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Bar owners break into a new market

Sterling couple opens pub-and-grub in Tampico

Jared Strader and his fiancé, Shay Bartelt, recently bought the former Old Town Pub ’n Grub in downtown Tampico and have reopened it as The Break Room Pub ’n Grub, a bar/restaurant.
Jared Strader and his fiancé, Shay Bartelt, recently bought the former Old Town Pub ’n Grub in downtown Tampico and have reopened it as The Break Room Pub ’n Grub, a bar/restaurant.

TAMPICO – Jared Strader’s second bar also is Tampico’s second bar.

The difference between the two bars? The Break Room Pub ’n Grub, 122 S. Main St., will bring restaurant-style dining back to the Whiteside County village of 800, the birthplace of Ronald Reagan.

Strader, 39, who also owns The Factory Pub ’n Grub in Sterling with his fiancé, Shay Bartelt, 33, said the timing was right to expand their brand. The Dutch Diner on the north end of downtown has been closed since 2013, and Old Town Pub ’n Grub closed in June 2016, leaving the village little in the way of local dining options.

“The [Old Town] building had been for sale for a couple of years,” Strader said. “I looked at it a couple of times. The price was right, and the time was right. …The Factory is growing so much, we thought we’d expand a little bit.”

The Sterling couple bought the Old Town Pub ’n Grub from Julie (Stees) Marschang in August.

The Break Room takes up two old storefronts – one side will be a bar, serving beer, liquor and some wine; and the other side will be the dining area. Stradel says he also plans to bring in darts and slot machines.

Strader and his crew will continue to work on the kitchen next week, and he plans to wrap up construction by May. Walls and ceilings have been torn out and rebuilt, a new front has been designed. The interior has a rustic look, with log cabin-style walls, corrugated metal, and retro light fixtures. Updates on the building’s progress will be posted on The Break Room Pub ’n Grub’s Facebook page.

In the meantime, the bar’s opening weekend kicked off Friday with a St. Patrick’s Day theme. Corned beef and cabbage was served Friday, and today Shamrock Shooters, a mint-flavored mixture, will be on the drink menu when the bar opens at 4 p.m.

Once the kitchen opens, customer favorites from The Factory, such as burgers and wings, will be served, and steaks and pizza also will be on the menu, food that Strader said isn't widely available in the southern part of the county.

“Down here, I can kind of do whatever I want,” Strader said. “They haven’t had food in this town for a long time.”

Strader’s new new is home to more than just a bar; it’s also home to history.

The buildings, built in 1899 and 1900 and now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, were the home of the H.C. Pitney Variety Store when Reagan, 40th president of the United States, was born Feb. 6, 1911. Reagan’s father, Jack, was a clerk at the store from 1911 to 1914, and again from 1919 to 1920 after the family moved back to Tampico after a series of stops in Chicago, Galesburg and Monmouth.

Reagan’s birthplace is across Main Street and a couple of storefronts north of The Break Room.

The Reagans lived in an apartment above the Pitney Store during their second stint in town. During his time as president, Reagan would often mention living above the Pitney Store.

Strader said he doesn’t have any plans for the second floor right now. His focus is on giving people a place to take a break and belly up to the bar – and the tables.

“We want to even get people from Sterling and Rock Falls out here,” Strader said. “Maybe get a little more traffic through this town.”

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