by Peggy Mazyck
The Springfield Restaurant Group started with the purchase of a small, run-down bar that no longer received much patronage because the once bustling traffic on Rt. 19 was gone. In earlier years, this road had been in constant use as the Pittsburgh to Erie thruway. Residents of Victorian Mercer remember a time when traffic would be backed up for five miles with individuals and families from Pittsburgh traveling north to Pymatuning and Erie on Fridays and returning home on Sundays. With the construction of I-79 in the early 1960s, a new thruway from Pittsburgh to Erie was created and Rt. 19 became dotted with run-down and deserted properties.
John McKinley and William Kingery believed there was potential to revive once-thriving businesses on Rt. 19. They believed that a restaurant with great atmosphere, great food, and a great location would again draw crowds to this corridor. So in 1979, the partners purchased the old, run-down bar and called it the Iron Bridge Inn after a historic iron bridge (1928-2014) located a few yards from the restaurant.
The success of this first venture was beyond their dreams. Within a few years, the Iron Bridge Inn drew thousands seeking the “best prime rib around” and other great dishes. On most days and especially weekends, the restaurant became packed with people at every table and every bar stool.
After the Iron Bridge Inn became successful, William moved on to other interests, but John McKinley kept his focus on restaurants and in 1983 purchased another run-down property on Rt. 19; Dykek’s Place. Dykek’s Place was truly a roadhouse (facility built to service passing travelers). In the front of building was a sign advertising Duquesne Beer and a gas pump. Inside the building, a cloth drape separated a tiny kitchen from the seating area. John turned this property into one of the best hang-outs in this part of the country; Rachel’s Roadhouse. Local residents, college students, and visitors from a 100-mile radius come regularly to enjoy the atmosphere, food, and drink. There is often a line of people waiting to get in the door. Rachel’s Roadhouse soon became famous for their ribs and the Steelers games watched on the back patio.
There’s never a quiet moment with the Springfield Restaurant Group. In 1998, the group rescued a local restaurant on Rt. 18 in Hermitage, PA. The owners of the former Unique Restaurant and Lounge decided to close this restaurant and approached the Springfield Restaurant Group to buy their property. The response was “yes” and the Hickory Bar & Grille opened in 1998. This restaurant included a culmination of all the more popular dishes from their other restaurants. It was also their biggest restaurant in size!
The Group maintains their original goal — to give customers the most enjoyable experience they have ever had at a restaurant. These restaurants in Mercer County, PA, y have grown into one of the County’s and Western Pennsylvania’s most-loved and prestigious businesses.