The oldest bartender in the world

Tony Hieronimczak may be the oldest working bartender in the world. If not, he intends to be.

At 98-years old, Tony moves around Zielinski’s Tavern at his own pace, pouring drinks, popping off bottle caps and shooting the breeze.

“I’m open every day,” he said when we stopped in for a Sundrop last Saturday afternoon. “Sundays, holidays, Christmas, every damn day.”

He’s worked in the bar as long as people can remember, and has owned the place since he inherited it from his longtime girlfriend, Aggie Zielinski. She passed away in 1989 at age 80, while still working the bar.

“I told her she needed to eat healthier,” he said. “But she said, ‘How about you eat what you want and I eat what I want?’ Well, I’m still here.”

The bar, like it’s current owner, was built to last. It’s original ceiling features ornate tiles. A “No dancing on tables with spurs” sign hangs just below. Originally called Henry Baker’s Tavern, the main bar was built in 1890. Henry sold his business to Johan and Gertrude Wachowski, who ran it until their daughter Josephine and her husband Vincent Zielinski took over. The Zielinskis, Aggie’s parents, added a ballroom in 1933 that still hosts events today.

“It’s old but it’s still in good shape,” Tony said. “We just had a big wedding in here last week.”

Born on the family farm in Pittsville, Tony, like many young men in his generation, only attended formal school through fifth grade. He worked on the family farm until a stint in the U.S. Army landed him in Hawaii just after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He spent three years there working in the army’s PX in Honolulu.

“I never spent a cold day in service,” he said. “I think I would have stayed there if I could.”

Instead, he returned to Wisconsin, where he eventually found his way behind the bar at Zielinski’s Tavern and enjoyed a different kind of warmth. 

He has plenty of friends in the Pulaski area and served as the Grand Marshall of the Polka Days Parade back in 2011.

He keeps a fairly regular schedule, has help when he needs it, closes the bar when he wants to and opens it every morning after he heads over to the tavern next door for breakfast. “They open the doors when they see me coming,” he said.

On both days we visited the bar, people stopped in to check on Tony, and have a beverage or two.

“I trust my customers and they trust me,” he said. 

Zielinski’s Tavern has been a Pulaski mainstay for more than 100 years.
Bartender and current owner Tony Hieronimczak has been around for most of them. His bar is open “every damn day”, he has help when he needs it and he enjoys a busy, active life.
And he’s got some good stories to share. In fact, we liked him so much when we met him on Saturday, that we popped back over Sunday afternoon.
Tony runs a good, clean bar and has a lot of support from the community.
The bar still features it’s original, ornate ceiling and a sign that warns against dancing on tables with spurs.
There’s a nice comfy couch with a couple of afghans too, should anyone need to take a break.

6 thoughts on “The oldest bartender in the world

  1. Remines me of SISTI’S CAFE in good old COLVER and LIDO . He’s closed now but still kicking at 97. I know you remember the people and the place. GOD BLESS EM.

    1. So great to hear Lido is still kicking! I definitely remember Sisti’s and all of the people there! Thanks Nick! I was just talking about your garlic this morning.

  2. I knew a lady named Roberta Burrow who owned and ran a bar in Horicon, Wisconsin called Eagle Hill tavern until late into her 90’s. I don’t do bars much, but I wish she were still there. Like everything in life, that has passed….

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