The Pueblo West View

Hen House celebrates 10

Chicken curtains. Chicken plates. Chicken figurines. Chicken tapestries. Chicken salt and pepper shakers, plant holders, paintings, pictures.

No matter where you look at the Hen House, you’re going to see chickens – thousands of chickens.

And they’re forever changing.

With boxes of “overflow” chicken stuff, owner Robin Belding often switches items out and moves them around, keeping regular customers on their toes.

After all, with 10 years of business on the books, Belding has to change things up from time to time.

What hasn’t changed is the food – good old fashioned fried chicken and so much more.

The Hen House just celebrated its 10th anniversary of business in March.

It’s something Belding said she never saw coming when she and a friend started the restaurant.

“I never imagined it,” she said.

“You dream that kind of stuff, but you don’t think it’ll happen.”

Belding said she knows that most new businesses struggle, and many don’t make it to the one-year mark, let alone the 10-year anniversary.

She thanked her customers for making the business so successful and keeping her going all these years.

In 2004, Belding was tired of driving school buses and wanted to do something different. She and a friend both had some restaurant experience, so they decided to open the restaurant.

Picking chicken as the signature item, Belding called on “grandma’s recipe,” which includes putting the chicken in a cold water and salt mixture.

That simple act draws the blood out of the bones, removing dark spots, and tenderizes the meat.

Then the chicken is fried up golden and delicious, and served alongside other tasty sides.

It’s something that keeps many of her customers coming back week after week, year after year.

In fact, Belding was able to build the Hen House’s current location in 2008, just four and a half years after starting.

Three times the size of the original location, she now has more than 20 employees that help keep the place ticking.

But the Hen House doesn’t just have fried chicken.

There’s a large and varied menu, which includes everything from breakfast favorites like biscuits and gravy to hamburgers, fried shrimp, pork chops and the Pueblo-staple, a slopper.

Belding also offers not-on-the-menu specials like chicken and dumplings or ribs.

Over the years Belding has come to know so many of her regular customers – some who come from as far out as Canon City, Rocky Ford, Trinidad and more.

She loves walking the restaurant to meet and greet, and is a big fan of all the local community groups that use her restaurant for regular get-togethers.

It’s obvious that her patrons love her, as well.

She said about 90 percent of the huge chicken collection she’s amassed has been gifted to her by customers, family and friends.

So many pieces have stories, whether they’re from far away lands (including Puerto Rico, England, Sweden and, yes, Chicken, Alaska), or they have a special tale behind them.

“It means so much to me,” Belding said simply of all the gifts she’s received through the years.

She said she does her best to rotate the stock, and move things around in the restaurant, so that even the “regulars” who sit in the same place each time have something new to look at.

“Time goes really fast,” Belding said when asked about being in business 10 years.

“I’m so thankful for everyone. I never dreamed this.”

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