Concert for Cup O' Joy's 20th year
By Warren Bluhm
What began as a storefront coffeehouse ministry 20 years ago has become a concert venue of almost legendary proportions.
"I've been to the Cup O' Joy many times over the last 20 years, and every time I've come away with a heart overflowing with love from all of you," Barry McGuire wrote recently to the Cup O' Joy's operations coordinator, Jan Oettinger.
"Every time I am anywhere near you I am asked, 'Am I playing at the Cup?'" Grammy-nominated singer Sarah Kelly added.
Singer-songwriters Joy Williams and Shawn McDonald headline the Cup O' Joy 20th anniversary concert, scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Meyer Theatre, 117 S. Washington St., Green Bay.
The attentive audience and intimate atmosphere keep well-known artists coming back, Oettinger said.
"You come to hear their heart," she said. "You want to hear them explain why they wrote that song; it makes it all real for you. That's why live music is so great."
Williams' song "Charmed Life" was featured in the Season 5 finale of "Grey's Anatomy." She had a string of contemporary Christian hits when she was in her teens. Now 26, Williams is now perhaps best known for her radio hits "(You Don't Have to) Hide" and "One of These Days."
McDonald has been to the Cup, 232 S. Broadway, many times over the years and always draws a big crowd, Oettinger said.
"He's very intense — you can hear a pin drop, he has that kind of presence," she said. "But he's really a humble guy."
Other musicians who have appeared at the Cup are planning to come back this fall for reunion concerts. The six-man a capella group Poor Baker's Dozen, which broke up four years ago, is reuniting for one more Cup show on Sept. 19.
The Cup's reputation as a great place for a concert is a far cry from its modest beginnings when it opened next to a couple of bars at 335 N. Broadway in September 1989.
Oettinger admits sometimes being at the old place was "rough." She laughs about sitting next to the wall trying to listen to harpist Amy Shreve while the strains of "Your Cheatin' Heart" leaked through from the jukebox next door.
"The way it was set up, with the stage right next to the front door," you'd have people walking in right in front of the stage all night long — like when you go to one of those Nashville bars that are just little storefronts," Oettinger said.
During the revitalization of the Broadway business district in the late 1990s, the Cup took advantage of the opportunity to move to its present location, a former Salvation Army and Knights of Columbus building that had been converted into a bar.
"The thing that sold me was the cement floor," Oettinger said. "The plank floor at the old place would sag under your feet."
The quantity and quality of Christian radio stations in Northeastern Wisconsin has made a huge difference, she said. Oettinger is a regular visitor to the WORQ (Q90 FM) studios on Friday mornings, kibitzing with hosts Scottie and Kid Raider and promoting that weekend's shows at the Cup.
Christian Family Radio, WPFF (90.5 FM) in Sturgeon Bay and WRVM (102.7 FM) in Suring, have also sponsored shows at the Cup and help bring a diverse audience to the venue, she said.
Although as operations manager Oettinger is the public "face" of the Cup, she is quick to credit the hundreds of volunteers who have worked there over the years, serving snacks and making the audiences and artists feel at home.
"It's always been the sweet people who make this a special place," she said