By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer
NORTH MANKATO — A longtime North Mankato bar and grill is returning to its roots.
Bobby Joe’s Pub is being sold and will be renamed NaKato Bar & Grill — the name the business carried from the mid-1940s to the 1980s.
“We love the long history the bar has and we want to incorporate that into the business as much as we can,” said Jim Downs.
Downs, wife Jan and their sons Jake and Joel have owned Pagliai’s Pizza for the past decade and own Quest Marketing. They hope to close on Bobby Joe’s soon.
Downs is buying the building from Bob Sens and the bar business from Mike Kitts.
Sens’ stepfather started the NaKato Bar in about 1945. Sens renamed it Bobby Joe’s in the ’80s and sold the bar business to Kitts a few years ago but kept ownership of the building.
Downs said that as Sens remembers it, his stepfather named the bar in reference to people who would say they lived in “NaKato.”
Downs will close the business for a short time while they do some interior and exterior renovations.
“We’ll keep a lot of the standbys on the menu, like the ‘commercial,’ but we’ll be adding things, too. We’d like to build up the menu,” Downs said.
They also plan to add a patio.
He’s searching for people who have photographs or stories about the NaKato’s history. “We haven’t found a good close-up photo of it. I’d like to find out more about it,” Downs said.
“We think it’s a great business, a great location. And the city has been working hard to build up the business district. That was a big part of our decision to do this. The city’s been great to work with.”