You might not expect many bars to be known for their food, but The Big Chill has several items on its menu that attract regulars, even if they order takeout.
Colista Cevela bought The Big Chill in April 2021, and she’s made several changes over the past 18 months.
“As soon as I walked in, the very first thing we did, we added the front porch and expanded it to a place where it’s a lot bigger and made it look nicer,” she said. declared. “I’ve seen a lot of areas – like I lived in Philadelphia for a little while, I lived in Cincinnati and I lived in Tampa.
“I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve seen different things, and I’m like, ‘No, I think we can do it like this. … I extended the (patio) here, the outdoor area, and added this little tin roof with seating and the fire pit, just kind of a (relaxation place). So you have different places when you come here because that was kind of the point.”
The Big Chill doesn’t have a huge kitchen, but that’s something Cevela hopes to expand in the future. Plus, she hopes to add a weekend brunch option.
“We’re going to have a full shebang kitchen,” she said. “What I want to do is have breakfast like on the weekends. What I find is I go out on the town on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and I want to go get breakfast. – have lunch somewhere.
“Every place is packed. For example, I can’t get in there without waiting 20 or 30 minutes, or they closed because they were renovating something. … So what I want to do is add a breakfast menu, too.”
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Cevela said some regulars have taken to checking what improvements have been made between visits.
“They love it,” she says. “Everybody’s always like, ‘I can’t believe what you’ve done with this place’, or, you know, they say they want to come over every week to see what changes have (been) made or what we’re going to do next. And they’re loving it, so far anyway.”
Originally from Denton, Texas, Cevela moved to Hot Springs when she was 14 years old.
“My father built houses,” she says. “I came with him because he thought it was a great area.”
Once older, she visited The Big Chill when she was in town, which eventually led her to buy the bar.
“I’ve been coming here since I was probably 21,” she said. “When I was in town, I always worked away for a long time. It was always my ‘Cheers’ in town, so you know, come and have a cocktail at Happy Hour, come home, and sometimes I came during the weekends.
“But I was also a real estate agent, and I was friends with the manager at the time. And he was like, ‘Why don’t you just go buy it?'”
While her mother owns a restaurant business, this is Cevela’s first substantial foray into food service.
“I helped her a lot with that when I had free time, so she kind of got ahead of herself feeding people and all kinds of stuff,” she said. “But no, I’ve never really – I’ve worked in one and managed one many times in my life, but I was mostly in the corporate world.”
The support she received from her employees and customers was surprising, but Cevela said it was a big help.
“I have great people supporting me and surrounding me, all my staff and the manager and of course all the regulars and everyone who comes in,” she said. “Everyone is super supportive and everything. I always had a vision for this place.
“As soon as I got it, I was like, ‘How can I change that?’ And so I just started every week, I was like, ‘OK, what can we do again this week?’ You know, so all the profits I made went back into the building.”
Q&A with Colista Cevela
Here are excerpts from the interview with Colista Cevela, presented in the form of questions and answers:
Q: Favorite food?
A: I like so many different things. I don’t even know if I can name one. I guess, like everyone else, tacos and pizza. …I could get it all over the place, and I love it.
Q: Go to comfort food?
A: I really like spaghetti and things like that.
Q: Favorite restaurant?
A: A chain of restaurants that I prefer is probably Cheesecake Factory or Ruth’s Chris. It’s like a tie, but it’s a very different menu.
Q: Your favorite thing about the Hot Springs area?
A: Everyone. I like people. It’s beautiful here. I’ve lived everywhere, and this is my home. Even Dallas, even big cities — I’ve lived in small towns, big cities. I’ve lived everywhere, and the people here are fantastic. You can go hiking. You can go boating. You can ride a bike. You can go there – all the different things you can do here.
Q: Any advice for someone new to catering?
A: How you structure your loans and stuff like that to get you started is a big deal, because at the end of the day, you still have to make that payment whether the business does or not. You need to make sure you can comfortably afford it if it didn’t work out so well.