the north face apex Conti Cross Keys Inn Closing After 52 Years In Doylestown
He just never anticipated the public reaction to the announcement the restaurant will close Jan. 1.
“It has become a public debate and it wasn’t intended to be,” the 66 year old Conti said.
Some people feel Conti should have preserved the restaurant at the intersection of Routes 611 and 313. They question how a gas station could ever replace the restaurant.
Amoco officials promise to build a station with a mini market that will resemble a colonial building.
The public reaction comes partially because of the success of the vision of Frank Conti, Walter’s father, who opened the restaurant in 1943. Frank Conti, an immigrant, wanted to create the aura of a historic inn run by a family with deep roots in the area.
Of course, the sign features the date 1758. Nearly two centuries before Conti came along, an inn was founded on the site and it was operating as a hotel when Conti bought it. A friend in public relations designed the sign with the Conti name around the numbers 1758. Over the years, the family expanded the restaurant, which has been the site thousands of romantic dates, beautiful weddings, and business meetings that left the office atmosphere far behind.
“We made it historic,” Conti said. “We took that number and put the Conti’s name around that sign. We’re the history of the place.”
Conti said the restaurant had about 30 employees.
The original building is only a quarter of the present structure and much of the interior was destroyed in a fire in the early 1900s, Conti said.
Conti said the restaurant is not on any historic register. “I think people are disappointed that we are closing and then ask why are you selling to an oil company,” he said.
That fits in with the theory of Alan D. Williams Jr. of Doylestown, who said he blamed himself for the restaurant’s closing.
“Instead of Saturday night at Conti’s, I went to that new place’ or I used my entertainment book or a newspaper coupon,” he wrote in a letter to the editor. “I killed Conti’s by saving it for those special occasions now it will be gone, replaced by a gas station.”
Conti said he decided to close one of his two restaurants two years ago when he started to think about retirement. The family also owns the Pipersville Inn in Bucks County.
His two sons have their own careers Joe is a state representative from Doylestown and Michael is managing the Nittany Lion Inn in State College and did not have an interest in taking over.
So Walter put feelers out for both, but there was more interest in the Cross Keys Inn because of its prime location.
Conti received interest from numerous national restaurant chains, mostly steak houses and fast food, developers thinking about office or retail space and discount warehouses.
Most, like Amoco, felt a need to destroy the building. It did not fit the need for the restaurants, which wanted to design their own spaces, or retail, which needs a wide open space.