SALEM - A little over 17 months after purchasing it, the Unique Ventures Group finally has clear title to Timberlanes Motor Inn and Restaurant.
The Meadville, Pa.-based company purchased the bank note on the business at a sheriff's auction Tuesday morning in the Columbiana County courthouse for the beginning bid price of $673,333.
The business, which also includes banquet facilities and a lounge, had been appraised at $1.01 million, requiring the bidding to begin at $673,333.
Unique Ventures was the sole bidder.
Gary Abrams, a former Salem Area Chamber of Commerce president and city councilman, said, "This is a super-great day for Salem," while Don Wolfgang, a Salem businessman attending the auction, said, "This is a historic day for Salem."
A Salem landmark, located at 544 E. Pershing St. since 1962, the 60-room motel and steak house closed its doors in January 2009 after being in placed in receivership.
Unique Ventures bought it from Ciena Capital Funding LLC in September of 2009 and had hoped to re-open later that year.
Carl Baker of Ivest Development, LLC, said Tuesday that the next step is to address a lawsuit in the Seventh District Court of Appeals in Youngstown.
"We can't touch the building until the appeals court is settled," he said, adding it was unfortunate that "litigation has denied its use this long."
Baker declined commenting in detail, but said with the title now clear they can now "move ahead."
He said Unique Ventures is the largest restaurateur in the United States with 25 Perkins Restaurants and eight Burger Kings.
He said the group controls the liquor license and decisions like where to place a Perkins Restaurant, either upstairs in the main dining room or in the downstairs restaurant, are pending.
"We've got some decisions to make," he said, noting Timberlanes is in a "great location."
Asked how his company became aware of it, Baker said a business partner drove by one day and saw it was for sale.
He said there will be forthcoming announcements.
Mayor Jerry Wolford said, "I'm happy someone has purchased it and we'll help them out in any way we can."
Council President Mickey Cope Weaver said, "I'm so happy to have that once again ... and be a viable business. All those people generating income in this town. I think it's wonderful. It has been sorely missed."
Abrams, who co-owns and is a business partner with his wife, B.J., in Kolby's of Salem, attended the auction.
"Timberlanes is an extremely important part of our downtown and it is coming back. This is truly going to help the ongoing development of our downtown."
Kolby's is for sale and Abrams said, "We've had people interested in Kolby's and one person looking at it was interested in knowing what happens to Timberlanes before they bought.
"I would be too if I was going to invest in Salem. The day that door closed it was detrimental to our entire community."
Abrams added, "We all have our hearts in this town ... and to see it come back ... this is a super-great day."
In its heyday, Timberlanes employed 75 people, a number that dwindled to 35 when it closed in 2009.
It was opened in 1962 by Soph Paparodis and a partner as a small restaurant, cocktail lounge and bowling alley with 14 lanes and became one of the social and entertainment centers in the city.
Style was always prominent on the Timberlanes' marquee and one of the more visible examples was the simple but elegant black and white restaurant and cocktail lounge server uniforms.
Timberlanes also played host to many of the top country and western stars who performed at Ponderosa Park including Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, Tanya Tucker, Randy Travis and many, many more.
It was the hot spot for countless political functions drawing national and state political figures into its ballrooms.
Built in 1900, the building once housed a Studebaker dealership.
After a 1977 fire, the owner at the time, Soph Paparodis, rebuilt the facility with a 60-room motel but without the bowling alleys.
For many years, the award-winning restaurant was the best around drawing Easter Sunday and regular weekend diners from the entire northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania areas.
Larry Shields can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org