You Gotta Grab Life By the Wheel – Two Inspiring Wheelmobile Stories

We’ve already introduced you to Alexandria, the Wisconsin Rapids woman who won $17,500 in cash and prizes on Wheel of Fortune – after taking part in the Wheelmobile at our Oak Creek Steinhafels this past fall. Wheel of Fortune is currently in its 35th season, and we’re so excited to be part of the action!

UPDATE: This Thursday Night, Matt Pitton of Whitefish Bay won big on the national stage! Matt won $48,850 in cash and prizes, including a trip to Costa Rica, which should help with his upcoming nuptials! Matt is a physical therapist and a huge college basketball fan – always rooting for his alma mater, Marquette University. Matt says he’s been watching America’s Game® for the majority of his life. 


(photo: Carol Kaelson)

Besides Matt and Alexandria, there are several other local contestants who made it all the way to Los Angeles to compete with Vanna and Pat on the big wheel in the last few weeks.

Eric and Kari are a couple from Racine.


Lynelle lives in Waunakee, just north of Madison.


Check out this video highlighting these big winners, and some of our favorite moments from the Steinhafels and CBS 58 Wheelmobile event:

Wheel Winners Kari and Lynelle took the time to answer some questions about the “Wheel of Fortune Experience.” It’s fun to see how their wheel journeys differ, and to learn a little more about what inspired them to throw caution to the wind and try out. One of the women didn’t even plan on attending Wheelmobile, and another sees her whirlwind win as just another sign that we all need to live life to the fullest – following a scary family illness.

Read on for their inspiring stories!!!

STEINHAFELS: First off, tell me briefly about yourself, and if you are a big Wheel fan.

LYNELLE: I was born in the Philippines and my family moved to Green Bay when I was 5 years old. I grew up in Green Bay, about a mile from Lambeau Field, but have never been to a Packers game! I currently live in Waunakee. I’ve been married to my husband Torben for 21 years, and have two smart and beautiful daughters. I am a part time para-educator at Waunakee High School – I supervise Junior/Senior study halls. In my free time, I Crossfit and volunteer for the Philippine-American Association of Madison and Neighboring Areas (PAMANA). I have watched Wheel of Fortune since I was young girl. It was always fun to try to solve the puzzles, but I never thought I would get on the show.

KARI: Eric is from Racine and I’m from Belgium, WI. We were married two years ago and have a six month old son named Magnus. I am currently a stay-at-home mom and Eric works in Sales. We have both watched Wheel of Fortune since we can remember. I recall even as a very young girl having it on TV. Eric’s first crush as a young boy was Vanna White! We watch the show now as a couple whenever we can. We enjoy trying to solve the puzzles before the contestants.

STEINHAFELS: What made you come out to the auditions at Steinhafels Oak Creek?

LYNELLE: I receive emails from the Wheel Watchers Club. In October 2017, I received an email saying that the Wheelmobile was coming to Oak Creek Steinhafels, and they were looking for contestants. They said that was the first time in 10 years they would be in the area. My family strongly encouraged I go, but I only wanted to go if my husband drove. I hate driving long distances, especially at night. On the day of the Friday, Oct. 27th Wheelmobile event, my husband was too busy at work to be able to leave at noon as planned. I told my younger daughter Ebba, who was coming with, that I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to drive home from Oak Creek at night. She strongly urged that we still go and reassured it would be OK driving back at night since she would be with me. After some thought, we ventured to Oak Creek. We allowed plenty of time to drive there in case of traffic. We arrived at 1:30 and found four other women waiting in line already. It was nice that it was at Steinhafels because we had couches to sit on while waiting!



KARI: We had heard about the Wheelmobile being so close in Oak Creek and decided last minute to attend. We thought it would be an amazing opportunity, although unlikely we would get picked. We went in blind, not knowing what the process was going to entail. It was very fun and the hosts really tried to energize the crowd and keep it high-energy. When Eric’s name was pulled from the drum, I was just shocked. It was totally random out of hundreds of applications.

STEINHAFELS: When did you find out you got on the big show? What was your reaction?

