For the first time in 95 years, the historic Sebastian’s General Store in Old San Simeon Village is no longer owned by a member of the Sebastian family.
The state landmark now belongs to the Hearst Corp., the media firm founded by William Randolph Hearst, which also owns San Simeon Point and more than 80,000 acres nearby.
Stephen Hearst, corporation vice president and W.R. Hearst’s great grandson, said that the firm leased the building about 18 months ago and jumped when the opportunity arose to purchase it. He declined to say how much the firm paid.
“It’s not any secret that the Hearst family feels about Sebastian’s the way the Sebastian family felt,” Hearst said. “We’ve been interested in it for years.”
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Hearst doesn’t contemplate making any major changes, but he said they would “just try to enhance the marketing of the store, the physical condition of the store and also the financial perspective of the store.”
“I wouldn’t ever think of changing the name,” he added later.
Hearst subleased the building in 2008 to Brian and Abby Lucas of Sebastian’s General Store and Café, who have built a faithful clientele for their Hearst beef-dip and meat loaf sandwiches and other fare.
The corporation may build a 100-room hotel nearby, according to the terms of the 2005 Hearst Ranch Conservation Plan, in which the Hearst family donated 13 miles of coastal land to State Parks and agreed to put a conservation easement over remaining ranchland.
Hearst said the purchase “doesn’t send any messages about the inn or anything else.”
The rustic Sebastian’s building houses a 130-year-old post office, general store and tiny museum display, along with the café.
According to Cambria Historical Society archives, Sebastian’s opened in 1873 as a general store, livery stable and post office. When owner Leopold Frankl expanded the business in 1878, he bought an abandoned store on San Simeon Point and moved it by ox team to be joined to his store.
After several business changes and sales, Captain L.V. Thorndyke, keeper of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, bought the store in 1904. His son, Loren Thorndyke, operated the shop until he sold it to Manuel and Mary Sebastian in May 1914. He ran the store until 1948, when he retired and sold it to son Pete Sebastian. When Pete died in 1988 at the age of 81, ownership passed to daughter Mary Sebastian (Hansen), who sold it to Hearst.