Have you ever wanted to go where everyone knows your name? You’ll find just that at the REO Town Pub in Lansing. The charming and welcoming pub is exactly what you imagine when you think of that perfect place to meet up with friends, enjoy a drink and truly be comfortable. The warmth you feel when you walk in didn’t happen by accident; in fact, it has been carefully crafted by owners Roxanne and Craig Landes and Jack Oliver over the years.
The trio purchased the bar in 2010 and haven’t looked back since. Roxanne Landes and Oliver handle the day-to-day operations of the bar, pouring their positivity and passion into a place where everyone feels welcome.
“I’ve always wanted a bar that, as a woman, I could go into and feel comfortable. A place where I could go in and just enjoy myself,” Roxanne Landes said. “We’ve tried to create that here. We want this to be a space where a woman could come and be completely comfortable, where you won’t be harassed, and you know there won’t be any nonsense. It’s not happening in this bar. We work with our bartenders to help create that kind of space, to pay attention to what’s going on and to act early.”
Several years after purchasing the pub, the group decided that it was time to put their unique stamp on it. In just five days, they completed a full remodel of the space. Its crown jewel rests at the bar’s top: a sign that reads “recreation,” which was salvaged from the former Lansing Recreation Center in REO Town. The bar top adds to the overall vibe of the space and represents strong ties to the REO Town community.
“After five years of owning the bar, we shut it down on a Saturday night and we pulled everything out. We gutted everything, added a new tap system and put it all back together in five days. We were still figuring out the bar top when they found these old signs, and we just really loved them! I thought they should really stay in REO Town and, at the very end, we got the sign that is now our bar top — and a tie to the community,” Landes said.
The day-to-day pair agrees REO Town is the perfect place for the pub as they witnessed the exciting transformation for themselves, though at times the area’s growth posed a few challenges. The community has still made them a local favorite.
“It’s a good crowd down here. We have really great neighbors. We work with Dylan and Jeana-Dee from Robin Theater and Nick from Good Truckin’ Diner,” Oliver said. “It’s a great place to be. We all look out for each other.”
The REO Town Pub has grown and adapted with its community. As companies like Cinnaire, bigger music festivals and facilities such as the Board of Water & Light moved in, the pub stayed current on the changes around them and how to make aspects like construction and closed roads work in its favor.
“We went to all the meetings and worked to make our presence known. We got permission to start cooking lunch out front. Jack would come and get everything all set up and we’d serve 70 lunches in 15 minutes to the construction guys,” said Landes. “We started working with our beer reps and started doing game nights and having patio parties. We got permission to start cooking hamburgers and hot dogs, and doing horse shoes out front in the dirt. It all started to work.”
One result of this transformation included what has become Steak Night, which sold around 70 steaks every Wednesday night in the first year. It continues as a REO Town Pub staple today, along with other famous events like their Big Hat Derby party and annual birthday bash.
Consistent festivities add to REO Town Pub’s charm and truly represent the spirit of the owners. As Oliver and Landes tell their story, it’s clear they love what they do, and their longtime friendship gives the pub a solid foundation to grow from.
The duo grew up together on the same street and even attended the same school, but as time passed their lives went in different directions. At an event one evening, Landes’ husband Craig introduced her to a work colleague of his: “Mad Jack.” To her surprise, it was the boy down the street that she’d known long ago, Oliver. The rest is history.
Friendship, along with entrepreneurial spirit, has kept the pub fresh. Oliver has owned a company of his own for more than 21 years and juggles putting in long days between both, but his drive and the perks that come along with being your own boss keep him going. Roxanne echoes this as she reflects on her time as owner of Dalmatians Firehouse Grill, which was formerly in REO Town.
“I ran Dalmatians for seven years and loved it. I learned how to do everything, but being the owner and operator means you have to be there … after going through a divorce and my second bout with cancer, I had to step back. Owning your own business has its pluses and minuses, but after that I knew this is what I loved doing,” Landes said.
Landes loved being in the thick of it, day in and day out. Oliver shares a similar sentiment. The satisfaction and journey in being self-employed comes with plenty of positives and zero regrets — teaming up for the perfect opportunity at the right time adds to the sense of fate.
“When the opportunity came around, I talked to Craig about buying the bar and he said, ‘If that is what you want to do I am behind you.’ But he didn’t want me doing it alone and that is where Jack came in as the perfect partner. We tag team it, so we can both get away and do things. It really came together the way it was supposed to,” Landes said.
“I don’t know that I ever thought I’d own a bar specifically, but I like being self-employed,” Oliver said. “It’s different, it’s a lot of work and a lot of pressure, but there is a lot of freedom.”
But fate didn’t just bring the trio together after all those years or bring the best opportunity at the right time; it also brought the best customers. The pair expresses just how grateful they are for their loyal, eclectic and enthusiastic patrons that bring the pub to life.
“I think our favorite part is the people,” Landes said. “We have a really great group here. We like getting to know them. You meet new people all the time, and then you have the regulars you see often. We have a great team and wonderful customers, and it really is the best part of what we do.”