LYNELLE: A few days after the Wheelmobile event in Oak Creek, I got an email inviting me to the second auditions in downtown Milwaukee, which was scheduled for a few weeks later. At that audition, we played quick versions of the game, but this time they called your name, you stood up enthusiastically, smiled and called out some letters. I only called out two letters. Next, we took a written test, which consisted of partially filled in puzzles.  We had to solve as many as we could in five minutes. I may have completed half of them. After the coordinators reviewed the tests and did some consulting, they came back in the room and asked some contestants to stay. I was not one of them and the rest of us went home. We were told that if we got on the show, we would get a letter in exactly two weeks. Well, that same evening, I got a call, but since I didn’t recognize the number, I didn’t answer it. They immediately called back and my husband told me to answer it, just in case it was Wheel of Fortune. So I answered the phone call and it was! They told me that my auditions were great and they wanted me in Los Angeles on December 1st to be on the show. I was ecstatic!


KARI: The second audition was intense, lots of playing a mock version of the ‘Wheel,’ taking a quiz on our puzzle skills, sharing about ourselves with the group, etc. We spent about four hours at the audition and had a lot of fun. We thought we did well and let our personalities shine. They commented on our great teamwork while playing the game. It was just a matter of waiting to see if we got into the contestant pool. Well, the waiting wasn’t long. We received a call that evening asking us to be in L.A. in 13 days! I think I squealed when Eric got off the phone. I heard his conversation and knew he was talking to the ‘Wheel’ folks. We were beyond excited and booked our flights that night.


STEINHAFELS: What was the show-taping process like? What were Pat and Vanna like? Were you nervous?

LYNELLE: The day of the taping, 20 contestants arrived at the studio at 7:45 a.m. (18 guaranteed on the show and 2 were alternates from the LA area). They were taping 6 shows that day. Immediately in the morning, we signed legal paperwork, mostly saying that we were not to let anyone know of the outcome of the show. After that, we had rehearsals. We got to be on the game platform and practiced spinning the wheel and calling out letters. We also did a promo video for our local station. The contestant coordinators were so helpful that day! They told us everything we needed to know.  They really made it comfortable for us to play the game.

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Pat and Vanna were really nice, pretty chill people. Pat really knows his stuff. He knows exactly what to say during the show, like when he makes his small comments during the game. He is pretty smooth. They are in person what they portray on TV. I was fortunate I got to chat with them at the end of the show.  

STEINHAFELS: Tell me how the show went down… were you nervous at all?

KARI: By the time the show was about to start, I was so nervous. We both promised each other to just have fun no matter the outcome, although we said we were going to win. :)


We had studied a bit about letter frequency and some other game strategy so we had our ‘game-plan’ per say. We planned to rotate spinning the wheel but after the practice spin, I popped a blood vessel in my finger and was all swollen. This happened right before we were on so that’s why Eric spun every time. He did well I might add!


STEINHAFELS: Were the puzzles hard? How is being ON the show different than solving puzzles at home?

LYNELLE: The puzzles on the show didn’t seem too hard, after the fact. I played on the Wheel of Fortune app for 2-3 hours a day for two weeks before being on the show. I played on the app to help me strategize and try to solve the puzzles with minimal letters. I practiced a lot with the bonus round puzzles, to see what additional letters I should call. The puzzles in the app seemed harder.

Being on the show is much more difficult than playing at home. There were so many things to remember – such as smile, clap, be clear on your letter calling, focus on solving the puzzle, look at the used letter board, etc. What was comforting is that, between each puzzle, we stepped down, took a breather and met with the contestant coordinators. They gave us water and advice, fanned us (because it was hot), and the makeup person powdered us. The contestant coordinators really did help us in so many ways that day of the show!

STEINHAFELS: Lynelle, you won it ALL, correct? What was that like? What was your final puzzle?

LYNELLE: Yes I won it all. I’ve watched my show many times already! I recently realized that I solved 5 of the 8 puzzles in the main game and also solved the bonus round puzzle which was ‘Family Physician.’  During the taping of the show, I didn’t realize I had solved that many puzzles!! I took it round by round. I didn’t know that Rei, the other female contestant, hit so many bankrupts – I was so lucky with that. I was just focused on solving the puzzles and didn’t really pay attention to much except for when Pat told me it was my turn. I was in a zone.

