During his 52 years as a local sports broadcaster and beyond, Ernie Blankenship fed more Highland County athletic teams than most people will ever know. Now his family is about to enter the feeding business.
Big Ernie’s Pizza, located at 520 Harry Sauner Road in the former Stephano’s Pizza building, will be opened by the Blankenship family sometime next month.
“Dad was about giving back so that’s what we want to try to continue,” Todd Blankenship, the oldest of his father’s three sons who will all have a hand in the new business, said Tuesday. “He was always about family and friends and that’s what we want this place to be – and place for family and friends to meet and enjoy time together.”
The menu will include pizza, sub sandwiches, fresh salads, spaghetti, calzones, appetizers, boneless chicken wings and possibly more. The restaurant will also have a liquor license, televisions and a game room, but Todd said the plan is to emphasize family rather than a bar atmosphere.
The featured pizza will be thin and crispy and edge to edge, but there will also be a hand-tossed version.
The decor in the main seating area will be primarily Highland County sports memorabilia, and the colors of all the local schools. There will also be some memorabilia paying tribute to Ernie, who passed away in October at the age of 77. One wall will also be dedicated to Highland County male and female athletes of month, who will be recognized on the wall with photographs and information about their athletic achievements. At the end of each school year male and female athletes of the year will be selected and that part of the display will be permanent.
Lots of the jerseys from local teams already hanging on the interior walls feature the number 52, because that’s how many years Ernie broadcasted local games.
Another room named the Press Box will honor the Highland County Society for Children and Adults, which has been named for Ernie and was one of his passions. That room will be reserved primarily for group gatherings and local athletic teams that the family plans to treat every so often, just like Ernie did.
Big Ernie’s Pizza will be a family operation and is not attached to any chain of restaurants.
“We want to be friendly and give the people a good product,” Todd said.
Jeff Gilliland may be reached at 937-393-3456 ext. 209 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.