When George and Judy Evanoff purchased the former El Rancho banquet hall on 5805 Woodville Rd. in Northwood, their family couldn’t help wonder what in the world the couple was doing.
“That’s how they were, though,” said Judy’s daughter, Angie Blandin. “They always had to be doing something.”
Judy’s vision was for the space to be center for the arts – a locale full of life and energy - a celebration of the creative spirit.
“We had lived in downtown Milwaukee for a time, and we were intrigued by the warehouses that were being converted into businesses,” George said. “We felt this building had a lot of that warehouse-type of character – a lot of potential.”
Judy and George worked tirelessly to renovate the space, which was vacant when they purchased it.
“While we were refurbishing the space, we were pulling some old paneling down and on the wall we saw some stamps that said ‘El Rancho,’” George said. “Being from the area, the name kind of rang a bell.
“We started asking around and were told that was a very, very popular Hispanic dance hall 30 or 40 years ago,” he said. “We thought that had a lot of character and a lot of history, so we called it the New El Rancho.”
For a time, Judy operated the Party Place there, staging lavish themed kids’ parties. “She had a Spy Kids party, a Pajama Party – they had snowball fights with rolled-up socks,” he said.
“She was full of ideas,” he said. “Her thing was, it wasn’t how much something cost, it was how it could be fun.”
After Judy died in December shortly after being diagnosed with melanoma, her family decided to continue her vision for the New El Rancho.
The facility is available for parties and special events – weddings, bridal and baby showers, graduation parties, Quinceañeras, etc. George said he welcomes inquiries from local artists looking for private and secure studio space as well.
The expansive building includes an intimate space for smaller gatherings, as well as a large banquet room and several smaller spaces that have been made into game and play rooms. There are also separate private “studio” areas, currently being used by a local artist and a band.
“The whole building has a three-quarter-inch maple floating wood floor that’s perfect to dance on,” Evanoff said.
This summer, Judy’s daughters, who all pursued careers in education, will conduct a variety of hands-on learning and discovery classes at El Rancho. The 90-minute classes, open to ages 5-11, will be held June 22-26 and June 29-July 3. The cost is $55 per week.
Judy and George Evanoff were surprised to discover heavy wooden beams when refurbishing the New El Rancho banquet facility.