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STEINHAFELS: What were your total winnings? Have you been to St. Lucia before?

LYNELLE: My total winnings were $60,300 in cash and prizes. $50,800 in cash and $9,500 is the value of the St. Lucia trip. I’ve never been to St. Lucia before but had been to Aruba. I love the Caribbean and we are excited to bring our kids with us.

STEINHAFELS: Kari, this must be such a whirlwind for you and Eric. Besides the trip to Hawaii, any plans for what you’d like to do with your winnings?

KARI: What a fun, whirlwind of a time. We can’t wait to go to Hawaii to create even more memories as a family. It was really surreal and truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. All of the staff – Pat, Vanna, everyone along the way, were amazing and great to work with. We were very surprised to get asked to be on Wheel of Fortune and to have been blessed with this opportunity and our winnings. In a way we are not surprised at the unraveling of events. We tend to live life in the fast-lane so this is very typical of us. Eric had a very serious brain injury at the end of 2016. That accident really has changed our outlook on life and motivates us to live a life of spontaneity, adventure, and fun! Trying out for Wheel of Fortune was just that.


STEINHAFELS: Lynelle, any other big plans for what you’d like to do with your winnings?

LYNELLE: When I won the bonus round and saw the $35,000, the first thing that popped in my head was, ‘Yes – College tuition! Seriously!’ Majority of the winnings will go to college tuition/funds and house maintenance/landscaping. We are going to let our younger daughter pick out the tile for our kitchen backsplash. She’s a big HGTV fan!

STEINHAFELS: What was it like watching yourselves on TV?

KARI: It was entertaining to watch the show with family when it aired. Only a few knew we were going to be on the show, and nobody knew the outcome which made it so fun to witness their true reactions. It was so hard to keep it a secret for the six weeks between filming it and the show airing. Our friends and family were so happy for us. We felt privileged to represent Wisconsin and our town, Racine, in a positive way.


STEINHAFELS: Final question – are you going to check out a Steinhafels store again sometime?

LYNELLE: Well, I would love some new furniture! :)

I think that after reading about both of these women’s journeys, most of us can agree that life is short, and we need to take a leap of faith sometimes. Congrats Lynelle, Kari, and Eric – you showed the nation how awesome Wisconsinites are, and made us proud.

Have a fabulous time on your trips to much warmer climates, and stay in touch.

And good luck to Matt on Thursday! Let’s get another big win for a Wisconsinite!


Employee Profile: Steinhafels Manager By Day, Country Star By Night!

We’re lucky at Steinhafels to be surrounded by wonderful coworkers with cool stories and various interests. When you have more than 800 people working for a company across 18 stores and two states, you’re bound to have some pretty interesting background stories!

While the main purpose of this blog is to share design trends, industry info, and community outreach… we also want to take the time to highlight employees who are making a difference, or have a unique story to tell.

One of those employees is Menomonee Falls-based Sales Manager Joell Powers. I recently learned that Joell lives a “double life” of sorts, and thought it would be cool to chat with her about that, and see how those worlds combine to make her an awesome Sales Manager.

Joell’s Double Life: Sales Manager By Day


Country Star By Night!

joell great pic

I always think it’s neat when people have interests outside of work that are vastly different from their work roles. While we spend 8+ hours a day at the office, in the warehouse, or in the store… it’s important to remember that we all have other skills and talents that make us a unique piece of the Steinhafels puzzle.


Joell has been with Steinhafels for 4 years. She’s a Milwaukee native, and was recently promoted to Sales Manager. When she’s not working, you may see her onstage at a local festival or a local bar venue. She’s a singer for the local band Georgia Overdrive. They’ve already performed a few times at State Fair, and you have ONE MORE CHANCE TO SEE HER LIVE AT THE FAIR on Friday, August 11 at 11 a.m. at the Budweiser Pavilion Stage!!

Joell was kind enough to take a few minutes from her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her “double life.”

First off, briefly describe your role at Steinhafels.

As a sales manager, I focus on hiring new sales associates and coaching/training the staff to continue to reach for their goals. Overall, I help in any way possible to make our team stronger and help Steinhafels keep growing!

