GEORGETOWN — Kevin and Cindy Tipton owned Sam's Restaurant near the Scott-Fayette county line for more than 25 years, until the sagging economy forced them to consider closing.
The restaurant, which started as a truck stop on U.S. 25 in the early 1950s, served breakfasts, including grits, eggs, toast and coffee, to some new diners during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games last year.
But that wasn't enough to make up for a decline in business during the last three years, the Tiptons said.
"We had been putting all of our own money into it," Cindy Tipton said.
But instead of closing the restaurant, the Tiptons sold it to longtime employees Boris Schellig and Nancy McIntosh.
Just before Christmas, Sam's took a break for two weeks. It reopened at the beginning of January with new but familiar faces at the helm.
Schellig, who worked at Sam's for 15 years, was a trusted restaurant manager during the Games last fall.
Sam's, just a few miles from the Kentucky Horse Park, was the closest restaurant to the festivities.
"We always said that I was going to own it one day," Schellig said his discussion with the former owners about his aspirations. "We've been friends for many, many years. They're practically like family to me."
Cindy Tipton said she misses her regular customers — many of whom she would invite home for dinner. Her children — ages 27 and 24 — grew up while she owned Sam's.
"It's like my best friend died," Tipton said. "I love my customers. I have great, great customers."
Tipton said she wants to get a job in child protective services. Kevin Tipton, who has a degree in hotel and restaurant management, was looking at several options, his wife said.
When Schellig and McIntosh took over, they cut some staff and some pay. But the hours remain the same, and the menu was merely tweaked.
Pork chops, once a special item, are on the regular menu now. Funnel sticks, which are funnel cakes in the form of a fry, have been added to the menu.
Schellig said he also lowered some prices.
There were some changes to the building, too. The new staff painted and cleaned the restaurant, and it remodeled the bathroom during the two-week hiatus.
Schellig said he's excited about the new opportunity.
"I'm just trying to keep the business open," he said.