Stella founder


Stella’s is a restaurant rich in tradition and history. We’re named after Estelle Francois Sullivan Tobler, Bellevue’s first tavern owner, a mother who raised her four children alone, and the creator of the famous “Stella Hamburger.”


Stella and her first husband, Al Sullivan, moved to Bellevue to operate a service station that her uncle built, located on the corner of Betz Road and Lloyd Street. Stella soon converted one room of their three-room house into a tavern. Dubbed “Francois & Sullivan” (sometimes referred to as “Grandma’s”), the 12×15 ft room couldn’t accommodate very many customers, but “in those times, they’d take their bottles outside,” Stella said. She purchased her first beer license for $50 and first tobacco license for $2.


Stella moved the tavern into bigger quarters, just a few blocks away. Sadly, Stella’s husband died that same year, leaving her with four children to raise on her own, as well as two businesses to operate.


Stella purchased the land at the current location, which had once been a dairy farm. She then had the building moved there on Friday the 13th of May 1949 and renamed the tavern “Stella’s.”


After years of hard work running two businesses and raising four children, Stella suffered a stroke. Heeding her doctor’s advice to take it easy, her son, Al Sullivan Jr., and his wife, Mary, took over full-time management of Stella’s.


Although a heart attack claimed the life of Stella on April 3, 1985, her picture is still prominently displayed in our bar. She was a remarkable lady who built a successful business based on integrity, hard work, and a willingness to serve others. Her philosophy in life was, “Help others out of the kindness of your heart, without expecting anything in return.”


After 33 years running Stella’s, Al Jr. and Mary retired in June 2007. Now under the ownership of Stella’s great-great- niece, Stephanie Francois, Stella’s continues to operate on our founder’s simple philosophy: “Good food doesn’t need to be fancy.” Our hamburger meat is fresh, never frozen, rolled into a 6 1⁄2 ounce ball, and hand pressed onto a cast iron grill. The burgers are tasty and, well, greasy, and that’s part of what makes them so good.

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