The China Grove Trading Post was a staple in Laredo for years before it went into economic decline and landed in the crosshairs of John Taffer, the host and mastermind behind Bar Rescue on the Paramount Network. Taffer brought his hit television series to Laredo and spent five days reworking and rebranding the bar as the Tipsy Bull before he packed his bags and headed back home to Las Vegas, Nevada. By then, not even Taffer’s savvy business sense could stop the China Grove Trading Post from circling the drain.
While Taffer’s no-nonsense, tough love approach couldn’t save the China Grove Trading Post, that didn’t discourage a couple of regular patrons who heard about the bar’s financial troubles. After years of grabbing drinks with friends at the bar each week, Jim and Sue Sutter toyed with the idea of opening a bar and restaurant of their own. When the owner finally decided to close the China Grove Trading Post for good, Jim and Sue stepped in to save the day and purchased the property.
Jim and Sue spent six months renovating the old China Grove Trading Post. They added a new bar, renovated the bathrooms, and updated the 6,000 square-foot-space to include an adjoining dining area and event space. By the time the Bar Rescue episode aired featuring the China Grove Trading Post and its impending demise, the bar was already under new ownership as the newly renamed Mr. Jim’s Trading Post. The Laredo community was simply waiting on the bar to officially open.
Unlike Bar Rescue, Jim and Sue Sutter started small and stuck to the close-knit feel of the community. “The way we operate is as if we are all getting together with our friends and having a backyard party,” Sue says. “We aren’t going to be getting over-the-top crazy… we’re just focused on having a good time here.”
With Mr. Jim’s Trading Post now one of Laredo’s favorite new bars, the Sutters couldn’t be happier as they plan to start serving barbecue in the near future. But all that will come! For now, Mr. Jim’s Trading Post is a local watering hole that serves over two dozen types of beer and offers patio seating, live music, and an outhouse! “It’s been one of those processes where you learn something new every day,” Jim says, “but we’re having fun with it.”