so time-consuming there are many high-end restaurants that refuse to make them, even when they have the ingredients.
It’s making that quality cup of espresso, and then cooling it down for the drink, that takes an extra bit of time.
“(Sourcing locally) costs a little more than what we could otherwise do,” Christer said. “But the quality is better, and it gives us an opportunity to support other local businesses. We want to support local businesses as much as we possibly can.”
Food For The Soul, Too
But it’s not just about food and drink at the Warehouse Gastropub in Sheridan. It wasn’t envisioned as just a place for standing or sitting around and eating and drinking a lot.
The Johanssons have added unique entertainment to their venue, such as the indoor golf simulator, which groups can rent to play golf on 250 of the most famous, most scenic, or most challenging golf courses on the planet.
There’s also a bocce ball court outside, as well as cornhole and there’s also a break room, with a pool table and a shuffleboard for guests to use.
“Even from a late-night perspective, we wanted to create a place where we could have concerts, live music, and people would be able to come and dance and do more than just go out and drink,” Christer said. “There’s actually some activities around the late-night scene as well.”
But the ideas didn’t stop there. They continued to grow as the Johannsons worked on making the dream a reality.
“I have a friend who knows quite a bit about sound and lighting and music and concerts and production,” Christer said. “He actually used to travel with bands, and he traveled with Vanilla Ice for a while.”
The Johannsons tapped him to come set up their stage for live music. While he was there, a friend of his who is active in theater, spending years on Broadway in New York City, dropped by to look at the club.
Christer just happened to be there when the friend in theater blurted out, “Wow, this could be a New York supper club!”
Christer’s jaw dropped open for a second and he looked at her.
“We had never thought about that before,” he said. “But she was absolutely right.”
The Supper Club Scene
Supper clubs were popularized during the 1930s and 40s as a destination event. Guests would spend the entire evening, from cocktail hour to nightcaps after dinner enjoying a mixture of fine food and exquisite entertainment.
The supper club concept at the Warehouse Gastropub in Sheridan is something Christer believes is probably brand new for Wyoming and is certainly something he hasn’t seen in Sheridan before.
“People come in, get a ticket, and we do a four or six-course dinner with an optional wine pairing,” Christer said. “And during dinner, we have a show going on. We bring in people from Las Vegas or New York City or other places to do a show that people would not likely ever be able to see in Sheridan.”
One of the shows, for example, featured Philip Fortenberry, one of the best musicians on Broadway.
“He’s played at the White House,” Christer said. “In 2014, he was awarded the Ghost Light Award, he was its first recipient. So, I mean, the people we’re bringing in are quality people, and we’re creating a really fun, fun evening.”
The Ghost Light Award recognizes talented artists working behind the scenes to make a Broadway production a success.
The next upcoming supper club event is Oct. 17 and 18. It’s a jazz cabaret featuring the Rose Mallett Quartet with a tribute to Sarah Vaughan.
“(Supper Club) is unique,” Christer said. “You wouldn’t have found it in Sheridan until now, and I would even argue it would be difficult to find anywhere in Wyoming.”
The community’s response to the supper club has been overwhelmingly good, particularly in the winter months, Christer said.
“People have other things they want to take advantage of when the weather is decent in Sheridan,” he said. “So, we may end up doing fewer of those things in the summer and more of them in the fall, winter and spring.”
More Dreams To Come
The Johanssons are not done with their scheming and dreaming when it comes to the Sheridan restaurant scene. There is another plan in the works for the beloved Cady building, which will no longer serve as office space for the Johansson’s computer and technology consulting business Protelo. They bought another building for that purpose, to free up the Cady building for a different future.
Figuring out how to save the Cady building has been a complicated process, Christer said, but exciting as well. In the couple’s current vision, it will be reopening as a bar at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. It will begin transitioning to a new restaurant at the end of 2024.
“The construction is most likely not going to be completed until November or December,” Christer said. “So most likely the opening of the bar won’t happen until I think somewhere between December and February.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.