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The end of an era

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | February 17, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — "Owner wants to retire. Make an offer."

The sign had been taped to the window near the front door of Panhandler Pies for the past few months. After receiving no takers, Rex and Maria Williams turned the matter over to a real estate agent and went about their day.

Eight hours later, they got a phone call — the agent had a buyer and wanted to close as soon as possible, Maria Williams said.

The agent called investors to let them know the business was for sale and talked to several people. The listing never even made it onto the MLS, a listing site for real estate, Williams said.

"I can't believe it happened that fast," she added. "We didn't expect that."

The iconic downtown restaurant, long a staple for birthday celebrations and anniversaries, was renowned for big slabs of cornbread and a second serving of soup or chili. Its last day is Saturday.

While the staff knew the couple hoped to retire soon, and the couple had let it be known they hoped to sell the restaurant so they could relax and enjoy their family, Williams said they were surprised over how quickly the business sold.

"We thought we'd have more time," she told the Daily Bee. "We thought we'd have more time with the community."

It is due to the community's support and trust over the years that Panhandler Pies was a success, Williams said. She said she and her husband appreciate everyone always being there for them and trusting them with the celebrations and family events.

"We want to thank the community, thank Sandpoint, for always being there for us," she added. "Tourist season is nice but we never would have made it without the locals. We're going to miss them."

A post to the restaurant's Facebook page drew dozens of congratulations that the couple could retire, but also a bit of mourning as posters called out favorite recipes and pies served up by the restaurant.

"Ohhhhh noooo," posted Millie Hunt. "I’m so happy you can retire but so sad it will be gone. My kids still love to go there when they come home."

"This is so exciting for you, but such a bummer for the customers," Kelsey Peterson wrote under the post. "I love the convenience of walking across the street to get my lunch special. Congratulations on 33 years!"

Rex Williams purchased Panhandler Pies from Beaner Johnson on a “gentleman’s handshake.”

Over the years, the couple said they have seen two and three generations of families come through the doors, and made many friends during their 30-plus years in business.

While the couple put the business up for sale in 2017, they hoped to find the perfect owner who would buy not only the building and location, but keep Panhandler Pies going as a restaurant.

The Williamses said that, while they hate to say goodbye, the time had come for them to retire. They plan to remain in the Sandpoint area — it is, Williams said, home.

"We love Sandpoint," she added. "There is no place for us but Sandpoint. It's home."

The couple invited the community to stop by and say hello and to have one last slice of pie. The restaurant is open regular hours and, on Saturday, the hours will be 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

The buyer, whose name was not disclosed, purchased the land, building and all of the equipment. They did not purchase the Panhandler Pies name or recipes, Williams said.

The couple is open to selling rights to the name as well as the recipes. If anyone is interested, they can call Rex Williams at 208-627-2332.

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