Biz Buzz: New Dubuque Mexican restaurant on horizon; longtime Platteville hardware store changes hands; BBQ joint opens in Bellevue

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from the tri-state area. This edition highlights developments in Dubuque; Platteville, Wis.; and Bellevue, Iowa.

A well-known employee of a former Dubuque restaurant plans to open his own restaurant in the same space.

Las Margarrita’s owner and operator Christian Hernandez says he is fulfilling his American dream by opening a new Mexican food restaurant in the former location of Salsa’s, 1091 Main St. He plans to open the restaurant in about two months after renovations are made to the kitchen and dining room.

Hernandez is developing his own menu that will include recipes developed by his mom, Martha Hernandez, and sisters Cindy and Gloria Hernandez.

“The menu will be different (than Salsa’s),” Christian Hernandez said. “I will bring in more fresh-made margaritas to add to it and made-from-scratch meals for more of a home cooking (feel).”

The menu will include brisket tacos, tortas and other Mexican street food staples in addition to various made-from-scratch dishes.

Hernandez immigrated to Dubuque from Guatemala 17 years ago to be closer to family. He remembers soon after arriving walking to Salsa’s to inquire about a job. He then was hired as a dishwasher.

“I had never done dishwashing before,” Hernandez said. “It wasn’t easy. But, it was something about the business, about the building, that I fell in love with. … I worked my way up, and I went to Northeast Iowa Community College for English.”

Hernandez advanced from dishwasher to a server position to, eventually, a management job at Salsa’s. He said he is well known among patrons for his margaritas — also his new restaurant’s namesake.

“It’s like my American dream,” he said.

Las Margarrita’s can be followed on Facebook for additional updates.

Platteville hardware store under new ownership

A Platteville hardware store is under the ownership of a new family after operating under the auspices of the Heiser family since the late 1800s.

Hermsen’s Ace Hardware Platteville — formerly Heiser Ace Hardware — was purchased by David and Jessica Hermsen in December from longtime owners Tom and Karen Heiser.

The Hermsen family has operated Hermsen’s Ace Hardware and Home Center in Bloomington since 1942, and David and Jessica purchased it in 2014.

The acquisition of the Platteville store expands their footprint and will help them continue their passion for community involvement, Jessica Hermsen said.

“We kind of have a community-minded (approach),” Hermsen said. “We like supporting our schools and churches and any of the other events that go on in the community. And so, I think for us, that’s what it’s about.”

Hermsen said there’s no comparison to the service provided by a small-town hardware store.

“That service we provide is critical,” she said. “We assemble things. (Customers) can purchase a grill, and we will assemble it. … That service includes when people come in, someone will be at the counter to help them get paint colors right or help with all sorts of projects. We really win and shine with the service.”

Hermsen said their well-known home center that operates in Bloomington will not be duplicated in Platteville, but they are making some additions to their new store, including new inventory, shelving and an overall fresh aesthetic. They plan to bolster the store’s lawn and garden offerings and also its stock of Milwaukee-brand power tools.

Hermsen’s Ace Hardware in Platteville is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. It is closed Sunday.

New Bellevue BBQ restaurant opens

James Frank’s dream was to own a barbecue joint, and he recently made that dream a reality in Bellevue.

Frank celebrated the move of Bad Ash BBQ to its new home at 301 State St. with a grand opening Thursday.

The business, which involves Frank and his wife, Natalia, and son Christian, serves barbecue and accompanying sides from a food trailer parked at their house. For about three months, the trailer was parked in Savanna, Ill., on land Frank purchased along the town’s main drag. However, it quickly became apparent that its location was not safe for the droves of hungry customers who patronized the eatery due to a lack of parking and water runoff issues.

“We had a huge following from Hanover (Ill.) and Galena (Ill.), all those little towns,” Frank said. “We had a following but no parking. It broke my heart that I had to walk away from Savanna due to the comfort of customers.”

But, Frank and his barbecue pit have found a new home — with ample parking included — in Bellevue.

Bad Ash BBQ’s menu includes baby back ribs, pulled pork, brisket and baked beans, as well as macaroni and cheese, potato salad and, once the weather warms, soft-serve ice cream.

“I just added pulled pork tacos to the menu, so we will find out how popular that is,” Frank said.

Frank has taken classes and hands-on training from a variety of pitmasters to help hone his craft. He uses a large smoker built onto the trailer and exclusively uses hickory wood to impart authentic barbecue flavor.

“I’ve been smoking meat for two decades, and I have tried every smoker and wood, propane and gas,” Frank said. “I have a pellet smoker for my family, but I always go back to the old school: just hickory logs and a fire.”

Another item on the Bad Ash BBQ menu Frank said is deceptively delicious are the Jimmy Rolls, a dish created by his son Christian.

“It’s the most simple item on the menu,” Frank said. “It’s pulled pork, and I add a four-cheese Mexican blend and roll it into a six-inch tortilla, and then I smoke it again. It’s a double punch of hickory.”

The restaurant is a family affair. The three Franks are its only employees.

“I couldn’t do it without them,” Frank said. “It’s nice that my family supports my dream. It’s not their dream by any means, but they are really supportive and everything we make is homemade.”

Bad Ash BBQ is open 4 to 7 p.m. or until sold out Thursday and Friday and 1 to 7 p.m. or until sold out Saturday and Sunday. More information about the business, including a full menu, is available at and on the business’ Facebook page.