Driving down Central Avenue in Minneapolis one summer, Mary Tjosvold and Larry Dunsmore decided to take a chance on a dream. They noticed that the familiar Shorewood Bar and Grill was a little too quiet that night and, after finding out that the venue had shut its doors, they made an offer on the property.
Tjosvold and Dunsmore reopened the bar as Crooners Supper Club, a place they had dreamed of creating in Minnesota. A supper club where guests come together over good food, drinks and music, and where they’re encouraged to stay awhile.
From the moment you walk through the doors at Crooners, you’re greeted right away and taken to a table that’s yours for the evening. From there, you can wander over to the bar and have a drink before the show starts. The lights are low, and the venue has a more formal vibe. Everything is carefully prepared, from table settings to the dinner service, and it’s clear that coming to Crooners is an experience.
“This is not a fast-food place,” Tjosvold said. “You don’t come in and go out within an hour, you come here and enjoy the music or the people that you’re with. You go for the evening.”
While the couple liked the idea of running a traditional supper club, they also wanted to do something different. At Crooners, music enjoys just as much of a focus as the traditional supper club experience. Talking and dancing isn’t allowed during the shows, and guests are asked to give their full attention to the musicians on stage.
“We were clear that this had to be a listening space,” Tjosvold said. “So we just got up and told people, ‘This is our gift to you. Turn off your phones, forget about the outside world and give your attention to the performance.'”
For many artists, the venue’s commitment to the music is what keeps them coming back. The club has worked hard to build strong connections with the musicians who play there, and some have even taken on new responsibilities to keep the supper club going strong. Pianist Andrew Walesch is one of them. When Dunsmore got sick and later passed away in 2015, Walesch took over as the club’s music director, booking the bands and helping Tjosvold keep Dunsmore’s vision going strong.
“I wanted to get more involved into Crooners because I liked them, I liked their energy and I wanted to become a part of it,” Walesch recalled. “I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t know [Dunsmore] was sick at the time, I just knew he was here less and less. That’s when I had a conversation with Mary about it and said, ‘I think I can help make this place great.'”
Over the years, Crooners has continued to expand, adding another listening room in honor of Dunsmore. The club will celebrate its five-year anniversary from Nov. 18-22 with a five-night music festival. Looking back, Tjosvold and Walesch are proud of the space they’ve created for musicians and everyday people to come together around the music.
“The experience is going to be protected for the artists and the audience,” Walesch said. “I want people to come see me at Crooners, because I know that it’s going to really be a concert setting. That’s really important to people and to artists — they want to play where there’s a showcase.”
Simone Cazares is a student at Metropolitan State University. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.