Rico’s Public House
Award: Legacy on Main
The Legacy on Main Award is an annual award that recognizes a small business that has stood the test of time and impacted generations of community members. Rico’s Public House in Pullman is the 2023 recipient of the award not only because of its longevity but also because of its unique place in the downtown community.
Originally opened in 1909, Rico’s Public House is the oldest retail business in Pullman. Over its 114-year history, Rico’s has been a consistent presence in downtown Pullman amidst not only changes in ownership but also waves of local and national change. What started as a men’s only club survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by selling milkshakes by the thousands before ultimately securing Pullman’s first beer and wine license in the 1930s. In 1947, Tony Talerico—whose regulars called him “Rico”—bought the club with a vision to turn it into a true public house. He added a women’s restroom and hired international graduate students’ wives to his staff, hoping to encourage the transition to an establishment that welcomed the whole community.
In 1980, Roger Johnson acquired the pub and changed the name to “Rico’s” to honor Tony. Roger continued to evolve the business in several ways, serving the first microbrews in Pullman and lobbying the city to allow outdoor seating in the early 2000s. Roger and his daughter, Tawny Szumlas, who now owns Rico’s, have embraced the entrepreneurial ethic of change and adaptation. They have also used the establishment to reinforce the friendliness of Pullman and its unique college town atmosphere.
“I think of Rico’s Smokehouse as the ‘Cheers’ of the Palouse,” noted Washington Main Street Director Breanne Durham at the Excellence on Main ceremony. “There is no limit to how long you can hang out at Rico’s. Professors, graduate students, families, and children—everyone gathers here.”