Bet on it: Sidney bar has history on its side | Entrepreneurs
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SIDNEY – Most new business owners anticipate and hope for full and full rooms when they open. This is especially the case when that new business is a bar in a small town.
But when Jeff Noffsinger and Anthony Bamert opened Winston’s Old Bank in October 2020, a full house was not an option.
“The last thing we wanted to do with a new bar was to pack the place up during a pandemic,” Noffsinger said. “It was really one of my fears. Everyone wants to go to the new place at least once. It was really a concern that we would get too crowded one night. “
With the lifting of pandemic restrictions, these concerns are no longer valid in the downtown area of this small village in Champaign County.
Opening during the pandemic – when many restaurants and bars were struggling – was never a concern for owners, Noffsinger said.
“We weren’t nervous at all because we knew the score at the opener,” he said. “Everyone was struggling to cope and had to make changes. We knew what we could do and what we couldn’t do, so we didn’t have to adjust or change anything we already had in place.
Still, there were uncertainties. Noffsinger and Bamert bought the property before the pandemic, so their original business plan had to be readjusted to meet the requirements of the new regulations for bars and restaurants. But it also allowed them to take their time renovating the historic property that was originally a bank.
Winston’s Bank was founded by Miller Winston in 1885 and was the first bank in Sidney. The successful farmer has been said to travel to his bank on horseback and buggy before settling in town.
“Our best guess is that the front part of the building, where the bar is located, was built around 1895,” Noffsinger said.
The first expansion was before WWII and a third expansion was completed in the early 1970s. The old bank safe is still in the front room.
“Our visitors can go inside, check the safe and see the old safes,” he said. “It’s an architecturally interesting building and we certainly use it as much as we can. “
The new owners also inherited several photos and documents of the building from the previous owner.
“They did a really good job preserving the history of the building as well as posting stuff from photos of the village,” said village president Jason Arrasmith. “They have a display for the firefighters in the back, and they have done a very good job of showcasing the historic nature of the village. It is a beautiful place.
Banking is defined as the business activity of accepting and protecting money held by other people and entities. Businesses that are not banks are not permitted to use the term “bank” in their business name without state permission.
In February 2020, the Banking Division, Bureau of Banks, Trust Companies, and Credit Institutions of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation approved the name “Winston’s Old Bank”.
“The sense of history was very important to us, and it’s a topic of conversation for our customers,” said Noffsinger.
Sidney seemed like the perfect place to open a wine and craft beer bar, said Noffsinger, from Champaign.
“For us, what I did not expect was how people really welcomed us,” he said. “Here in the Midwest we tend to be a tight knit bunch and we get a little nervous about newcomers. But the locals and regions opened their arms to us and supported us before we could support them. The best wishes and good news people sent us made the difference and gave us confidence in our business plan. Without knowing it, these people have helped us in our success.