Mr. Smith's Supper Club

Smith’s Country Inn owner to retire after 38 years

Haley Wright, photos by Andrea Paulseth

TASTY OPPURTUNITY. Mark Smith has been running Smith’s Country Inn on Highway 37 since 1978. He’s currently seeking a new owner for the thriving eatery.
TASTY OPPURTUNITY. Mark Smith has been running Smith’s Country Inn on Highway 37 since 1978. He’s currently seeking a new owner for the thriving eatery.

Mark Smith, the owner of Smith’s Country Inn, a supper club on the edge of Eau Claire on Highway 37, is ready to retire after running the popular local establishment since 1978 – and now he’s looking for a new owner to take over the reins.

Smith purchased the supper club about a year after graduating from UW-Stout with a degree in hotel and restaurant management. He did sell the establishment back in 1990, but took it back after about two years, and has been running it continuously since. He’s at the restaurant daily, frequently cooking or working at the bar – always a fixture in whatever’s going on.

“There’s an opportunity for a good future here – supper clubs are starting to come back and business is pretty good. – Mark Smith, owner of Smith’s Country Inn

He really enjoys running the place, and he’s learned a lot in the restaurant industry after nearly 40 years. When pressed, he said the best part about being in the restaurant biz in Eau Claire is the people who come in.

“Most customers are regulars, especially for the food business. During the week there are a lot of locals from Eau Claire and the town of Brunswick,” Smith says. “People come for the salad bar, soup, and the food – that’s what they come for.”

The Friday night fish fry is a staple at Smith’s, and a very busy night for the business every week. Smith said one of the best parts of running the business is the challenge of it, and he said his next challenge is to serve more than 400 in a night. “I already served 399 on a Friday night,” he said.

In addition to serving regulars and having an award-winning fish fry, Smith’s Country Inn also hosts a lot of events. Recently, they hosted a wedding rehearsal dinner where the crowd was primarily made up of folks from Oklahoma and Kansas who wanted to experience an authentic Wisconsin fish fry; they came to the right place.

Smith said the best memories have been generated through having the chance to work with his children. “All three of my daughters have worked here at one time,” he said. “All of them worked here throughout high school and college, and two still help on Friday nights for about four hours even though they now have degrees and full-time jobs.”

Smith said the business is thriving, and he’s ready to operate it until he finds an owner. The business has been for sale for some time now, but Smith said recently he realized a lot of people didn’t even know. So he had a classic “wanted” poster made and is offering a $2,000 reward to whoever takes up the torch.

“A regular customer that comes in two or three nights a week didn’t even know the business was for sale. So my daughters made up a poster and it has created some buzz. Now people are talking about it,” he said. “There is an opportunity for a good future here – supper clubs are starting to come back and business is pretty good.”

Smith’s Country Inn • S5786 State Road 37, Eau Claire • (715) 836-9003 • facebook.com/smithscountryinn/

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.