There’s been a “Hub” bar on the 100 block of Tower Avenue in Centralia for over 90 years, and now The Hub Bar & Grill owner James “Jim” Francis, 66, is selling the mainstay to one of his former bartenders.
The Hub closed its doors for an impending remodel Feb. 28. It will likely be closed through at least 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 nice, because you don’t get to work with your father in a bar, usually. So we had a lot of fun here,” he said, adding later: “And now the time has come to pass the torch. … It means everything. It’s my family. Tim’s like my son.”
Tim Filer, who will be taking over the ownership of The Hub, is currently the owner of McFiler’s, a bar and restaurant in Chehalis.
“I worked here for 14 years,” Filer told The Chronicle from inside the Hub on Tuesday. “Six days after my 21st birthday, I came to work here. My mom had worked here for 12 or 13 years before I started. My mom’s been an employee of the Francis family for 27 years as of last night.”
Filer’s involvement with The Hub stems back further than his early adulthood.
“The Francis family has been part of my family since I was little,” Filer said. “I mean, my mom started working here when I was 10 or 11 years old. I used to do my homework at the table back there and eat French fries after school.”
Not long after he started slinging pizzas for Curly Francis, Filer became the night manager for the bar, which edged its way into the then young adult’s heart.
“I told Jim, ‘Hey, when you’re ready to be done, when you’re ready to bow out, let me know and we’ll figure out a price and I’ll take over,’” Filer said. “It’s always been my dream to own this place. Since I was 24, 25 years old, I wanted to own this place and carry on the legacy.”
The ultimate goal, Filer said, is to continue The Hub’s tradition of welcoming all people.
“(People) need a place to feel safe and a place to call home, whether it’s their orientation, gender or race, we welcome everybody,” Filer said. “I carry that in my other restaurant, and I’ll continue to carry that torch here in Centralia as well.”
Francis said the place means a lot to the regulars.
“The locals like it,” Francis said. “The people who come here love it. I don’t know what the rest of the community thinks — it’s probably like a blight on the community as far as (they’re concerned). It’s quite a contrast. (But) It means a lot to people here. I’ve seen a lot of people come through these doors over the years. I’ve seen a lot of people go. It’s pretty sad, but that’s the business.”
“There’s a lot of people that, I imagine, look down their noses a little bit at this place, but for the people that come here, and the people who are regulars here, this is their home,” Filer added.
Right now, Filer is also in the process of renovating the old Chehalis Theater into a fine dining establishment that will show movies, plays and other performances, which is taking up his time in the immediate future.
“We’re still really, really invested in the theater in Chehalis,” Filer said. “We’re under heavy renovations there. We won’t actually break ground here until we’re done with construction there, which could be a couple of months from now.”
He wants the theater to be open by June, with an estimated eight-month window at the earliest for The Hub to reopen.
“When we find a problem, we fix it,” Filer said of the lengthy time it’s taken to complete renovations at the renamed McFiler’s Chehalis Theater. “We anticipated it being open at the beginning of this year, and it didn’t. And the reason for that is, if we peel something off the wall, and there’s something broken on the inside — or even if something is not broken, but will be broken in five years — we fix it. I don’t want to have to do any maintenance on the building for 20 years.
“That's something that I’ll bring to The Hub project as well. If there’s something that will become an issue in the next 10 years, we’re going to fix it now. We’ll get ahead of it, and get it fixed.”
Filer will be rewiring The Hub, moving its plumbing around, redoing the roof and refurbishing the walk-in cooler.
He’ll move the liquor area to the rear of the building, so all-ages entry will be established from the front, and he’ll move the small kitchen in the middle of the bar to the back room, with the potential for a pass-through window between the new kitchen and what will be the front dining room.
While Filer will likely put the term “McFiler” in the renovated bar’s name, 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 continue that,” he said.