About the Owner
Jonathan "Smiley" Kessler's realized the need for a restaurant offering fine dining in a warm and casual atmosphere in the Deep Creek Lake area. Understanding the tourism and second home market is Mr. Kessler's forte, with the success of Smiley's Pizzeria and Funzone, The Tourist Trap, Deep Creek Sweets, the Gallery at Overlook Center, and future projects such as Aqua Mountain Resort. Mr. Kessler's wife, Kathy, adds twenty-plus years of retail experience and is an integral part of their business success. In addition, Kathy's own passion for cooking has led to the development of many original recipes served at their restaurants (the local's favorite “Creamy Crab Soup" was created by Kathy)! Not a small thinker, Mr. Kessler's insightfulness led to the design and creation of Pine Lodge Steakhouse & Saloon, an impressive log lodge built with the authenticity and warmth of a mountain retreat.
Mr. Kessler's nickname, “Smiley," was coined when a dorm-mate wandered into the McKenzie Complex dormitory suites in 1978 at SUNY Alfred and upon seeing a shy farm kid from Codorus, Pennsylvania wearing his trademark grin said; "Hey Smiley, what's up?" That nickname became Mr. Kessler's trademark and his first restaurant's namesake.
After graduating from SUNY Alfred, Mr. Kessler moved to Morgantown, West Virginia to work as a surveyor. A little more than a year later Mr. Kessler made a visit to Oakland, Maryland to visit a former SUNY Alfred roommate. There's a saying that it's the people who make the difference in where you live. That's what made this place home for Smiley. A job offer and two weeks later Smiley was very happy to relocate from West Virginia to Garrett County and small town American; a setting of mountains, waterfalls, farms, and Deep Creek Lake.
“While surveying real estate subdivisions in 1980, I remember thinking, Wow, this place is behind the times… it should be possible for an energetic hard worker to make a great life here, Mr. Kessler remembers. The growth of residential real estate was consistently bringing more year-round guests to the area and more often than not, these visitors were asking what there was to do in the area.
"I'm frequently asked how a farm kid came to Deep Creek Lake and found the American dream," Mr. Kessler remarked. "I was doing a survey for Tom Bernard of Bernard Realty. It was a fifty-acre military lot with seven acres on the other side of a road. Tom (always the salesman) said to me" the new kid surveyor in town "Smiley, you should buy the seven acres. I'll sell it to you for $10,000 and even finance $9,000.' I was intrigued and thought this might be a great way to capitalize on the growth of the area," he adds. While Mr. Kessler was ready to draw up plans for his newly found occupation, both of the local banks in town thought that his unknown face was not one they should gamble on with a loan of $1,000. Not discouraged, Smiley walked from his apartment on Alder Street to his surveying office on the same street and noticed Unity Finance. Mr. Kessler explains, “I stopped to inquire about the cost to borrow $1,000 and proudly walked out with my first loan. $1,000 at 28.5% interest and $60 a month payments." Mr. Kessler then purchased the seven acres from Tom and subdivided it into six lots. Doug Spaulding of Spaulding Realty told Mr. Kessler the secrets to selling lots and how to advertise…and a real estate developer was born…. Garrett County style.
Taking opportunity where it presented itself Mr. Kessler's good timing led to the development of several extraordinary parcels of land around Deep Creek Lake. Within the next decade, Mr. Kessler created 130 lots for the hungry real estate market. Kessler is proud of the mark he made on the Garrett County landscape by utilizing minimal density, cluster philosophy and quality construction in his developments.
The 80's saw some incredible growth in Deep Creek Lake. The little mountain resort community was catching up to the rest of the world. His Pennsylvania Dutch farm up- bringing had instilled in Mr. Kessler a strong work ethic. In addition, the knowledge he received at SUNY Alfred, provided Mr. Kessler the skills and confidence he needed to become an entrepreneur and open Smiley's Funzone in 1991. An addition was added to the Pizzeria in 2002.
Pine Lodge Steakhouse & Saloon was built in just 82 days and in time to open the weekend prior to Memorial Day in 2002.
"Pine Lodge Steakhouse & Saloon was designed to fill a much-needed niche in the area's restaurant category," says Mr. Kessler. "The desire for fine dining in a casual atmosphere, as well as, a great value, was my mission. It's a difficult proposition in our seasonal and fluctuating market. We are continually working toward exceeding the customer experience and with our freshly prepared menu items, many of which were developed by our executive chef, the professional and knowledgeable staff, and the warm and inviting atmosphere, I sincerely hope that you find your visits to Pine Lodge Steakhouse & Saloon exceptional."