John and Molly Jones of Hanover took over this week as the new owners of Shipley’s Tavern. Madison Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
John and Molly Jones of Hanover took over this week as the new owners of Shipley’s Tavern. Madison Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
Shipley’s Tavern, a staple of the downtown Madison food and bar scene since 1867, is in new hands.

John and Molly Jones of Hanover bought the property and business at 322 West St. this week, and other than a new awning on the front of the building, they have no intention of changing a thing, including the beloved cheeseburger.

“Well, I think Shipley’s, when you look at it, since we’ve been in town — and Molly grew up in Hanover — has been an icon in the community,” said John Jones, head coach of the Hanover College women’s basketball team and former athletic director at Southwestern Jefferson County Schools who now serves on Southwestern’s school board.

“There’s been great people who have worked here —the general manager, Jackie (May), has been here 14 years. We’re really investing in the people, and Shipley’s is an icon in Madison, and, hopefully we can keep it going and it’ll be a place Madisonians continue to go to.”

Molly, a Hanover native, 1986 Hanover College graduate, former Hanover women’s head basketball coach and a current associate athletic director at the college, looks forward to joining Madison’s growing small business community.

“I think it’s the people,” Molly said. “I love Madison and Hanover, I grew up here, and I think that Madison is going in an amazing direction with all of the improvements that it’s making, and I think that really excites me — all the festivals in the summertime and being around the people and seeing so many people coming from out of town, and keeping the people who have loved this place for years and years coming back.”

The couple had looked into buying the business since late October-early November, Molly said, and saw an investment opportunity in both the restaurant and apartment spaces on the two top floors of the building. The roof needs repair and the rest of the upstairs spaces need work, the Joneses said, but they plan to renovate the apartments.

“It’ll probably be a little bit of time before we get some things up there,” she said. “That’s something we like to do as well, and we’ve got some rentals and an Airbnb and we like to kind of fix up places and make them nice, so we’re looking forward to that piece of it as well, but it’ll be a little bit of time. We want to make sure the restaurant/bar is going and doing well first.”

The Joneses take over after nearly 15 years of ownership by Cris and Kathryn Sauer.

John Shipley, the man whose name became the trademark of the business, bought the building from the heirs of Charles Eckert in 1944.

The property has changed hands more than 20 times since the first deed was recorded in 1815, according to records compiled by Jefferson County Recorder Molly O’Connor.

“It’s a great property on a great location of downtown. There’s a reason it’s been successful for all these years,” John said.