SEYMOUR — Before a ribbon-cutting ceremony May 17 at the new Culver’s restaurant in Seymour, co-owner John Laskowski had all of the employees gather around inside.
He thanked the team and gave them a big pep talk, and then he turned it over to Craig Culver, the franchise’s co-founder and former chief executive officer.
“Craig got up for about 12 minutes and gave the most dynamic, inspiring, engaging employee pep talk I’ve ever heard in my life,” Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Director Dan Robison said. “It was powerful.”
Robison was next to speak.
“I got up and the first thing I said was ‘Give me a blue apron. I want to work here now’ because that’s how I felt,” he said of how he was moved by Culver’s message.
Still today, he said it gives him goosebumps thinking about Culver’s speech.
“He just talked about building culture, how they have a culture of respect, taking care of the customer, that their whole strategy around hiring is that they hire for the personality and that they could train the right personality to do whatever they needed to do,” Robison said. “We just felt like that was such an awesome message. We think that’s a message that business leaders in Jackson County need to be reminded of. We all do from time to time.”
Robison said the chamber staff recently was talking about hosting a leadership event sometime in 2023, and he thought, “What are the chances we could get Craig Culver to come?”
Two weeks after reaching out to his team, Robison received a reply that Culver was interested, would love to come back to Seymour and really enjoyed the community while he was here in the spring.
Culver will be the keynote speaker during the Jackson County Chamber Leadership Luncheon, set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 18 at The Pines Evergreen Room south of Seymour.
“He’s actually a pilot, so he’s going to fly down from Wisconsin for the event,” Robison said. “The Laskowskis, they are going to pick him up from Freeman Field and help coordinate the day.”
The Pines will cater the lunch, which will be served from 11 to 11:45 a.m., and then Culver will spend about 45 minutes speaking. He will leave time at the end for a question-and-answer session.
The cost is $35 for chamber members or $45 for nonmembers, and the event is open to the public. Online registration is available at jacksoncochamber.com. That will stay open through Jan. 6 unless capacity is met before then, Robison said.
Everyone in attendance will receive a Culver’s frozen custard treat thanks to Seymour Culver’s, which is owned by Laskowski and his wife, Alice, who is a Seymour native.
Robison said he already has received a lot of great feedback about the opportunity to hear from Culver.
“People are excited,” he said. “I’m just excited because I really think it’s a timely message for our community.”
Culver is expected to share the story of how the restaurant started, what he has learned over the years and the success he has experienced.
In 1984, Culver and his wife, Lea, and his parents, George and Ruth, opened the first Culver’s in the family’s hometown of Sauk City, Wisconsin, and began serving ButterBurgers and frozen custard, according to culvers.com.
In 1990, the first successful Culver’s franchise opened in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Part of the deal was the owner-operator would work right in the restaurant, and that’s still true today.
Culver has always said, “We never compromise on quality,” and that’s why Culver’s always uses fresh beef and whole white meat chicken from America’s family farms and family farm-fresh dairy for the frozen custard.
Hospitality has always been a big focus for Culver’s, too. That goes back to Ruth, who had a special way about her that made every guest who visited Culver’s feel welcomed like a guest in her home.
Carrying on her legacy continues to be Culver’s truest measure of success, whether in the first restaurant in Sauk City or one of the 740-plus locations across the United States.
Robison said Culver’s message of engagement will benefit the Jackson County business community.
“We hear a lot about our needs around workforce in Jackson County, and there’s a lot of talk around hiring and recruiting, but honestly, retention is just as important,” he said.
“Craig is going to come in and give us some principles and some of his personal experience around building that team and building that retention in our businesses,” Robison said. “He’s a great guy. He’s very down to earth, relatable, super smart. I think he’s going to bring a very powerful challenge to our business leaders in Jackson County.”