This time last year, Hali Upson didn’t imagine herself owning a bar.
She was working an 8-to-5 job and wasn’t thinking too much about her next opportunity.
But then, in late August, the Silver Creek Bar & Grill in Moxee closed down. Upson and her boyfriend, Caleb Sluder, decided it was now or never.
“I’m not sure we would have bought any other bar, but this place is very close to our hearts because our dads both came in here all the time before they passed away,” said Upson, who reopened the bar — now called The Barn Door — on Dec. 12.
“When the opportunity arose for us to buy the bar, we knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It may never be available again, so we figured, ‘why not?’”
Upson quit her day job this fall to dedicate all of her time to remodeling the longtime local establishment at 108 S. Iler St. Sluder still works full time, but he spends most of his free time helping out around the bar.
“Caleb will be coming in whenever he can, but I’m going to be handling most of the day-to-day operations,” said Upson, who employs seven cooks and service staff.
“We have a great crew, but I feel like it’s really important for us, as the new owners, to be around. We want people to get to know us. For us, opening this place is just as much about serving the community as it is about running a successful business.”
Even though she’s from Selah, Upson feels a special connection to the Moxee community since her father, Dave, used to spend so much time at the Silver Creek before he died in 2014.
Sluder’s dad, Jack, was also a regular before he passed away, which has given The Barn Door a sentimental appeal — not just for the owners, but also for the many longtime patrons.
“For us, opening this place is about filling a void left in this community since the Silver Creek closed last summer,” said Upson, 29. “It’s not just about making money. We’re trying to be more of a pillar in the community — a place where families can come for dinner or friends can come hang out after work. It’s very important to us that the community likes it.”
The Barn Door is open to minors before 9 p.m. and features two billiards tables, a section for karaoke and multiple televisions for sports fans.
The couple completely remodeled the establishment since taking over in October, installing new floors, remodeling the kitchen and slapping on fresh paint. There’s even a marble-topped bar — one that sits low enough that customers sit in chairs, not on stools.
And don’t forget about the food.
“We don’t have anything too fancy, but we’re all about quality,” Upson said. “We have appetizers, sandwiches, nachos, wings — that kind of thing. We’re also going to be doing a build-your-own-burger night.”
A Gathering Place
Providing East Valley residents with a family-friendly option was a major consideration for Upson and Sluder when they first looked at buying the bar.
The one-time blacksmith shop has been around for about 100 years, Upson said, and was rebuilt after a fire about 75 years ago. She’s even heard that, many moons ago, the place was called The Barn Door.
No matter what it’s called, the downtown establishment has become a Moxee landmark over the years. The locals almost felt lost without it, Upson said.
“Some people say, ‘it’s just a bar,’” she said. “But this particular bar is more like a big family. We have tons of regulars and they all sit family-style at our big, long tables. Not everyone has someone to go home to every night, and this gives them a place to come together. It’s a lot better than sitting around the house by yourself.”
Upson’s dad was one of those regular customers back in the day. In fact, Dave Upson may be one of the most recognizable Silver Creek regulars of all time.
The “burnout” he left with his motorcycle back in the 1980s earned him a commemorative plaque outside the main entrance. The former owners even preserved the burnout by coating the concrete with epoxy.
“He literally did a burnout from the front door to the road,” Upson said. “It was such a big deal that they created a memorial plaque for him so it will be there forever. That just makes this place even more sentimental for me.”
Sluder, 41, is a Moxee native who went to East Valley High School. His father also used to be a fixture at the Silver Creek. Sluder had even told Upson once upon a time that he “always wanted to buy that bar.”
A few months ago, the couple finally got their chance. Now, they’re excited about becoming the new faces behind Moxee’s only watering hole.
“This place was so special to our dads, and that makes it even more near and dear to our hearts,” Upson said. “We love this community and we want to give them a warm, inviting atmosphere where they can gather. Hopefully, it will just grow from there.”