In the summer of 1996 I drove up to Lodi and spent an hour at a coffeeshop with Don Koellen, nephew of Crystal Corner founder Florence Weber. Over toast and a tape recorder, Koellen shared his memories of his aunt and the early days of the tavern. Below are excerpts from that interview.
Koellen passed away in Gulf Shores, Alabama, in January 2004.
Is it true that your aunt was the first woman in Madison to hold a liquor license?
Phil [Coughlin, Florence's husband] got the liquor license after Prohibition. Then he got his drinking habits, and of course he passed away from it. And then, the city of Madison would not allow a woman to own a liquor license. They discriminated against women, and they did it legally, too. So old Pat [Coughlin, Florence's father-in-law], he operated the tavern. He took it over to keep the license. Then, old Pat, he was getting too old and senile. So Florence made application for the license, and the city council unanimously gave it to her - the first woman in Madison to hold a liquor license.
Why did she name it the Crystal Corner?
When they remodeled the front entrance, they put these glass blocks in. And Florence was inside in the evening and the lights shined through, and she said, "Oh, it looks just like crystal." And someone said, "Well, why don't you name it the Crystal Corner?" And that's the way it got named.