Haufbrau House, EDP

Don and Bill Frye, owners of the Haufbrau, pose for a photo on June 28, 2019, surrounded by decades of mementoes.

Regulars at the Haufbrau House like to remind owners Don and Bill Frye that they’re the new guys, having worked at the iconic Bozeman tavern for only 20 years.

“It’s kind of an institution,” Don said.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Frye family owning the Haufbrau. The Frye brothers’ father, also named Don, bought the place in 1969 and ran it until his death a couple years ago.

Now, the Frye brothers own and operate the Haufbrau with their mother, Cyn, and can be seen behind the counter or in the kitchen most days. The brothers grew up helping out around the bar, cleaning the parking lot as kids and cooking and tending bar when they got older.

In his later years, their dad used to sit in the corner drinking Olympia beer, his favorite, keeping tabs on everyone and making sure the place ran smoothly, Don said.

Both brothers went away for school but came home to help run the Hauf and the Filling Station, the family’s other bar. Their dad always ran it more like a family, Don said, and the people are what make them love the place.

“If ‘Cheers’ were real, this would be it,” he said. “It’s kind of like everybody’s living room.”

Looking at the well-adorned and well-marked walls, it’s clear that many who have frequented the Hauf left a mark in one way or another. Even the most banal things mean something to someone, Don said.

There’s a tabletop from Montana State University’s class of 1962 with graduates’ names carved into it. Members of that class come back and take a picture with it every year, fewer people showing up each time. A painting of the goddess Venus from an old junk shop in Butte hangs in the corner, painted by an artist whose nudes could be found in bars and brothels across the Northwest. An adult tricycle hanging on the ceiling comes from a customer who died of cancer and put it in his will that he wanted the trike to go to the Hauf, Don said.

As Bozeman grows, it’s become important for people to have a family-owned place that feels like home, Don said. And the Frye brothers are happy to provide that place.

“As there’s more change and growth, it’s become even more important to have a compass point in here,” Don said.

Abby Lynes can be reached at alynes@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

Abby Lynes covers business and the economy for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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