When the doors shut earlier this year, many probably feared that one of Cleburne’s landmark eateries would fade into history. But rest assured, the legend and downtown institution continues as Burger Bar re-opens for business today.

“I always wanted to run a restaurant, I just never thought it would be this small,” new owner Mike Elmore joked Tuesday morning as he wrapped last-minute details in preparation of today’s opening.

Cleburnites have crowded into the tiny (about 12-feet by 12-feet) brick box building on Anglin Street for more than 50 years. Elmore stepped in when the previous owners, Bob and Dorothy Baze, decided to sell after 40 years of involvement with the restaurant. The Bazes originally ran the restaurant together before turning it over to their daughter, Jan Harris, several years ago.

“I’d taken early retirement from Bell Helicopter and spent the last two years doing volunteer work and looking for something to do,” Elmore said. “I wanted to get back into something but didn’t want to go back into big business.”

He didn’t have to look far. Although Elmore lives in Grandview, he grew up in Cleburne and said he often ate at Burger Bar in his younger days. He also returned with family and friends whenever the opportunity arose as an adult. So he naturally jumped at the chance to buy the restaurant once he learned it was for sale.

“We’re keeping the name and pretty much the same menu,” Elmore said. “I’ll have a little bit bigger burger and a third-pound sirloin steak burger, but otherwise, it will be burgers and fries like always.”

Dorothy Baze said she was thrilled with Elmore’s decision to keep the Burger Bar going.

“In a way we’re sad to let it go,” Baze said. “But we were also afraid no one would keep it going, and [Elmore] is a good man who will take care of it. It’s sad to see it out of the family but good to know we can still always stop by for a hamburger.”

Baze reminisced about Ora Landman, the original owner, and said she was unsure of the building’s age.

She said she believes the building served as an office for a car lot at one time and a wagon yard office before that, around the turn of the century.

“It’s the oldest hamburger stand in Cleburne,” Baze said. “One man told us we should get it on the historic commission registry. We probably should have tried. Maybe someday someone will.”

The staff, for now, consists of Elmore and one employee. His wife, a Rio Vista school teacher, and high school daughter will also help out over the summer.

Elmore agreed that keeping Burger Bar and other mom-and-pop shops unique to Cleburne going is important. He’s also looking forward to fulfilling his dream and having a little fun, however.

“I just love people, love to meet people and can’t wait to open,” Elmore said.

Elmore said he planned a grand opening with, perhaps, live music and other amenities. With Antique Alley and Springfest around the corner, Elmore said he will hold off on such plans for a few weeks.

However, many locals will no doubt be content simply to re-enter the phone-booth sized piece of local history and satisfy their burger fix.

Matt Smith can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2339, or msmith@trcle.com.

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