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Hillsboro businessman has eye for the future
Phil Nicholson is concentrating on the grill in his bar and grill
phil nicholson
Phil Nicholson welcomes Hillsboro area residents to his new Big Nickel Bar and Grill whether they are hungry or thirsty. - photo by Jack Knowles photo

Phil Nicholson is a businessman with a good eye for the future and he has set his sights on Hillsboro.

The owner of our town’s newest bar and grill, The Big Nickel, is filled with ideas, and he shared them with the Sentry-Enterprise in a recent interview.

Although he was born in Milton, Wisconsin, and spent some of his younger years in Athens, his family roots trace back to Soldiers Grove, the birthplace of his father.

With a farming background, he visited Hillsboro after hearing of several farms being for sale in the area, but the thing that stood out to him here was the genuine friendliness of the local residents.

That translated into a desire to operate a bar and grill and he opened a business in the small bar that had been Our Place, Dino’s and a number of other incarnations.

“I was told that customers there used to have domino tournaments,” he reported, while explaining that he had nothing against the game but was looking for a little different clientele.

That reminded this reporter of the familiar sight of three elderly gentlemen who sat on the bench in front of the bar just about every day when it was known as Our Place. When walking or driving past that bench, I can still envision them swapping stories and enjoying their visit in their favorite location.

Phil operated his business in that building from Jan. 1, 2012 to May 1, 2013 when he moved to the new location with the name Big Nickel. Once again he was starting a new business in another location that carried quite a history as The Pool Hall, Tom’s Place, Dan and Nancy’s, and most recently Tiger Town.

Phil’s business plan is exactly what most folks are seeking. “I want it to be a place with great food and a good atmosphere,” he stated. “I worked for a time at the Hidden Inn in Kendall, and learned grill cooking there.”

Previous to that, Phil was a machinist at Brunner’s for two years and drove a truck for six and a half years.

Once in the food business, he sold the small farm to his mother, and jumped into his new line of work with plenty of enthusiasm and future goals.

He also jumped right into community involvement by joining the Hillsboro Fire Department. “I think that helping out in the community is very important,” he explained.

With the support of family and friends, he put on a new roof and redecorated the entire interior in nine days.

The separate dining room has a warm, comfy feel to it and Phil is now concentrating on the food aspect for the business. He is “putting food first” and considers a full restaurant the key to future success.

Breakfast is “taking off like wildfire” and is served from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. The kitchen is open from 6 a.m. to midnight with a complete menu of favorite meals. When asked what the customers’ favorite meal is, Phil laughed and said, “ a lot!”

Carryouts are available by calling 489-3900 Stop in and pick up a carry out menu for those days you’re in a hurry for a good meal.

The Big Nickel bar serves drinks seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. with extended hours to 2:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Phil has a rather unusual outlook on competition that makes sense when explained. He believes that competition is always good for the town’s overall economy and brings more customers to the area. “I don’t see other similar businesses as competitors, “he said. “Actually, we’re really all partners!”