Port Orchard’s A&W closes, future in doubt

PORT ORCHARD — The decision to close the doors on Port Orchard’s A&W fast-food restaurant for good came quickly, but not surprisingly to property owner Rick Gehring.

Sidharth “Sid” Sethi and his father Amit Sethi took over management of the franchise location in 2015, buying it after the Gehring family had managed it since 1959. Rick Gehring said it’s been at the Mile Hill Drive location since 1978, when he and his wife Karin took over management, running the operation until they decided to sell in 2015.

Gehring said he met with the Sethis Monday, Nov. 27, to discuss financial matters. At the time, Gehring said the Sethis were trying to come up with a solution. That solution turned out to be closing for good Friday, Dec. 1.

Now, two years after Gehring sold the franchise, the future of the community business landmark is questionable at best.

“They decided to close A&W Friday morning or Thursday night of last week,” Gehring said Dec. 3, “and so Karin, my wife, and I — we own the building and lands — we’re looking at all the options available to us.”

The choices basically boil down to either finding a new operator for the restaurant, locate someone who wants to develop the property into an original restaurant or completely redevelop the property.

“We don’t have a number-one choice,” Gehring said. “If there’s going to be a new operator, that operator would have to be a person that really wants to do something different … being more involved than the previous owners. A&W needs somebody young and energetic, or at least energetic and willing to put the time into being involved in the community like I was, and be that home-town restaurant.”

When the Gehrings ran A&W, the restaurant was deeply involved in the community, sponsoring local sports teams, youth and adult, and hosting car shows and fundraisers.

“That would be the ideal thing,” Gehring said, “to be able to pass along that goodwill we built up over the years. Those things are really the key to success.”

The weekly car shows at A&W over the last 25 years, Gehring hopes, will continue. They usually start in late April or early May and break for the colder months starting in September.

“Hopefully somebody coming in would want to continue with the car-show type concept,” Gehring said. “It was a very exciting, fun time to see people coming in Port Orchard with old cars or new cars.”

In the meantime, it’s just a matter of waiting for the community to see what the future holds.

Michelle Beahm is the online editor for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.