ST. PETERSBURG — A slice of St. Petersburg history is up for sale Wednesday morning, as Pepin Restaurant auctions off all its contents.
The 30-year-old landmark eatery is selling everything from the air-conditioning units to the sugar packets. The auction, which begins at 10 a.m. and could last as long as sundown, is expected to draw restaurateurs as well as longtime customers looking for souvenirs.
"My husband and I came here when we were first dating and a lot of Friday nights we joined his parents here," said Shannon Knowlton, 64. She picked up a menu, also to be auctioned, and looked over it.
"Oh, the Grouper a la Rusa," she said. "That was my favorite. I loved the tossed salad and the brown bread."
The restaurant closed Jan. 30. A Hooters will move into its space.
People began gathering at 8 a.m. at Pepin, located at 4125 4th St. N, to preview the auction items. About 100 people had gathered by 9 a.m. A hot dog stand was set up in the parking lot, selling food and coffee.
Included in the auction, which is open to the public, are antique hutches, original artwork, a marble-topped grand piano and wooden benches that customers used outdoors as they waited for a seat to open. People must bring their photo ID to register for the auction.
Dana Silver, a third-generation St. Petersburg resident, said she grew up going to Pepin.
"The last week they were open, we ate twice here," Silver said. "I wanted to get a menu but they were handing them out on paper. The owner said people were stealing them left and right."
Silver was hoping to bid on three large salad bowl for her kids, she said. Many of the salad bowls had dents in them from years of waiters preparing the famous Pepin salads at tableside.
"We are heartsick they are closing," she said, "and for a Hooters."