When did you begin singing/performing? What’s your vocal “specialty?”

The very first time I sang was actually at the State Fair, and I believe I was about 8 years old. It was at the Double K Ranch on karaoke night! I love to sing all types of music, but my main choice is country music. The band that I am currently with is Georgia Overdrive.


By day you’re a retail manager, and night a country star! How are the two different? Similar?

Singing with a band is completely different from my job. I get to be silly and dance on stage and watch how people react to our performance. I did notice though that there are some similarities between singing and being a retail manager. My job is to make sure that people enjoy their experience, whether it’s listening to their favorite song, or getting delivery of their beautiful new living room set. As a singer, you are only as good as your band members. You must rely on them, and if we aren’t all on the same page, it will be a bad outcome. It’s the same thing with Steinhafels and working with the staff. We set goals and we work together to achieve them. I would be nothing without my band members or my sales associates!


What do you like most about performing?

When I perform, I feel like I get to show a different side of me. I get to be a little kid again and just be goofy and dance. I remember dancing in my room singing in the mirror with my brush as my microphone. That’s all I’m really doing now, just with a real audience.

Are people surprised to learn you sing in a band?

So many people have come up to me and said, “I had no idea you could sing!” I laugh because it’s not something that I would ever bring up in conversation. I’m not just going to say, “Hey, did you know I can sing?” If I did, someone would probably say, “Sing something right now!” haha.

Is it cool to sing at State Fair?

Singing at the State Fair means the world to me. First off, it was the first place that I can remember ever singing in front of a crowd. Second, I’ve been going to the fair every year since I was little. My grandpa was part of the sheep shearing contests, and is actually in the Hall of Fame for it. You can see his name posted on a board in the sheep barn. (We are proud of that!) We’ve held family reunions there as well. Some might say that we are obsessed, but I just say we are passionate.

Joell State Fair pic

Why should folks come out and see Georgia Overdrive at State Fair, and other local venues?

People need to come out to the State Fair because there is something there for everyone! You get to support local companies and farmers, eat great food, shop in the Expo Center, listen to all types of music, pet animals, go on rides… the options are endless! It’s a great time for all ages, and the best part is you get the enjoy the beautiful Wisconsin weather while doing all of that. Last thing I would say is to come out on Friday morning to see Georgia Overdrive perform at the Budweiser Pavilion. We’d love to see you, and hopefully get you out on the dance floor!

joell state fair crowd

I don’t know about you, but this post makes me want to get out of my desk chair and start dancing!

So… if you’re off Friday and looking for something to do, go ahead and get down to the Fair to see Joell let loose on stage. If not, you can check out the band’s future performance dates HERE.

Thanks Joell… for being a rockstar not only onstage, but also as a Steinhafels manager!

screenshot_43Joell and fellow Manager Summer Barnes!


The Stories Behind Your Furniture

What do you get when you take a former news producer and tell her to write a furniture blog for one of the top furniture retailers in the state?  At first, sensational headlines like, “Dining Room Tables On Strike”, or “Breaking News: Leather Couch Gets A Scuff”, come to mind.  Don’t worry—that won’t be this blog.

OK, yeah, so furniture isn’t always the most exciting topic out there.  I get that. But it is beautiful to look at, fun to buy, and in some cases, it can tell a pretty awesome story.

As a journalist, I am all about telling stories, and as I’ve learned through the years, a story doesn’t always have to be of the “If It Bleeds It Leads” variety.  In fact, the best stories I did during my time in TV News were usually the stories that didn’t dwell on death and destruction.  They were just good, relatable, PEOPLE stories:  The local organization offering job opportunities for the visually impaired; The guy fighting cancer whose goal was to complete his ‘Bucket List’; Or the local woman whose ancestors were on the Titanic.  They were unique, Human Interest stories you couldn’t see anywhere else.

I hope to make this blog fun, relatable, and informative.  I’m still learning about all things furniture, so we can learn together!  In upcoming blogs I will talk  about things like home design trends, decorating on a budget, how to pick the perfect mattress, and other topics we can all relate to.

I also hope to share some of the personal stories of people who work here at Steinhafels.  Being a family-owned, locally operated business since 1934, there are so many cool stories behind these walls.  I hope to share some of them and get feedback from you, our loyal customers.

