MU graduates hope ‘the tradition continues’11-Oct-2011 Harpo’s, a Columbia landmark for generations of University of Missouri students and Columbia residents, has changed hands after nearly four decades under the stewardship of founder Dennis Harper.
MU graduates Chuck Naylor and Kevin Fitzpatrick closed on the purchase of the Columbia bar and restaurant at 29 S. Tenth St. on March 2. Naylor said he first learned that Harper was interested in selling the bar from his son, Jack, a hotel and restaurant management major at MU who is a Harpo’s customer.
Naylor, who is a telecommunications executive, and Fitzpatrick, a commercial real estate developer, traveled from Kansas City to talk to Harper.
“When we heard about it we got very excited about the opportunity to own the college bar, which was a big part of our college experience,” Naylor said. “We think it’s one of the most recognizable brands in the state of Missouri. … Our plan is to build upon the great business and brand that Dennis has created.”
The duo’s tagline is, “The Tradition Continues.”
Naylor and Fitzpatrick have hired Jared Ater, who previously served as assistant general manager of McFadden’s Sports Saloon in the Kansas City Power & Light District.
Dennis Harper launched Harpo’s in Columbia after he graduated from the MU in 1971. Other Harpo’s outlets were opened in St. Louis and Kansas City; Naylor said Harper has retained his interest in those bars.
Naylor and Fitzpatrick, who were both business majors at MU, admired Harper’s entrepreneurial success when they were students here and continued to follow his success over the years when they returned to Columbia as alumni.
Naylor said they’re going to do some improvements to the facility and start introducing new menu items April 5. “Our plans are to expand the menu into more casual dining,” he said. “And we’ll still have all the local favorites.”
The business also has started and increasing some social media marketing efforts.