Coal Center’s High Point restaurant for sale as owners ease into retirement
Bob Sepesy gazed out the windows of his High Point Restaurant and Lounge, overlooking the Monongahela River, the Fayette County borough of Newell and California University of Pennsylvania.
“If Norman Rockwell lived here, this is what he would have painted,” he said.
The Coal Center restaurant’s dining room, bar and deck all look out over what many visitors call a “million dollar view.”
Now that view, and eight acres of property, including the business, is for sale.
Sepesy, 69, and his wife, Loretta, 67, who reside in California, are easing into retirement.
A few months ago the couple listed the property for $1.5 million.
“We aren’t closing. I enjoy it. I love this place. I’m sad. I’m happy to move on with my life. I still have the passion. I don’t have the energy,” he said, laughing.
Sepesy defies his own proclamation, taking visitors on a tour and greeting arriving employees and guests. In his spare time, he pilots his own plane and shoots aerial photography.
He and his brother, Joe, operated Sepesy’s Tavern in California from 1967 until 1984, taking over a business their father owned since 1948.
“I always had my eye on High Point,” he said.
They purchased the property in 1986.
“I know construction. I was ripping and tearing and doing different things I could do without spending a lot of money at first. Looking back, I wonder how I did it,” Sepesy said.
About 10 years ago, he added the deck, popular with diners and where he often cooks in warm weather.
“What you see right here is what I envisioned,” he said.
The couple concentrated on the restaurant end, with food sales representing about 80 percent of their business.
“I was an Army cook. I’ll put my food up against anyone,” Sepesy said.
The restaurant is well-known for its homemade sausages and deep-fried pickle spears, an appetizer Loretta Sepesy discovered while visiting relatives in Mississippi.
“We made those and that’s history. We buy tubs of pickles,” Sepesy said.
The site originally was a roadhouse and service station, he said, pointing out framed photos on the dining room’s walls.
One photo shows the Jumonville Cross, a picture Sepesy hung after customers repeatedly asked about the famous Fayette County landmark, sometimes visible on a clear day. Also framed is a poster from the 1983 film “Maria’s Lovers.” Much of the movie, starring Nastassja Kinski and John Savage, was shot at the restaurant.
The couple’s five children and several of their 11 grandchildren have worked at the business over the years.
“They will all roll up their sleeves and pitch in. It’s been a family adventure,” Sepesy said.
The couple is looking forward to some time off together, he said.
“If you own a business, especially this type of business, you are married to it,” Sepesy said.
Over the years, he said, they have hired many area high school and college students, and have supported their community through various fundraisers.
“If it’s a good cause, we are there,” he said.
A local history aficionado, Sepesy enjoys sharing stories of the region’s ties to the Industrial Revolution, its coal mining and river barge lore.
Clearly a “people” person, Sepesy said he has mixed emotions about selling the business. “I’m satisfied. We were successful. We raised a family. … You know what wealth is? It’s your grandchildren, your family,” he said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.