New life for a historic Burt County bank building

Pure Nebraska
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 8:39 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2023 at 11:28 AM CST
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TEKAMAH, Neb. (KOLN) - A business owner in Tekamah always wanted to renovate the old Burt County State Bank building. Now, she has been able to do it, and the results are amazing.

“This building was built in 1884 as a bank,” business owner and entrepreneur Cindy Chatt said. “The middle floor was where the main bank activities happened. There were law offices here, a barbershop downstairs, and a veterinarian clinic was 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 the current owner of The Chatterbox, a business that features locally-sourced food, along with craft beers and drinks. “When I moved back here about six years ago, and started looking at buildings, this bank building was the first one I looked at,” Chatt said. “It’s a great old building, and it had good bones to it. But, it didn’t really work for starting a restaurant or brewery, which is something I wanted to do more quickly. I put this building in the back of my mind.” After The Chatterbox became a big success in Tekamah, Chatt decided she was ready for another project. “This 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, Chatt had some ideas early on. “My thought was apartments on the bottom floor and the top floor,” Chatt said. “The middle floor I figured I would do a little cocktail event space, and then maybe a boutique. But, as we started demolition, I realized that on the middle floor, it was just beautiful. The old brick was in there, and I didn’t want to put walls up in the middle to separate it into two spaces. So, it just became what it is today, and that is a cocktail bar and event space. The upstairs is an Air BnB, and that is obviously for short-term stays. Downstairs we have garden-level apartments. These are the only garden-level apartments in the whole city of Tekamah, and we had to change some zoning laws so we could use them as apartments. There are two longer-term apartments downstairs.”

“There are two floors here that have the bank vaults still in them,” Chatt said. “On the middle floor, we cut into the vault and actually made it into the bar. The bartenders can be found behind and actually inside the vault. The original vault door is there. Downstairs, we turned the vault into the bathrooms. There are two sides to it. Each apartment’s bathroom is in the vault which is kind of unique.”

Having this refurbished building in town is important to the community. “Number one, it’s everyone’s favorite building,” Chatt said. “To see a building like this saved hopefully inspires others to do the same. And number two, it preserves a piece of history. It’s a lot of fun. Tekamah is now becoming a destination. There are a couple of restaurants here now. There’s a bar here that’s been around forever, Ronnie’s Bar. Now you have a situation where people can come to Tekamah, park their car, and go to three or four different places in one night. Or, they can visit Master’s Hand and go out to dinner at night. There are a lot of different places to go, and places to stay now.”