Al & Alma’s Is Anchored in Success

by | Jun 2024

Jay and Jenna Soule

Jay and Jenna Soule. Photos: Chris Emeott

History continues to unfold for Al & Alma’s Supper Club.

Many local businesses utilize “the lake” as an enviable backdrop, but how many can say that Lake Minnetonka is a “business partner?” Al & Alma’s Supper Club and Charter Cruises embraces the lake’s stunning vistas through its dining and cruising ventures.

Marking five years as owners of the business, which has its origins as far back as the 1920s, Jay and Jenna Soule are at the helm, but the story starts much farther back.

Jay grew up on the lake’s Enchanted Island, and being on the water was a way of life. “I have been driving boats since I was 6 years old,” he says. “My first (unpaid) captain job was for my dad, who worked in south Minneapolis. His commute could be cut in half if he [drove] in from my grandparents’ house on Smithtown Bay. When the weather was right early in the morning, I would give him a ride in a 13-foot Alumacraft with a 9.8 Mercury outboard and drop him off at the Smithtown dock where his car was parked. My grandmother would call my mom at home to let her know I was leaving [back for home], and she would confirm my arrival because, well at age 6, I wasn’t quite strong enough to pull the [motor’s] starter cord hard enough in the event the engine would quit.”

Many of Al & Alma’s captains and crew have similar stories of growing up on and around the lake. “Being able … to combine their lifelong love of the lake with a job that allows them to introduce our guests to the area they love is what makes our staff truly unique,” Jay says. “Our captains have logged thousands of hours on the water and are some of the most experienced on Lake Minnetonka.”

The nautical vibe carries through this boat’s interior, matching Lake Minnetonka’s salute to blue hues.

The nautical vibe carries through this boat’s interior, matching Lake Minnetonka’s salute to blue hues.

Jay began his tenure as a captain during summers throughout college and returned full time after college as the general manager, serving in that role for over two decades. In 2019, Jay and Jenna bought out Daryl and Merritt Geyen, becoming the fourth family to own Al & Alma’s. For Jay, 2024 will mark his 31st year with the business. Jenna, who has worked in marketing for local and national corporations and served in volunteer capacities on nonprofit boards, supports the business through her marketing expertise, assists with philanthropic causes and even tends to front-of-the-house details.

It really is a family affair with their son, Connor, serving as a captain, while their daughter, Alli, is part of the boat crew and working on her captain’s license. Jay says staff is made up of legacy “key employees” who run generations deep. “Some of our team members are great-great-grandchildren of Al and Alma Quist, and on any given night, there is likely to be a mother-daughter or uncle-nephew team serving guests,” he says. Vice president of operations Jamie Geyen, also a licensed captain, started in 1999 as a busser in the supper club during high school and worked literally every job in the business throughout the years.

Al & Alma’s Supper Club serves up open views, allowing diners to soak up the lakelife atmosphere.

Al & Alma’s Supper Club serves up open views, allowing diners to soak up the lakelife atmosphere.

“Running a legacy business like Al & Alma’s is a challenge,” Jay says. “Not only are you serving guests that have been coming for 65 plus years, you are also trying to stay relevant to trends sought by younger guests.” Executive chef Trevor Thoelke and sous chef Michael Stromberg create longtime and new menu offerings. “We have more than 10 items that have been on our menu since the day we opened in 1956, including our tender-to-the-bone Al’s Famous BBQ Pork Ribs, Campstyle Walleye, Browned Potatoes and Hand Cut Steaks,” Jay says. Newer favorites include Braised Short Ribs, Salmon Florentine, Ahi Tuna Crisps and Cook’s Bay or Tonka Bleu burgers. The bar features a variety of handcrafted cocktails (including the bestseller Old Fashioned), and nonalcoholic beverages and mocktails.

While the initial popularity of supper clubs took hold years ago, there’s a whole new generation of diners who are embracing the vibe. “We love that there is a resurgence in popularity for the supper club,” Jay says. (The original dining room has been expanded and remodeled, and the outdoor dining patio space opened in 2023.) “I think that people love reflecting back to the days of their youth where memories of great food and service were the key ingredients to having a great time,” he says.

Al’s Signature New York Strip

Al’s Signature New York Strip.

For guests who want an on-the-lake experience with a cruise, the fleet includes five express yachts (10–80 guests) and three motor yachts (up to 149 guests). “We are constantly improving our yachts, as well as maintaining them to the highest standards with the goal of keeping everything shipshape,” Jay says.

The supper club’s chefs also make the cruise meals. “We think sometimes the art of service has gone by the wayside in the restaurant business and is often exchanged for fads and fleeting trends,” Jay says. “Trends are not our niche. We make entrees that taste good and [include] big portions that are fun to serve, like our amazing Lobster Mac and Cheese, Southwest Chicken Egg Rolls, Campstyle Walleye or homemade desserts, like the decadent Snicker Brownie Bar Sundae and Key Lime Pie.”

Al And Almas Key Lime Pie

While offering a full complement of menu items is important, that isn’t always enough when it comes to satisfying customers. “Guest expectations are always rising, and with people’s easy access to the world through internet reviews, a positive experience is paramount in every way,” Jay says. “The trick about delivering a great experience is to really mean it. We believe that, as we serve each other as a team, we are better equipped to serve our guests because we are living out what we believe.”

Salmon with Super Food Salad.

Salmon with Super Food Salad.

Having the lake as a focal point certainly doesn’t hurt the cause. “Lake Minnetonka is an exceptional place. Due to its size, depth and location to a thriving Metro area, we are able to enjoy an amenity not available to many across the nation,” Jay says. “For some of our guests, our cruises are the primary way they get to enjoy Lake Minnetonka, and we take that very seriously as we steward our role as providers of ‘public access’ to majestic Lake Minnetonka.”

Al & Alma’s Supper Club and Charter Cruises
5201 Piper Road, Mound; 952.472.3098
Facebook: Al & Alma’s Supper Club & Charter Cruises on Lake Minnetonka
Instagram: @al_and_almas


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