The one thing I’ve noticed through my first few months at Steinhafels is that furniture is a very emotional purchase, and each piece means SOMETHING to someone.  So for this initial blog entry, I decided to reach out to folks on Facebook, and ask them about the furniture in their homes.  I asked them to tell me about a piece of furniture that tells a story–whether it’s a piece they have now, or had in the past.  I received some very heartfelt, genuine responses, and I’d like to share some of those entries and pictures with you now.

Brooke:  “It may not look like much, but this rocking chair with matching ottoman was my great grandmother’s.  When we had our first child and I told my mom I wanted a rocking chair, she said I should take this one.  She said my great grandma would love to know it’s still used for rocking babies to sleep.”

Brooke chair blog pic

Beth:  “I bought a mission-style futon from a warehouse sale Christmas Eve in 2002.  Put the full size futon in my Honda Civic, which surprisingly fit everything. That futon has gotten me through a lot.  Family still sleeps on it and it doesn’t look aged.  Best piece of furniture and $125 well spent!”

Lindsay:  “Oddly enough, my husband and I still talk about a recliner we had in Milwaukee.  We found it in the alley by our apartment and hauled it upstairs.  It was well-worn and definitely “broken-in”, but he never used it as a recliner.  He would perch on the edge and our old dog Jake would snuggle up behind him.  Best chair ever.”

Jackie:  “I love our “settle”.  We just call it a loveseat since most people do not know what a settle is.  I love it because the neighbor where I grew up had one like it, and that is why I bought it.  It always reminds me of her, and I’m certain she would have picked it out if she was shopping too.  She passed away 7 years ago.”

Kristin:  “This was my grandparents’ rocker that they rocked all of their grandchildren in.  The rest of our nursery furniture is white, but I didn’t want to paint over the worn away arms.  I love that my grandparents hands wore away the coloring on the arm rests.”

Kristin bog pic

Leona:  “I bought our kitchen table when my husband and I were dating in Alabama.  It was unfinished and I stained it a dark mahogany.  I had to totally sand it down and refinish it this summer (partially because my husband used it to anchor a carpentry project), even though it doesn’t fit in our current dining room.  I also redid the chairs that go with it.”

Mike:  “I still remember how at 22 I had to save a whole year to buy my first bed and mattress (my first furniture purchase).  I was living in Chicago and took my savings to Marshall Field’s and found what I wanted.  On delivery day, I took the day off to wait for the delivery.  I made myself a wonderful dinner (with wine…a splurge), took a shower so I’d be all tidy and clean (just like a little kid on bath night), and finally (and proudly) crawled into my new bed, new mattress, and new sheets.  It was a personal triumph.  Years later, parting with the bed and mattress was tough, as I realized I had become attached to the memory of that magical first sleep, and that first true adult purchase.”

Rachel: “This bed belonged to my grandmother–it’s an antique I believe is about 200 years old.  It was the only thing I wanted when she passed.  I have the fondest memories of her in it:  Sleepovers, watching TV, and just the best conversations.  The bed was such a cozy spot, I even used it as my safe place in therapy as a kid.  Canopy is all original.  I can’t wait to have my own family and fond memories, and pass it on to the next generation.”

rachel blog pic


Karen:  “My husband has a 100-year-old chair from his great grandma. It is in the basement and needs to be reupholstered.  He loves it because it belonged to his relatives.”

karen chair for blog

Marty:  “I still own the dressers and such that were my late wife’s starting as a middle schooler in the mid 70’s.  Can’t part with them.”

Kala:  “My bedroom set has been in my family for years.  My grandfather made dressers for my aunt, then I got them.  The furniture is more than 50 years old. And I have my mother’s vanity.”

As you can see, meaningful furniture runs the gamut–from big ticket items to smaller accent pieces.  Steinhafels wants to help you create your own memories by making each purchase–large and small–truly mean something.

Stay tuned… I plan to blog often about all kinds of topics, and any feedback is appreciated.  Thanks for reading, and maybe, just maybe, this blog will make you look at that old sofa in your living room, or that gaudy lamp your grandma gave you, in a whole new way.