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Businessman buys Yellow Brick Bank

April 05, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant, a popular local attraction that helped show people that Shepherdstown is a "snappy little place," has been sold.

Kevin Connell, who transformed the old bank building at the corner of German and Princess streets into a restaurant in 1976, sold the business to local businessman Ken Lowe on Thursday, Connell said.

Connell said he and Lowe closed on the deal Thursday and Lowe took over Friday.

After traveling back and forth from his home in Rye, N.H., to Shepherdstown to oversee the restaurant over the years, Connell said he decided it was time to get out of the business.

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"I'm just getting of age. At 64, that's getting too much," Connell said Sunday.

Connell said Lowe does not plan to change anything at the restaurant and longtime chef Mike Luksa will stay.

Lowe confirmed that no changes will be made to the restaurant.

"Our game plan is to continue the tradition," said Lowe, a local developer who also operates and is part owner of the nearby Clarion Hotel and Conference Center and the Comfort Suites motel along W.Va. 9 in Berkeley County.

In addition to purchasing the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant, Lowe said he also bought Three Onions Restaurant, which is nearby on German Street.

That deal was finalized Friday, Lowe said.

When Connell bought the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant building, it had been on the market for about six months, and the exterior was all white.

Connell summoned the help of a man from Philadelphia who specialized in the design of historic buildings. The expert gave Connell a "two-page report" on a color scheme and the bank was finished in a colorful design that included yellow and green.

Connell recalled how he was "light on the investment side" when he started the restaurant, but things soon came together with the help of his wife, Marianne.

Connell oversaw the creation of a distinct cuisine by shipping fresh seafood from Maine and using fresh produce.

The Yellow Brick Bank specialized in making entrees to order and homemade bread and mozzarella cheese were among the creations in the kitchen. Fresh vegetables were used "wisely" to create a unique taste, Connell said.

In 1979, The Washington Post did a lengthy review on the restaurant.

"That really put us on the map. We really had an edge on things. We were on top of it," Connell said.

The restaurant attracted a broad clientele.

Actor Robert Duvall ate there while he was filming the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals" and Nancy Reagan once came there with columnist George Will.

Regular folks visited the area, and after eating at the restaurant, they had a new outlook on the Shepherdstown area, Connell said.

Their visit to the restaurant made them realize "this is not the hills of West Virginia. Shepherdstown is a snappy little place," Connell said.

When the peace talks between Israel and Syria were held in Shepherdstown in 2000, White House staffers and other officials associated with the talks frequented the Yellow Brick Bank. Former President Bill Clinton was on his way to the restaurant one night during the talks, Connell said.

Secret Service agents made a pass-through of the restaurant in anticipation of the president's arrival, but Clinton never made there because the talks went late that night, Connell said.

"That was a lot of fun that week," Connell said.

The restaurant was expanded about seven years ago, a project which included a new kitchen and larger seating area.

Lowe said he has been investing in properties in other towns and did not want to pass up an opportunity to purchase some properties in his own community.

While Lowe said he will not make any changes to the Yellow Brick Bank, he said some design changes probably will be made to the Three Onions Restaurant.

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