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Oscar’s buys longtime Bayfield dining staple Brenda’s Old West Cafe

Brenda’s co-owners to retire; Durango restaurant to take over operations on May 1
Durango restaurant Oscar’s will take ownership of Brenda’s Old West Cafe in Bayfield, seen here in August 2021. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Brenda and Niel Hieb have great pride in their longtime Bayfield dining fixture and the legacy they built.

As Brenda’s Old West Cafe became a mainstay, so did the couple and co-owners’ community outreach – from bake sales to ministry work.

And now the Hiebs plan to retire and entrust the restaurant, which opened in 1996, to another La Plata County business: Oscar’s, based in Durango.

Brenda Hieb, who spent 43 years in the restaurant industry, said it was important that Oscar’s kept her restaurant’s name and retains employees.

“They’re the perfect fits because they have the same interests and belief, and they’re great people. I feel very, very good about handing it off to them,” she said.

Oscar’s is slated to take over operations on May 1.

“It’s honoring what they’ve built because they’re giving me that opportunity,” Oscar’s co-owner Kelly Bennett said.

Talks about the ownership transition began about six weeks ago, and the Hiebs were ready to vet anyone who showed interest.

“What I was looking for was somebody that would practically guarantee success … (Bennett) just fit the deal perfectly,” Niel Hieb said.

Bennett will oversee Brenda’s Old West Cafe, while Oscar’s co-owner Guy Winzenread will oversee the Durango establishment.

“I think we’ve got it all covered,” Bennett said.

Going forward, Bennett, who’s been in the restaurant industry for 35 years, said he looks to build on the success of Friday night dinner specials at Brenda’s Old West Cafe by potentially adding Saturday night dinners at the restaurant.

“(Brenda and I are) both very happy. If we were younger, we’d do it ourselves,” Niel Hieb said. “But it’s time to retire, it’s just that simple.”

Brenda Hieb said the Friday night dinner specials are popular because residents still want a nice steak or prime rib dinner and don’t want to go to Durango for such entrees.

“If (Bennett) chooses to take it to another level, we’re excited for that,” she said.

Bennett also believes that because there’s virtually nothing that may need change with the way Brenda’s operates it’ll make the transition even smoother.

“Their schedule leans toward not having to be there open to close every day they’re operating,” he said, adding they have to staff in place to cover all shifts. “They’ve done a lot of legwork for me.”

Another part of the transition will include a farewell and introduction party at Brenda’s, which is tentatively scheduled for May 18.

“Everything fell in line so perfectly, so smooth,” Brenda Hieb said. “ … It’s been a big decision for me to retire … I’ve enjoyed this career immensely. I’ve put a lot of hardworking years into it … I’ve been doing it for 43 years. It’s my heart and soul, and I’ve enjoyed it. And we wish (new ownership) all the best …”


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