New life planned for Coarsegold landmark

The new owners of the Broken Bit Restaurant on Highway 41 in Coarsegold are excited about plans to bring the long-neglected landmark back to life after nearly 30 years.

The two-story, 14,000 square-foot building, on 53 acres, was recently purchased by Kevin Tweed of Pavilion Properties in Fresno. Eventually the property will be turned into a family partnership, and Tweed’s son, Tanner, and his wife, Jane, will be managing partners responsible for the eventual development and marketing of the property. Tanner will oversee the clean-up of the property, marketing, and remodeling of the building.

The property was bought for $325,000, plus an exchange of a 1.5 acre commercial lot in Madera, making the total investment by Pavilion Properties worth about $500,000.

“Our No. 1 priority is to secure the building against further vandalism, clean-up the property, finish the siding and windows, repair the roof on the building, and do some landscaping” Tanner Tweed said. “We want the property to look good and we hope to have that initial work started within the next 60 days. We will also be upgrading the utilities (water and electric). We will get with county officials soon for a meeting to discuss our plans.”

Tanner is well aware of previous Cal Trans conditions that if the property remains a commercial venture, north and south-bound turn lanes may be required on Highway 41 in front of the property.

“We are familiar with the Cal Trans requirements, and are prepared to work with them on an overall plan for the safety of the traveling public.”

Tanner said his family are commercial real estate developers and landlords, not restaurant operators. Although plans are not set in stone, their goal would be to find a logical restaurant operator to reopen the restaurant and bar and lease space in the building for other businesses.

“We would love to keep the name Broken Bit,” Tweed said. “It’s a big part of Coarsegold history, and everyone knows the name.”

Kevin Tweed has been in real estate development for more than 30 years, primarily developing shopping centers for Kmart and Rite Aid. Kevin and has been involved in getting 63 new Kmarts opened throughout California.

In addition to the Broken Bit, the family recently purchased Victorian Square - the building on Highway 41 that houses Alice’s Cookhouse and other retail stores. In addition to Coarsegold’s Broken Bit and Oakhurst’s Victorian Square, the Tweed family also owns the Shaver Lake Village Hotel and Ken’s Market in Shaver Lake, and Kevin Tweed was the broker/developer of the Kmart/Mervyns shopping center in north Madera at Country Club Drive and Sherwood Way.

The family business owns commercial properties in Bakersfield, Wasco, Tulare, Delano, Sanger, Los Banos, and Clovis.

The Tweed’s are optimistic about the future of Eastern Madera County and liked the fact that Coarsegold and Oakhurst are on Highway 41, a major artery to Yosemite National Park.

“Everyone has heard the term ‘location, location, location’ relating to real estate,” Tanner said. “I was always taught to look at real estate investments in areas near attractions that don’t normally move, like universities, hospitals, and amusement parks. What better attraction is there than Yosemite National Park? This is a world renown park that attracts people from all over the world, and it was Yosemite that motivated us to invest in Oakhurst and Coarsegold. Because of the proximity to Yosemite, both Oakhurst and Coarsegold are strategically positioned to prosper.”

Tanner and Jane met in the summer of 2010 as counselors at Gold Arrow Camp at Huntington Lake, and have been married for two and-a-half years. Jane is currently the merchandiser for Anthropologie, a unique, upscale woman’s apparel and home furnishings store in Fresno’s Fashion Fair Mall.

Tanner looks forward to becoming more involved with the communities of Oakhurst and Coarsegold. Tanner and Jane attended the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner last week and Tanner enjoyed a work-out at Form Fitness.

“Even though I don’t live here, I want to be very involved in the community and area activities,” Tanner said.

Longtime Coarsegold construction workers Chris Gonzales and Tim Dunham may assist with the initial clean-up. The Tweeds have indicated they would like to find an on-site caretaker for the property during the construction phase.

“We’re looking forward to helping with the development of the building,” Dunham said. “We hope to get started soon so the property will not be an eyesore to the community anymore.”

Tanner has a good feel for retail and the continued trend of people moving from metropolitan areas to locations such as Coarsegold and Oakhurst to get away from crime, pollution, and general overcrowding.

He also understands that growth is a touchy issue in every community and people move to areas like Eastern Madera County to get away from the rampant growth in the Valley.

“I feel the community will be pleased with what we do with the property and hopefully it will be something the community will be proud of.”

Broken Bit history

The original restaurant opened in 1952 by a German couple as “A Bit of Bavaria.” An advertisement in the Aug. 4, 1960 issue of the Sierra Star, offered Chef Harley’s dinner special - White sausage, saurbraten, Vienna Snitzel, Saurkraut, and potato pancakes for $2.

The business closed a few years later, and the new owner, attorney/judge Denver Church Peckinpah, renamed the restaurant the “Broken Bit,” a play on the original name of the earlier restaurant that went broke.

The popular restaurant specialized in steaks, ribs, and prime rib for $7.95 in the 1960s. In later years, up to 400 people, many from the Valley, would go to the restaurant for Sunday brunch.

Dan Landon, of Fresno, bought the restaurant in 1978, and established the Branding Wall. About 30 area ranchers brought their branding irons to the restaurant, and they would put them in the fire and put their brand on the wall for a $25 donation. The money was donated to the mountain medical services. The Branding Wall is still in the bar area of the building and will be preserved.

The restaurant closed on Jan. 1, 1987.

In January 2004, Russ and Retha Crumpton bought the property with plans to open a family restaurant, and an outdoor children’s museum and learning center with a gift shop and an ice cream bar. In June 2008, the county filed a lawsuit against the Crumpton’s for zoning and building-code violations. Although Crumpton said he did everything the county asked him to do, the county said otherwise. The plans never totally materialized and the property was was lost in foreclosure in 2010.