"I've always assumed it's a 'she,' because that's how I always think of her," said Tiffany Nettleton, in reference to the titular namesake of the Historic Fourth Street bar, Buffalo Alice. "But our buffalo will always be at home at BA's."
Buffalo Alice has also become a home-away-from-home for Nettleton, 37, who was first hired as a Saturday night waitress more than 15 years ago, before becoming its bar manager more than 10 years ago.
When owner Mike Salviola decided to sell the Sioux City bar in July, it was only natural that he'd sell it to his longtime right-hand woman.
"Mike opened the original BA's at 423 Pearl St. back in 1976," Nettleton said. "At the time, he was just a Westside kid who wanted to create a fun place to hang out in downtown Sioux City."
Dave Bernstein, co-founder of Saturday in the Park, remembered the Pearl Street location as "a great place to see bands."
"The original BA's was a nightclub and Mike had a really nice set-up over there," he recalled.
Once the bar moved to 1022 Fourth St., Salviola's idea of an old school pub with a wide variety of bottled and draft beer really began to take shape.
Bernstein continued to patronize the bar after its change of location.
"It's a place where you're likely to see somebody that you know," Bernstein said during a busy business lunch. "BA's is legendary for that."
Another thing that Buffalo Alice is known for: its deliberately downscale decor and walls filled with signs and placards, Buffalo Alice took on the sense of humor of its owner.
Re-imagining the bar to suit her own personal aesthetic, Nettleton has kept the front room of the bar largely untouched.
"Mike wanted to take certain signs and posters that were important to him, but we kept the rest," she said. "Stuff's been rearranged a bit but we wanted BA's to still look like BA's."
Yet the decor of the bar's side room has changed dramatically under Nettleton's ownership.
Paintings by local artists have replaced the room's previously kitschy collectibles and a full-scale mural serves as a focal point on its back wall.
Real works of art at BA's? What gives?
Nettleton said she likes having local artists display paintings that are for sale. Once sold, another art piece takes its place.
"I think it will add visual interest to the room because nobody wants to look at the same painting night after night," she said.
Nettleton said Buffalo Alice will never go upscale.
"The cool thing about being on Fourth Street is that the businesses aren't really in competition with one another," she said. When someone goes to Soho Kitchen & Bar or Rebo's nearby, "they have certain expectations."
"When a person walks into BA's," Nettleton said, "they expect pizza and beer and a party atmosphere."
Nettleton credits her hard-working staff, many of whom have been there for years.
"Just like Mike, I was a poor kid who came from the Westside," she said. "I didn't go to college. Instead, I got married young and had two kids I needed to help support."
"Buffalo Alice allowed me to work at night while being a mom during the day," Nettleton said. "My staff have lives outside BA but once they're here, they're here for our customers."
The dedication to customer service seems to have paid off.
"We'll have lawyers and judges sitting together and blue collar guys at a table, right next to them," Nettleton said. "Everybody gets along because they're all treated well."