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For the past two years, Harold’s Burger Bar has sat dormant after closing in 2018 following a nearly 70-year run. But something has been stirring the last couple months at the little walk-up burger joint on South Gold Street in Centralia.
Passersby gave thumbs up to the man painting the entire exterior of the building with a paintbrush; even as he put new signage outside, placed new machines inside and updated the large white menu in the window. One man even stopped by and blessed the building. It was obvious Harold’s was preparing for a reopening, but no one knew when.
Harold’s has been a part of the community since just after World War II, though no one is quite sure of the exact date it opened. The last owner, Noni Adolphsen, who owned Harold’s for 33 years from 1985 to 2018, said during a 2018 interview with The Chronicle that the burger bar opened in either 1946 or 1947. Adolphsen first began working at the walk-up restaurant in 1985.
By 2018, Adolphsen was ready to retire and the burger bar closed permanently. Two years later, during the summer of 2020, Greg and M.J. Hargrave of Littlerock stepped in. The husband and wife duo are now in the final stages of reopening the former Centralia burger mainstay.
A year after retiring from coaching high school wrestling and football, Greg Hargrave yearned for something to fill his time. Plus, his body had grown tired of the self-employed landscaping job that had taken its physical toll on him over the decades.
The Hargraves had previously owned a summer-only burger joint on Lake Chelan from 2004 to 2009, eventually selling their house and restaurant there to live in Little Rock full time. But by 2020, Greg was itching to get back in the burger business.
“I loved cooking, I loved talking to people, I loved the burger-milkshake type of place,” Greg said.
The Hargraves purchased the property Harold’s sits on last summer and began renovating the restaurant in September 2020. Now, almost everything is either new or revamped, from the roof, to the hardwood flooring, the countertops, the ice cream machine, pop machine, deep fryer, a new paint job and countless other items.
The Hargraves used all local companies in the renovation, from an electrician, a plumber and Christian’s Roofing in Centralia for the roof. One of their sons helped install and refurbish some of the interior items.
“We didn’t do it all in one day, just one little project at a time,” Greg said.
Not everything is brand new. The Hargraves kept the original grill, which has cooked untold amounts of burgers over the decades, as they wanted to retain the tradition of Harold’s. The original cash register drawers were also kept and will be used, along with the original door, which received a new paint job.
The Hargraves plan to purchase all their meats from Reichert’s Choice Meats in Centralia, their bread from the Franz Bakery Outlet on Grand Avenue and their produce from Veggies LLC next to Sunbirds.
Harold’s was known for serving customers quality burgers the old-fashioned way, making everything from scratch. One of the most popular menu items for decades was the foot-long Coney Island hot dog, made with Adolphsen’s secret recipe.
Adolphsen shared her chili con carne recipe with the Hargraves to make Coney Island the Coney island dogs.
“We’ve got some history,” Greg said. “We’ve got the same sauces as before. Some of the locals will be happy with that.”
Another favorite was the Husky burger, a behemoth half-pound patty on a monster bun with all the trimmings. The Hargraves will now call it Harold’s Cheeseburger.
“We have a friend who invested in this with us and he played football at WSU,” Greg said. “He said, ‘There’s no way we’re going to have a Husky burger!’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to have a Cougar burger, so we’ll call it the Harold’s burger.’”
There is no official date set for the grand opening. The Hargraves don’t want to publicize it because they anticipate huge crowds once they do open. Greg plans to work there full-time while his mother runs the cash register, but that’s about it.
“We’re going to get so swamped the first day,” Greg said. “And I want to present good food and stuff. I don’t want to just be rushed and people to come and say, “I ordered a burger and it took me an hour to get my food.’ We want to surprise people and all of a sudden there’s an open sign.”
When Harold’s surprise opening does take place, the walk-up burger joint will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Until then, keep an eye out for the open sign or a line of people down the street.
More Information on Harold’s Burger Bar
Owner: Greg and M.J. Hargrave
Location: 727 S. Gold St., Centralia
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily