HARTINGTON — Whether it be Monte and Laurie or James and April, for over a decade, the Chief Bar has been a Pearson family affair.
In fact, until recently, the Chief was the only job James Pearson had known since eighth grade.
Last Friday, the Pearson reign ended as James and April handed the operation over to new owners Jesse and Monica Huerta.
The Chief has been closed since the first of the month to allow for minor renovations and final paperwork to be completed.
The Huerta’s are planning to reopen the doors later this week, and when they do, it won’t be the Chief Bar your grandpa knew.
Some of the features will include tablecloths on every table, new flatware and dishes, a fountain pop machine and a different color of paint on the walls.
The new asthetics will compliment the menu, which is highlighted by authentic mexican dishes to go along with the existing food and drink options.
The Chief will also be a non-smoking facility, which Jesse said is part of a new focus geared toward a clean family dining atmosphere.
“We want to have a place where the community can come in and enjoy dining in a smoke-free environment,” he said.
The Huerta’s, who reside in Ponca, are first-time business owners, but according to Monica, they have always had a desire to be self-employed.
“We’ve always wanted to do something to have our own business, we just didn’t know what,” Monica said. “This seemed perfect.”
It was a penchant for cooking for family and friends that led Jesse and Monica to the Chief.
Monica said they took some authentic mexican food over to James’ uncle and aunt, Rick and Robin Pearson, who after tasting the food suggested the couple look into buying the Chief.
The Huerta’s will be only the fourth owner of the long-time establishment in nearly 40 years.
With the Pearsons at the helm for the last 12. Monte and Laurie bought the bar from Roger Merkel in 1996 and operated it until selling to James and April in 2004 upon moving to Arizona.
James, who had just turned 22 when he bought his father’s business, was more than willing to step in.
“It was a beautiful opportunity,” he said. “It was definitely a chance to make money and help my parents.”