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New Life for Historic Burt County Bank Building

TEKAMA, Nebraska (Nebraska). The Tekam business owner has always wanted to renovate the old Burt County State Bank building. Now she was able to do it, and the results are amazing.

“This building was built in 1884 as a bank,” said business owner and entrepreneur Cindy Chatt. “The main activity of the bank took place on the middle floor. There were law offices, a barbershop downstairs, a veterinary clinic downstairs. I remember when I was in high school, there was an insurance agency downstairs. The building has had many tenants and roles over the years.”

Chatt is currently the owner of The Chatterbox, a business that offers locally sourced produce as well as craft beer and drinks. “When I came back here about six years ago and started looking at the buildings, this bank building was the first one I looked at,” Chatt said. “It’s a big old building and it had good bones. But it didn’t really work for opening a restaurant or a brewery, which is something I wanted to do quickly. I left this building in the back of my mind.” After The Chatterbox had great success with Tekamah, Chatt decided she was ready for another project. “That building was still on my mind,” Chatt said. “I called the previous owner, he was willing to sell it and here we are today.”

When it came to the use of the building, Chatta had some ideas from the start. “I was thinking about apartments on the lower and upper floors,” said Chatt. “I decided that on the middle floor I would arrange a small place for cocktails, and then maybe a boutique. But when we started the demolition, I realized that the middle floor is just beautiful. There was old brick there and I didn’t want to build walls in the middle to separate it into two spaces. So, it just became what it is today, and it’s a cocktail bar and event space. There is an Air BnB upstairs and this is obviously for a short stay. On the ground floor we have apartments at the garden level. These are the only garden level apartments in the entire city of Tekama and we had to change some zoning laws to allow us to use them as apartments. Downstairs there are two long-term apartments.

“There are two floors here that still have bank vaults,” Chatt said. “On the middle floor, we climbed into the vault and actually made it to the bar. Bartenders can be found at the back and inside the vault. The original vault door is there. Downstairs, we’ve converted storage into bathrooms. This has two sides. The bathroom of each apartment is in storage, which is kind of unique.”

The presence of this renovated building in the city is important for the community. “First of all, this is a building that everyone loves,” Chatt said. “We hope that saving a building like this will inspire others to do the same. And secondly, it preserves part of the history. It is very funny. Tekama is now a destination. Now there are a couple of restaurants here. There’s a bar here that’s always been there, Ronnie’s bar. Now you have a situation where people can come to Tekama, park their car and go to three or four different places in one night. Or they can visit the Master Hand and have dinner in the evening. Now there are many different places to go and places to stay.”

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