A major drug store chain may be buying a well-known downtown
Uniontown property, with plans to replace it with a new store.
Jesse J. Risha, owner of the Mount Vernon Inn at Five Corners, confirmed Wednesday he is
selling the hotel and restaurant facility to an unnamed company that represents Walgreen's, a
Deerfield, Ill.-based drug store company.
Risha, who last summer remodeled rooms and installed new kitchen equipment at the facility, said
the property has been in the hands of a Pittsburgh real estate agent.
"But it was Paul Bortz Jr. (an agent with Conn Realty Inc. in Uniontown) who found the buyer,''
Bortz said, "We are led to believe it is going to be a Walgreen's. I cannot say who the buyer is,
but he represents Walgreen's. It's a little premature to say more since there are a lot of issues
involved if that property can be converted to a Walgreen's site. The agreement has several
different options attached to it and closing on the deal could go into February."
The sale price is $1.75 million, Risha said. "I was asking $2.3 million,'' he added.
Risha said he found jobs with other area hotels for some of the 27 full- and part-time workers at
the Mount Vernon Inn.
"The hotel is closed, he said. "Everything is still intact except for some chairs and tables that I let
some people take.''
Risha bought Mount Vernon Inn in May 1992. But because it was "a tough business'' and "has
been a financial burden on me and my family,'' he decided to sell it.
"It's a hectic type of business. I really don't have the time to have hands-on there. It's a tough
business with a lot of overhead, and I work full time at my James Vending Co.
"I will miss it some. I put entirely too much money into it for this area. I'm happy Walgreen's is
buying it. I'm not getting what I want, but it's not the direction I want to go today.''
Risha said the real estate closing that was originally scheduled for Saturday is now set for Jan. 25.
"That could be delayed until February,'' he said, adding that he has 30 days after closing to
remove "anything we want'' from the property.
"They will start demolition right after those 30 days are up,'' he said.
Part of the property is the 220-year-old home built by Jacob Beeson, one of Uniontown's
The house is one of Uniontown's oldest remaining historic sites and was planned to overlook the
"five corners,'' where North and South Mount Vernon avenues, Main and Fayette streets merge
at what is now George C. Marshall Plaza.
Beeson lived in the home until his death in 1818. Daniel Moore of Washington bought it in 1831
for Lucius and Rebecca Stockton, his daughter and son-in-law. Judge Samuel A. Gilmore bought
the home in 1855 and it remained in his family until 1946 when it was converted into a small hotel,
restaurant and cocktail lounge. Motel rooms were added in 1952 by owner William Estanich.
Risha significantly remodeled the hotel when he bought it, adding 40 new guest rooms.
A fire in 1994 caused by an arsonist caused extensive damage to the historic portion of the
Risha said there is no problem with historic preservation in selling the property. Bortz agreed in
that the property is owned by a private individual.
Reports of the sale and Walgreen's building a new store on the site have been circulating for
Walgreen's is moving into southwestern Pennsylvania and has built new, free-standing stores in the
The Herald-Standard contacted Walgreen's in November but was told by Carol Brody of its
media relations department that the company "had no definite plans at this time'' to announce. She
did not confirm Walgreen's interest in the property.
Risha said Uniontown attorney Joseph M. George is handling the legal work in the sale.
According to its Web site, Walgreen's, at the end of December, reported year-to-date sales of
more than $38.9 billion, a 13.7 percent increase over sales from the previous year.
Walgreen's opened four stores in December and closed one location.
As of Dec. 31, the company operated 4,683 drugstores in 44 states and Puerto Rico, versus
4,290 a year ago.
NOTE: Walgreens is now open at this location.