Wink Hartman Sr. and his wife, Libba, and chef Bobby Lane and his wife, Susie, sold the restaurant to Georges French Bistro owner George Youssef and his friend and financial backer Doug Rippel for an undisclosed price.
“George Youssef will do a wonderful job at Chester’s,” Wink Hartman says.
Still, he says it’s difficult for him to give up the restaurant.
“It makes me want to cry,” Hartman says. “Of course, it’s like one of your children.”
Youssef and his employees have been talking about the purchase for weeks and weeks, but it did not close until Thursday afternoon.
“It’s always been a Wichita icon,” Youssef says. “This is the finest restaurant in town.”
He says it’s “an honor to have the opportunity to buy . . . such an iconic place.”
“It’s a legacy I have to carry, and I hope I can . . . live up to this legacy.”
Bobby Lane says he always said the only way he could picture selling Chester’s was to sell it to someone he considered a fraternity brother, and he says Youssef is that.
“We’re super excited for George and his wife and their family.”
Hartman and his wife met the Lanes on the polo fields of Boca Raton where they had a restaurant. The four worked on opening Chester’s together for two years with nothing more than a handshake deal.
“Bobby and Susie and Libba and I shook hands, had sip of wine,” Hartman says. “And it’s worked out 100 percent.”
He says that’s “very, very unusual.”
Lane says he and his wife are going to remain in Wichita.
“Moving here was one of the best things we ever did.”
He says that’s despite all kinds of reports of them moving to Florida or France “and all kinds of places that start with an F.”
“This is our home now,” he says. “We’re looking forward to the next chapter.”
Lane says he’s not sure what that chapter will be — or if he’ll do another restaurant.
“I’m wide open. I really don’t know.”
He says he knows they will take a rest, though, and enjoy the holidays, “which we’ve never experienced.”
Previously, they’ve been too busy catering parties.
Lane says he hears some people even tire of holiday parties.
“How do you get bored at Christmas parties?”
With having the restaurant, Hartman says, customers “want Bobby and Susie to be here.”
“The simple truth is, we had a 15-year run,” Hartman says. He says it “was very, very successful. . . . It’s been a great experience.”
He says selling was a group decision, and the four are still close friends as they have been for almost 30 years.
Youssef says he’ll keep the Chester’s name and doesn’t plan any changes to the concept at this time.
“Not at the moment, seriously,” he says. “It’s whatever Bobby Lane and his wife created.”
If there ever are changes, Youssef says that “the future will determine that.”
“I need to learn the culture there . . . before I can tell you what we’re going to be doing.”
Chester’s has been something of a dining room away from home for the Hartmans, and Wink Hartman says they still plan to dine there in the future.
The Hartmans also own Jimmy’s Egg restaurants.
Wink Hartman says he can’t say if he’ll ever open another high-end concept or any other kind of restaurant.
“Time will tell,” he says. “You know me. I can dream up something.”