NAPONEE, Neb. >> A dog lays in the center of Main Street of Naponee as a car slowly approaches.
The dog lumbers home, but the laid back attitude blankets much of the tiny town. One business — the No Where Bar and Grill — continues to breathe life into the small village on the east edge of Harlan County Reservoir.
Moved to its current location in approximately 1944, Naponee resident Rodney Richter recalled the building being a drugstore before the town tavern. The business has seen about 10 owners during the years, and in the mid-1980s, Richter, the town historian, said it was dubbed the No Where Bar and Grill.
Ted and Susan Davis bought the bar in 2007, continuing its name, providing residents, visitors and lakegoers a place to eat and drink. Before that the Davises owned a trucking company for 15 years. Their son, Cory, who also drove a truck, was looking for a place to settle down. So he and his sister, Jennifer Hersh of Inavale, had the idea to buy the bar with their parents.
As a child Susan Davis’ parents, Don and Betty Bannister, owned D&B Cafe and Lounge in Harvard for more than 20 years.
“I cooked in her mom and dad’s restaurant,” said Ted Davis. “Her dad taught me how.”
Ted and Susan were hesitant to start their own business, but over the years have made it their own. The restaurant combines a feel of modern and rustic decor with dark wood accents including the bar, one of the only original pieces of the establishment.
Exposed ductwork and antique motorcycles hang around the dining area giving the bar a cool vibe. The family has remodeled the business three times, and said it’s a far cry from what it was when they first bought it.
“You could drop a pool stick through the floor. There were holes in the floor,” Ted Davis explained.
Other remodeling projects included plastering over a wall where the previous owner allowed customers to write graffiti, painting, installing a new floor and gutting the kitchen. When the bar first opened they offered customers sandwiches and frozen pizzas.
“We added a George Foreman (grill), and we started doing hamburgers and french fries,” Susan Davis said. “Three years ago, we put a kitchen in. We try to do everything pretty much homemade.”
Ted and Susan Davis make the buns from scratch for the sandwiches, hand-patty the burgers and make their own french fries, sweet potato fries, potato chips, smoked meats, desserts and fried chicken. Ted Davis got some of his menu ideas from when he traveled around the country in his truck.
A few of the dishes the restaurant is known for are the Heart Attack burger, the Coronary burger and Susan’s smothered burritos made with homemade green chili, the Kearney Hub reported.
“We are 75-80 percent made from scratch because (customers) have to have a reason to come. You can go to any bar and get bar food,” Susan Davis said.
During the summer months, business more than doubles when people come to nearby Harlan County Reservoir. The restaurant opens for lunch in the summer and provides a buffet.
Locals and hunters help keep the restaurant’s doors open through the slower winter months.
Although they’re the only remaining business in town, Ted and Susan Davis strive to keep Naponee alive. The bar shares a doorway with the American Legion Post No. 364, and helps pay their utilities. In return, the bar uses the Legion building for overflow or events.
Recently, the bar started fundraising to replace the roof on the Legion.
Eight years ago, Ted and Susan Davis bought three dilapidated buildings across the street from them and turned it into an open-air courtyard with a stage and seating.
“It’s like our front yard,” Susan Davis said.
Fixing up the crumbling buildings in town is just one thing the Davises are doing to improve Naponee. Susan is vice president of the Naponee Booster Club that hosts an annual soup supper and Easter egg hunt.
The club recently raised $6,000 to install new curtains on the stage at the City Auditorium. They’re also working with the Friends of Naponee, a group of Naponee supporters, to install new playground equipment they purchased along with a bench and picnic table at the park.
The group also has removed old sidewalks, restored a brick barbecue fireplace, painted lines on the basketball court and reseeded grass.
“We are just trying to help improve town,” Susan Davis said.
The best part of owning their business in the middle of nowhere, the Davises said, is the people they meet along the way. “Everybody puts a smile on your face. Some when they come in, some when they go out,” Ted said with a laugh.
“The people, the different types and their personalities — we have good people that come here,” Susan added.