Every town has its historic buildings and some businesses that have been around forever and are beloved by the residents of the community.
When it comes to downtown Sayre, Dave and Susan Seck have been instrumental in keeping some of the community’s history alive.
The Secks have been running one of the Valley’s most popular businesses — Chacona’s — for more than two decades.
“It was a downtown landmark, and it was a sad thing that another business had closed,” said Dave Seck on Chacona’s, which was shut down in 1996 when he and Susan bought the business. “We came in and completely revamped everything with it.”
After having a ton of success with Chacona’s — which was originally opened in the early 1900s by Nick and Ozzie Chacona — the Secks decided to purchase the building next door that used to house Rockman’s Apparel, but had been vacant and rundown in recent years.
“It had been closed. The ceilings had been falling in. It was really just what happens to businesses and buildings when they go vacant. They just need to be restored,” said Dave.
The Secks completely restored the building, including the apartments upstairs, and opened a restaurant and bar named after the historic building — The Blackburn 1897.
“We kept trying to come up with a name for it. We kind of talked about Seck’s Restaurant, but some people got the wrong idea on it,” Dave joked. “My wife settled it. She looked up and said ‘let’s honor the building,” which was The Blackburn 1897.”
Chacona’s and The Blackburn 1897 buildings are connected and run as one business. The diner side operates for breakfast and lunch, and the restaurant is currently open Wednesday through Saturday starting at 5 p.m. for dinner.
Part of the reason the Secks have been able to run two successful businesses is the help of their children. Their son, Sean Seck, works as a cook in the evening and their daughter, Michelle Fedorchak, works in the front of the house and makes the daily specials and desserts. Sean’s wife Maura and Michelle’s husband John also help out at the business.
“Sean is doing a heck of a job on the grill and Michelle works the front,” said Susan, who is often joined by grandchildren Eden, Abby, Gabe and Lizzy at the restaurant. “It’s a family thing.”
The Secks also give a ton of credit to their employees — some of whom have been with the business for a long time.
“We couldn’t have gotten to where we are without the help of our dedicated staff,” said Susan.
The diner still features its famous hot dogs with the works or a full menu of breakfast options. On the other side of the building, customers will see a menu that has everything from bar food to steak and seafood — or even some thin-crust pizza that has become a favorite of regular customers.
“We’re set up, if you want to come in for casual drinks it’s there. If you want bar food, we have a menu for it. We have a full menu for dinner. If you want a steak or shrimp scampi or chicken piccata. Everything is there. We even make a thin-crust pizza,” said Dave on the Blackburn menu.
One thing that the Secks pride themselves on is preparing fresh food for their customers.
“Everything is from scratch that we do. We have everything there as far as what you need, but we don’t have 50 or 60 items on (the menu) because I don’t have 25 or 30 microwaves out back. We make the food when you order it,” Dave explained.
When the Secks were looking into opening the restaurant and bar, they wanted to create an atmosphere that every Valley resident would feel comfortable in.
“We’re kind of like a Cheers bar where everybody comes in, everybody knows everybody. We’ve always had the mentality ‘hey, come as you are.’ That’s the kind of place that we are,” Dave said. “Somebody said ‘well how do I have to dress?’ I said ‘if you just got done digging a ditch and you come in and want a drink or you’re hungry, you’re dressed fine.’”
The Blackburn recently debuted a new late-night bar menu that will be available after dinner hours. The Secks have plenty of other ideas as they look to the future — including creating an outdoor seating section where the old shoe store is located and possibly adding acoustic music to the bar at night.
“We feel the hardworking people of the Valley and surrounding areas deserve what everybody else has. You shouldn’t have to drive 15, 20, 30 miles out of town to have to get that treatment. We just want to be one more option here. We’re not looking to put anybody out of business or anything, we’re just looking to give customers another option,” said Dave, who believes a patio area would be a welcome sight on Lockhart Street. “I think it will be a heck of a lot better looking than what’s out there now.”
While Dave and Sue could have probably retired instead of expanding their business, the lifelong Valley residents felt strongly about helping downtown Sayre remain a vibrant business district.
“We are both five generation families here. My wife is from the Ball family and my family, the Seck family. We take great pride in it and we try to put something back into (the community) by trying to restore some of it,” Dave said.
“We’re a family. It’s been here and we’re not quitters,” added Susan.