By Daniel Warn / [email protected]
There has been a “Hub” bar on the 100 block of Tower Avenue in Centralia for more than 90 years, and now Hub Bar & Grill owner James “Jim” Francis, 66, is selling the pillar to one of his former bartenders.
The Hub closed for an impending renovation on February 28. It will probably be closed at least until the end of the year.
The Hub has been in the Francis family for 35 years, with Francis taking over the business in 2008 from his father, Forest Elston “Curly” Francis, who died in 2012.
“I worked with him for a long time, which is good, because you don’t usually work with your dad in a bar. So we had a good time here,” he said, adding later: “And now it’s time to pass the torch. … That means everything. This is my family. Tim is like my son.”
Tim Filer, who will take over ownership of The Hub, currently owns McFiler’s, a bar and restaurant in Chehalis.
“I worked here for 14 years,” Filer told The Chronicle from The Hub on Tuesday. “Six days after my 21st birthday, I came to work here. My mother had worked here for 12 or 13 years before I started. My mother has been a Francis family employee for 27 years since last night.
Filer’s involvement with The Hub goes back further than his young adulthood.
“The Francis family has been part of my family since I was little,” Filer said. “I mean, my mum started working here when I was 10 or 11. I used to do my homework at the table there and eat fries after school.
Shortly after he started throwing pizzas for Curly Francis, Filer became the night manager of the bar, which made his way into the heart of the young adult at the time.
“I said to Jim, ‘Hey, when you’re ready to finish, when you’re ready to bow out, let me know and we’ll find a price and I’ll take over,'” Filer said. “I always dreamed of owning this place. Ever since I was 24, 25, I’ve wanted to own this place and carry on the legacy.
The ultimate goal, Filer said, is to continue the Hub’s tradition of welcoming everyone.
“(People) need a place to feel safe and to call home, whether it’s their orientation, gender or race, we welcome everyone,” Filer said. “I carry this torch at my other restaurant, and I will continue to carry this torch here at Centralia as well.”
Francis said the place means a lot to regulars.
“Locals love it,” Francis said. “People who come here love it. I don’t know what the rest of the community thinks – it’s probably like a curse on the community as far as they’re concerned. It’s quite a contrast. (But) It means a lot to people here. I have seen many people walk through these doors over the years. I saw a lot of people leave. It’s kind of sad, but that’s business.
“There are a lot of people who I imagine kinda despise this place, but for people who come here, and people who are regulars here, this is their home,” Filer added.
Currently, Filer is also in the process of renovating the old Chehalis Theater into a fine-dining establishment that will show films, plays, and other performances, occupying his time for the immediate future.
“We’re still very, really invested in Chehalis’ theater,” Filer said. “We are in the middle of a renovation there. We’re not really going to innovate here until we finish building there, which could take a few months from now.
He wants the theater to be open by June, with an estimated window of eight months at the earliest for the Hub to reopen.
“When we find a problem, we fix it,” Filer said of the time it took to complete renovations to the new McFiler’s Chehalis Theater. “We expected it to be open early this year, and it’s not. And the reason is that if we peel something off the wall and there’s something broken inside – or even if something isn’t broken, but will be in five years – we fix it. I don’t want to have to do maintenance on the building for 20 years.
“That’s something I will bring to The Hub as well. If there is something that will become a problem in the next 10 years, we will fix it now. We’ll get ahead and get it fixed.
Filer will rewire The Hub, relocate its plumbing, reroof and refurbish the cold room.
It will move the liquor area to the back of the building, so that the all-ages entrance will be established from the front, and it will move the small kitchen in the middle of the bar to the back room, with the possibility a passage window between the new kitchen and what will be the front dining room.
While Filer will likely put the term “McFiler” in the name of the renovated bar, the establishment will still be labeled with the word “hub” somewhere in the name.
“There’s been a hub in Centralia on this block for over 90 years, and I’m going to keep it that way,” he said.