Six weeks ago, Linda Eshleman was headed home from shopping when she decided to visit her friend and ex-boss, Charles DiSantis.
DiSantis lives in a house on the property of The Log Cabin restaurant, which he ran for 50 years, until closing the landmark in July 2008.
As Eshleman went past the vacant restaurant at 11 Lehoy Forest Drive, near Log Cabin Road, she was startled to see a sign advertising a public auction.
"My heart dropped. I thought, 'Don't tell me it's come to that,' " she said.
For Eshleman, though, the sign became a call to action, not a cue for angst.
She and her husband, David, with two friends, bought the Warwick Township property at the auction for $610,000.
The winning bidders plan to reopen The Log Cabin, keeping the well-known name and its fine-dining style, in April. This is expected to create about 30 jobs.
"We didn't want it to become something other than what it was. We want to bring it back," Linda Eshleman said.
"We're trying to return the property to its former glory."
The Eshlemans know about running a fine-dining establishment.
They previously owned The Meritage, a fine-dining restaurant that was in downtown Lancaster for six years, then moved to Mount Joy for two years.
It closed a week before The Log Cabin.
Like the Restaurant at Doneckers, they were caught in the economic tailspin that was especially hard on that sector of the restaurant industry.
"We didn't know if we were going to do it again," Linda Eshleman said. "But this seems like it was meant to be."
The Eshlemans, each with more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, have a special tie to The Log Cabin.
The Manheim Township residents met there as employees in 1996.
That was when Linda Eshleman had nearly concluded a 10-year stint, rising from server to assistant manager, and David Eshleman was in the midst of a brief, eight-month stay.
She soon left The Log Cabin, but left her mark.
While touring the building before the auction, Linda Eshleman found an old note, in her handwriting, taped to a fire door.
It reminded employees to "Please Keep This Door Closed At All Times."
"When I walk in there now, I wonder where those years went," Linda Eshleman said.
The Log Cabin had logged many years before Eshleman worked there.
It dates to 1929, when it debuted as a one-room speakeasy. It began serving meals in 1934. Later, it became one of the area's premier dining destinations.
The new Log Cabin will feature favorites of the old Log Cabin menu, along with favorites from The Meritage.
"We're going to try our best to please everybody," Linda Eshleman said.
Linda Eshleman will be The Log Cabin's general manager. David Eshleman will be its chef.
A tentative schedule calls for the restaurant to serve dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays, and brunch on Sundays. It also will be available for private parties.
But there's work to do before the public returns to the 180-seat, 12,000-square-foot facility.
The Eshlemans, with business partners and friends Kirk and Pam Liddell, envision giving the restaurant "a face-lift."
That will include fresh paint, new carpet and constructing an outdoor patio.
"There's nothing wrong with the atmosphere or presence. We don't want to take that away," Linda Eshleman said.
"We love the feel of the restaurant."
The restaurant building will get attention, too.
Part of the roof needs to be replaced, and the electrical system needs to be upgraded. The kitchen equipment has yet to be checked out.
Eshleman declined to estimate the cost of the renovations, which will start after the buyers settle on their purchase in the first week of December.
That's when the Eshlemans transition from suitors to owners and operators.
"It's almost too much to comprehend," Linda Eshleman said. "This has been a whirlwind."
DiSantis will continue to live on the restaurant property. The Eshlemans will move from Hess Boulevard to a small, second house on the tract.
Thursday's auction drew about 75 to 100 people, estimated Manheim-based auctioneer John M. Hess, whose firm handled the bidding.
The auction followed efforts to sell the property privately and by listing it with a commercial Realtor, Hess said.
Included in the sale were the 6-acre property (which carries a Leola address), the house and restaurant building, outbuildings, a garage and the restaurant's contents, name, web address, artwork and liquor license.
The bidding opened at $200,000 and quickly soared above $500,000, with four groups in the hunt at that point, Hess said.
"You never worry about where you start," he said. "You worry about where you end."