Nordheim’s Broadway Bar full of memories, history

  • IF YOU GO

  • WHAT: Broadway Bar

    WHERE: 208 Broadway St., Nordheim

    WHEN: 5-9 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday; 4-9 p.m. Sunday

    CONTACT: 361-938-7438

BY SONNY LONG

SLONG@VICAD.COM

NORDHEIM – Memories are made at the Broadway Bar.

Since 1933, the tiny western DeWitt County town of Nordheim, with a population of about 300, has welcomed townsfolk as well as visitors from afar to the bar that sits in the middle of the street by the same name.

“I don’t think there is a person who grew up in Nordheim who doesn’t have some memory of the Broadway Bar,” said Cathy Voelkel, who bought the more than 100-year-old building with her former husband, Curtis Voelkel, in 1998.

They re-opened the bar 10 years ago, in 2002.

“I have a passion for this place. It’s community. It’s family. It means so much to so many,” she said.

That community includes families and children who frequent the watering hole for wedding showers, birthday parties, reunions, anniversaries and a variety of other gatherings.

“We’re kid–friendly,” Voelkel said. “We don’t allow cursing. We have coloring books and blocks for them to play with.”

The bar also features shuffleboard, billiard tables and has regular domino tournaments.

A community supper, with cooking duties rotating to different community members, is held the first Wednesday of every month.

Around July 4, the bar sponsors the dinner.

Historic building

According to a handwritten history of the building written by former owner Elsa Leister, the first business to go in the building was a hardware and furniture store in 1911. It was owned by Hugo Rabenaldt and sons.

They also sold undertaker supplies and farm machinery.

The business continued with furniture, hardware and farm supplies under various owners until 1933, when J.A. Ruesser bought the building and turned it into the Broadway Bar .

The building also housed C.B. Dean’s tin shop in the back, a barbershop and a shoe repair shop and a dentist’s office upstairs.

History is also on display at the Broadway Bar, where photographs of the seven bars that once operated in Nordheim are on display.

Voelkel said that some improvements have been made including expanded restrooms, electrical upgrades, air conditioning and a beer garden.

Center of attention

Across the street from the bar, Elo Pfeifer has owned the Broadway Grocery since 1973.

He owned the bar for 19 years starting in the 1950s.

“We were open all day, every day from 7 a.m. to midnight, except Sunday morning,” Pfeifer said. “We sold a lot of 10-cent glasses of beer.”

The physical bar, where the drinks are served, has a history of its own.

It was first assembled in Germany, according to Leister’s historic account.

“It was a carried by wagon to the area. It was in a Mexican saloon located in Nordheim and later moved uptown to ... a confection store and pool room run by C.W. Voelkel and Lawrence Schultz,” Leister wrote.

According to local legend, Ruesser traded two cows for the bar back with the mirror, the long counter and the brass foot rail and moved them into the Broadway Bar in 1933.

The physical bar was featured in the 1984 movie “Paris, Texas.”

Visitors from as far away as Scotland, Australia and Switzerland have come to the bar in the 10 years Voelkel has owned it, she said.

Voelkel said she plans for the Broadway Bar to be a place for the community to gather for a long time.

“I have an understanding of the feeling the community has for this place and I don’t want that to ever die.”