When Brenda and Ward Morgan found out that Hibachi Hut was closing after almost 54 years, they knew they had to do something.
“Brenda came up to me Sunday night looking like the dog had just died,” Morgan said in an online interview with The Mercury Wednesday. “I asked her what was wrong, and she said ‘Hibachi Hut is closing!’ I thought about it Monday morning, then got a hold of Kale Becker and asked if they would be interested in selling.”
The answer was yes.
The Morgans bought the Hibachi Hut name, recipes, equipment and decor that same day. They tentatively plan on relocating the restaurant to the old Credit Bureau building at 429 Poyntz Ave. The building, which is owned by Morgan, was built in 1910 and includes an 880 square foot retail space and a 1,917 square foot office space, all on the first floor.
Morgan is best known as owner of CivicPlus, one of the fastest growing businesses in Manhattan. He said he tried to keep the Hut at its Aggieville location, but was unable to get the owners of Fuzzy Taco’s, the business planning on opening there, to agree to move from Aggieville.
“We were told they really wanted that location,” Morgan said. “We think with all the great things happening downtown, that Hibachi Hut will fit right in.”
Morgan said they plan on keeping the menu the same, but there “might be some tweaks.” He added that “we will be looking to the community to work with us to make sure we preserve the things that made it great.” Morgan said beer will be sold at the new location.
Morgan said he is interested in keeping the staff, which worked under the Becker family and the original décor, but it might be a bit of a struggle.
“I’m trying to get everyone’s contact info to let them know what is going on,” Morgan said. “I’m not sure how many employees will be able to wait that long for us to open, but hopefully it will work out. We will try to bring in one or two of the original shift managers right away to help us work on the kitchen layout.”
Morgan said he and his wife would not run the restaurant day-to-day. Morgan’s assistant, Tara Davis, will help oversee the transition.
They are hoping to re-open the restaurant in around 90 days, although Morgan admits that “it may be longer.” He also said he would honor gift certificates given at the previous location. One of the biggest questions revolving around the decor is whether the iconic large mural at the back of the original Hibachi Hut location will make it to downtown. Morgan is unsure.
“I’m hoping to preserve all the decorations,” Morgan said. “They say the mural in back will probably not be able to be removed, but we will do our best.”
Although Morgan has no direct history with the previous owners, he said the fond memories he and his wife shared at the restaurant pushed them to ask about the purchase.
“We thought it was too great of a place to just let it disappear,” Morgan said.