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Dave’s Stagecoach Inn celebrates 65 years run by same family

Holding the 65th anniversary cake for Dave’s Stagecoach Inn are Elliott Jaros, Joyce Hess, Jim Hess, Kate Jaros and Alex Hess.

Dave’s Stagecoach Inn, located at 316 Westport Road, celebrated its 65th anniversary on Sunday, Dec. 17, with live music, a raffle and a fundraiser for Turn the Page KC.

Joyce Hess, daughter of Dave Golad who started the bar, said one couple who attended the celebration told her they met at Dave’s 43 years ago and have been married for 40 years.

Dave’s raised $350 for Turn the Page KC as well as collected 50-some books for children. Turn the Page KC is a nonprofit organization in Kansas City, Missouri, that focuses on getting children more involved in reading by the third grade.

Dave’s has been owned and operated by the same family all these years. Hess, who is a controller at Mission Hills Country Club, keeps the books for Dave’s and helps with the business end. Her husband Jim Hess is involved in the operations end.

Now the third generation is participating in the business too. Kate Jaros, the Hess’ daughter, is an innovation specialist with the Shawnee Mission School District and on weekends she works at Dave’s as the marketing and personnel manager. Their other daughter, Alex Hess, owns and operates Ovation Dance Academy in Mission, but does some marketing and helps with special events at Dave’s.

“It’s a continuing of Dave’s legacy and keeping it the same,” Joyce Hess said. “We’ve got a formula that works so we don’t try to tweak it too much. But it’s always been about making people feel welcome from all walks of life; everybody is welcome. And the patrons watch out for each other and they watch out for our bartenders, too.”

Hess said she doesn’t know of any other bar in Kansas that has been owned and operated by the same family for 65 years. But she does know that Dave’s has one of the oldest liquor licenses and also one of the oldest bank accounts — it’s only three digits long.

The Beginning

Dave Golad was the son of Jewish Russian immigrants who settled in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As a child he was a paperboy and one of the places he liked to deliver to was outside of taverns.

“He said one of these days that’s what I want to do; I want to own a tavern because it looks like they’re having so much fun in there,” Hess explained. “Little did he know they were all drunk.”

He met his future wife, Sonia, when she went to Cedar Rapids from Chicago to meet a long lost relative, Hess continued. Sonia was a Holocaust survivor originally from Vilna, Poland. The two fell in love, but she said there was no way she would spend the rest of her life in Cedar Rapids. After all, she had lived in two large cultural cities.

Dave had a sister who lived in Kansas City, so he and Sonia came for a weekend visit and Sonia said this was a place where she could live. That’s how they ended up in Kansas City, Hess said.

“My dad started working under Max Fox at Fox’s Tavern on 18th and Vine and kind of got his feet wet in that business,” said Hess.

When the opportunity came up for the sale of a bar in Westport, he made arrangements to purchase it, calling it Dave’s Club 423 because it was located at 423 Westport Road. At that point there were only three bars in Westport: Kelly’s, Dave’s and Meierhoff’s.

Hess said the man from whom Dave purchased the bar reportedly said, “This Jew is never going to make it at this location, so I’m going to go ahead and have him pay me the rent and the purchase price and I’ll finance it. When he’s not able to make it, I’ll just take it back.”

“But that didn’t happen,” said Hess. “He overcame the perceived anti-Semitism throughout all that and just worked his butt off.”

From 1952 to 1972 he was in the same location. Hess said it was a big nightclub seating 250 people. It had dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. Sonia Golad kept all the books.

Then Dave lost his lease when the developers of Westport Square told him they had this great idea for an entertainment district and Dave’s was sitting right in the middle of it.

Never one to give up, Dave sought out another place. According to Hess, he walked down the street and saw a skinny, long building that used to be a machine shop. It was vacant and he said he thought the bar would fit and there was nothing wrong with downsizing. He decided he could make a quaint little tavern there.

“He just always wanted to be that kind of neighborhood bar that people could come to,” Hess said. “So he cut up the bar from the original place, put it on rollers, rolled it down the street and reassembled it. He opened up there in 1972, and the rest is kind of history.”

He named the new bar Dave’s Stagecoach Inn in keeping with the history of Westport as the gateway to the West. It was a port city where people would come and stay overnight and stagecoaches came through there. “So he just tried to keep a little bit of that western theme going,” Hess said.

The Golads were active members of Kehilath Israel Synagogue.

Best Dive Bar in K.C.

There has been a metamorphosis in the customer base over the years, Hess said. Back when people were doing three-martini lunches, there were more businesses in and around Westport.

“There used to be a different vibe in that area and as the turnover has come in the population it’s really become more young people, very eclectic people, arty people,” said Hess. “They just like it because they feel comfortable there.”

Dave’s is open until 3 a.m. every night and some of its busiest times are between 1 and 3 a.m. because that’s when the millennials come out. In addition, Hess said many people working in the hospitality industry want to go out after they get off their shift.

Reviews of Dave’s christen it one of the best “Dive Bars” in Kansas City, but for Hess that is not a negative.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “That’s exactly what we want to be. A dive bar is such that if there’s a little rip in a chair or it’s dark or it doesn’t have a fancy menu and all of that, it’s OK because you feel you don’t have to put on any airs. You can feel comfortable and just sit back and enjoy. We embrace being a dive bar.”

Dave Golad passed away in 2006, but the line of succession continues.

“With the support of our employees and the support of our patrons and the whole Westport community, we’ve been able to maintain and weather the storms and continue to operate Dave’s,” Hess said.