In 1992, I was working for a mine machinery manufacturing company and had become pretty dissatisfied with the ways things were going. I heard about the Mt. Nebo Farm Equipment dealership being for sale and decided to try to buy it. I sold my house and was able to put a down payment together to buy the dealership. Long story short, in six years, I was broke and the Lincoln town cars filled with pin stripe suits were there to begin the foreclosure process. I was about three months behind at the bank and in real big trouble with the line of credit they had extended me.
Sid Valentine, a friend from my coal mining days, suggested that I put in a bar. My wife, Joyce, and I had looked at various businesses, trying to save the property and our equity. Everything we thought of required inventory or investment – but we had no money! The bar ideas was pretty much a joke. The more we talked about it, the more we realized, of all the options, this idea had the most promise. But first, the bank. I had to get some reprieve from the bank to accommodate the time required to turn a farm equipment dealership into a bar.
My construction crew was pretty small (Joyce and me) and would need ample time to make the changes. I got all the tools together that were not absolutely needed. These included all the special tools collected over the years – dynamometer, engine boring machine, valve grinders, you name it – we had it all. I sold these at a price well below their value to another dealer. I picked up enough cash to pay the bank and to give myself about 60 days of breathing room.
The first step was to convert the office and the parts room into a kitchen and walk-in cooler. The bar was next, and was converted from the show room. I covered the walls with rough cut boards which I had on hand for building a shed out back. I built the bar and fabricated bar stools out of old steel tractor seats and pipe. The 1919 Fordson steel wheeled tractor, which is now the bar’s center-piece, was sitting out back in the weeds. We hauled it inside, cleaned it up and painted it. It looked pretty good right in the middle of the room. Too finish off the décor, all the old rusted tools and implements laying around were hung on the walls. Larry and Faye Critchlow came every day to help with the construction and remodeling.
Now you’ve got to understand, there was no money to put in this thing. So stuff was made, traded for, donated, and obtained anyway possible in an effort to create a fun and presentable atmosphere. I bought an old beer cooler for $300 that had been sitting outside another bar for years. The bottom was rusted out. We patched it up and it’s still operating today. My friend, D.A. Gohil, provided the refrigeration equipment for the walk-in cooler, then came and installed it, no charge.
Joyce and I scraped together every penny we had for licensing fees and a small amount of beer to stock the cooler. The night we opened there was no money to buy the liquor stock. Our friends, rallied by Rob and Teresa Schaub, brought liquor and bought it back from us to help us get started.
Without all of these people, whose friendship and generosity made this endeavor possible, we would have certainly met a dismal fate. Oh, by the way, the farm equipment dealership was called Mt. Nebo Tractor. One of the children questioned, “What will you call the bar, Mt. Nebo Bar and Tractor?” Consequently, that is the name under which we incorporated and the public shortened it to The Tractor Bar.
The years have been kind to our business. We’ve been written up by three major newspapers in West Virginia. PBS did a piece with WV Mountain Stage, hosted by Larry Grose, and presented it from The Tractor Bar. GQ magazine published an article titled “The Dirty Dozen – Twelve of the Weirdest, Wackiest Bars in America Worth a Road Trip”. Proudly, our little, out of the way, Tractor Bar, which started out as a joke, made the cut.
So here we are, 12 years in and still kickin’. Loyal customers and traveling patrons alike have made Mt. Nebo Bar and Tractor a destination worth stopping by and enjoying a cold one. We hope to see you in our neck of the woods soon!