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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Dixie Chicken turns 40

Don Anz, (left) and Don Ganter (right) at The Chicken with “Old Army Lou” of the now closed Loupot’s Bookstore in 1974.
Don Anz, (left) and Don Ganter (right) at The Chicken with “Old Army Lou” of the now closed Loupot’s Bookstore in 1974.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Larry Odom, Class 1988, would tend to the front bar and the late Don Ganter, former co-owner of The Dixie Chicken, would stand down at the end playing records — the ones that really got the place “going.”
With an ear-to-ear smile and a cigar hanging from his mouth, Ganter would talk to the many locals, students and friends — the people that made The Dixie Chicken the familiar place it is 40 years later.
It was longevity that favored The Chicken and allowed it to stay a strong business, said Katy Jackson, Class of 2000 and daughter of Ganter.
“Ring dunks started at The Chicken,” Jackson said. “I mean my sister [Jennifer Ganter] and I thank God every day that we can come to work and that this is what we get to do. We are humbled by the fact that people still come. Bars come and go, you know?”
Jackson said she and her sister’s goal as co-owners is to keep The Chicken as true to the original as possible.
“We have a lot of people who come back and the one thing they enjoy is that they walk through the same swinging doors,” Jackson said. “They feel like they were here 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago in college and they like the fact that they can sit at the same table and they are back in college again.”
Humble beginnings
In the 1970s the Northgate as it looks today, didn’t really exist, said Don Anz, Class of 1970, and Ganter’s partner of six years. It was just a couple of bookstores and hamburger places and an old pool hall, also known as the Aggie Den, Anz said.
“I thought, ‘hey we ought to do something here,’” Anz said.
Anz, who opened a record store on Northgate in 1970, said he was always looking for something new to rent. With the record store not as successful as hoped and a marriage in the spring of 1972, Anz began looking for new ventures.
“In the fall of ’73 I saw this place called the Aggie Den, where The Chicken is now,” Anz said. “It was full of pool tables and 25-cent-canned beer and it was just linoleum floor and just regular old wall.”
Anz said he envisioned a place that was inspired by progressive country music from the Luckenbach era, like Jerry Jeff Walker, Micheal Martin Murphey’s “Geronimo’s Cadillac” and Willie Nelson.
Anz said he decided opening a bar was pretty big undertaking at the time. His wife, who knew Don Ganter from her work in realty, introduced Anz to Ganter in early 1974.
“I showed him the inside of a Luckenbach bar, with deer heads all over the wall and beer signs and he said, ‘I think that’s perfect.’”
Anz said The Chicken had a slow start after their summer opening, but a year or so later, traffic picked up due to the opening of more coed and women’s dorms on campus and the county removing laws restricting the sale of alcohol.
The first half of The Chicken was just the front bar side that faces the University, Jackson said.
“It just sort of hit the whole thing,” Jackson said. “They just probably didn’t realize it at the time, but they hit kind of a gold mine.”
In 1982, the kitchen was added, Jackson said, which furthered its fame as more than just a bar, but a burger joint too.
Memories created
Odom started work at The Chicken in the fall of 1985 and was promoted to floor manager the year the Aggies beat t.u. Odom said on Aggie football game days, The Chicken would get so packed inside and outside the bar that they would nearly break fire codes.
“It was pretty challenging at times,” Odom said. “There were times I knew the fire marshal would tell you could have five out, one in so there would be a line outside trying to get in.”
Lisa Kowis, Class of 1989, who lived on NorthSide and considered herself a “regular,” said The Chicken had an effortless atmosphere. In the summer of 1989, she met her future husband after inviting him to play a game of 42.
“I came back to The Chicken all that summer waiting for him to come back [from New York] and he came back on his birthday in September and we dated ever since then,” Kowis said. “I remember being there and meeting all his friends for the first time.”
Second home
Jackson said she and her sister practically grew up at The Chicken. As a baby, Jackson’s sister, Jennifer Ganter, and co-owner of The Chicken, often slept in a beer box under the bar while her parents worked, Jackson said.
“You know when we were in high school, we didn’t have to be home at midnight, we had to be at a bar at midnight. So it’s weird, like our lives were quirky.”
There was never really a doubt that she and her sister, would carry the family business through, Jackson said.
“It’s strange — it’s older than the both of us,” Jackson said. “It’s kind of who we are. Our dad built it, it’s in our blood, it’s what we know.”
Anz said his favorite nights were in those first three or four years.
“You just got a really good feeling in your stomach,” Anz said. “That, you know, around midnight, about closing time, we’d play that Jerry Jeff Walker song, I wanna go home with the Armadillo and everybody would get up and sing, but it always amazed me that every night we’d put that song on. Every night people would start swaying and swinging — just having fun with these people — I think it really stays in your mind.”
Anz said he was proud of the place he helped start. Having maintained a relationship with Jackson and her sister, Anz said he and his wife would be at The Chicken Saturday for the 40th anniversary party open to the public.

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  • Don Anz, (left) and Don Ganter (right) at The Chicken with “Old Army Lou” of the now closed Loupot’s Bookstore in 1974.

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