CEDAR RAPIDS — Luanna Happel only meant to help out friends Bob and Pat Snyder at their Ced-Rel Supper Club during the holiday season. It was 1962, the restaurant along Highway 30 west of Cedar Rapids was always hopping and there was a shortage of workers.
“I said, ‘I’ll just come out and help you for Christmas,’” Lu laughs. “I never left.”
Those were the days before liquor by the drink, when she sold setups at the bar for a quarter to customers who brought their own bottles of booze.
Those were the days when customers sat at the bar drinking, playing cards and smoking.
Those were the days soon after Lu’s late husband, Bob, (he died in 2005), as they dined at Ced-Rel, told her they were going to a Cubs baseball game in Chicago with the Snyders.
“I don’t want to go with her, I don’t even know her,” Lu said.
In the other room, Pat Snyder told her husband, “I don’t want to go with her. I don’t know her.”
Lu laughs. “A half-mile down the road we were the best of friends.”
So, it only made sense that Lu stuck around, leaving jobs at Collins Radio and Armstrong’s Department Store, both in Cedar Rapids.
A Benton County girl all her life (Atkins now), she was born north of Keystone and graduated from Van Horne High School in 1958. She never knew a time when Ced-Rel wasn’t around.
“It started in 1926, we think,” she says, pointing to a newspaper clipping on the wall. “It was a little gas station if you read that. A lot of illegal stuff went on there, alcohol, gambling.”
It was purchased by Isabelle and Verlin Sedrel in 1935 and renamed Ced-Rel. It became known for great steaks, a huge relish tray with every dinner and a homemade bean pot.
The Sedrels ran it 23 years until selling to the Snyders in 1958, who sold it to Ken and Mary Selzer in 2002, with their son, Jeff, assuming ownership in 2010.
When the Snyders left, Lu, now 72, wondered if they’d want a bartender/hostess in her 60s.
“You’re the foundation of the place,” Jeff says. “People expect to see you here.”
All right, Lu says. She’ll probably work until she dies.
“I don’t want to quit,” Lu says about hitting the 50-year milestone. “I love to be around people. It’s a lot of laughs.”
While the kitchen is open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, the bar stays open longer which is when the fun begins. Jeff tells about Lu slamming her hand down hard on the bar when customers become a little loud.
“This is my bar,” she’ll announce. “We don’t talk about politics. We don’t talk about religion. We talk about sex.”
Everybody laughs. Everything is fine.
“There’s only one Lu,” Jeff says.
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