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The Shelby Hotel Bar & Grill was the only childhood home Dallas Thelen ever knew.

His parents, George and Cindy Thelen, purchased the building at 240 N. Walnut St. in 1979, less than a year after Dallas was born.

The Thelens operated their business by day before heading up a flight of stairs every evening after the bar closed.

“It was definitely unique,” Dallas said of the living arrangement with his parents and three siblings. “That was the only home I ever knew growing up. But it was fun, there was a long hallway that we would run down playing hide and seek and stuff, and then dad actually took out a few walls and put in a swing set so we had our own playground indoors.”

Although the top portion of the Shelby Hotel Bar & Grill has now been vacant for some time, the bottom floor has remained lively with numerous area residents patronizing the facility on a regular basis. Recently, the business celebrated 40 years of being in business with an all-afternoon gathering that drew in around 100 people.

“Throughout the afternoon and night it was pretty busy,” Cindy said. “The kids are the ones who really did it, got it up on Facebook and told people to come – we weren’t going to do anything.”

The couple is glad they celebrated, though. At the end of October, the establishment is permanently shutting its doors. Although there will be a final party – likely a Halloween-themed bash, this served as a bit of a farewell. It will be an opportunity to celebrate with the many people who patronized the business, from Shelby, Bellwood, David City and beyond.

With Cindy turning 65 in June and George creeping up on 72, it’s finally time to throw in the towel. The couple has served as a two-person crew for multiple years following the departure of longtime employee Carol Funkhouser, who manned the short-order grill during the lunch hour for the better part of three decades.

“I think that it’s a good time for them to retire,” Dallas said. “I think that they have put in their time for a business like that. It’s an extremely long tenure, just because of all the time they have had to spend there. I remember that mom would be there before 7 (a.m.) when they opened, and then dad would be there until past 1 (a.m.) at close. And then they would wake up and do it all over again.”

George and Cindy agree, but it’s still hard stepping away from the establishment that not only provided their livelihood, but also a shelter over their children’s and their own heads for so many years. It’s a place where third-generation customers pop in and talk about their family’s history and memories at the bar.

“Just a whole lot of parties – good memories,” George said of what he will remember fondly, with a laugh. “Everything that has happened on Main Street we have been part of because we lived on Main Street for such a long time. The homecoming parades, all the Halloween parties and anniversary dances we’ve had over the years …”

In the late 1970s, when the Thelens opened up shop, there were five watering holes in downtown area. Now, at least for the time being, there will be none beginning in November.

Dallas knows this is a tough pill for his father to swallow.

“He’s always been really supportive of the community and just adamant that Main Street needs to have good businesses,” Dallas said. “He never wanted businesses to leave.”

Now that the time has arrived for the Thelens, their focus is on the future. The couple will be able to relax a little bit more and enjoy the company of their seven grandchildren.

Shelby will still be their home, and they will undoubtedly keep seeing a lot of familiar faces. But they will miss the interactions they’ve had with customers at the bar for so many years.

“We just want to thank everyone for their business and for supporting us for all these years,” Cindy said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be here, they are the ones that made our living and kept us going.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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