Forty-three years after starting his first Taco Bell in Lompoc, Robert Coe has sold his chain of five popular Central Coast eateries.
Coe, 80, sold his Taco Bells in Lompoc, Goleta, Santa Barbara and two in Buellton, to Dave Engen, of Engen Enterprises, Thousand Oaks, effective Dec. 1.
No price was disclosed.
Engen owns 25 Taco Bell restaurants in southern California and was interested in enlarging his portfolio, Coe said.
“I am at an advanced age and it’s time to retire,” Coe said.
He said the Lompoc Taco Bell alone grossed $2 million in sales last year and employs 30 full and part-time employees.
Coe said he does not anticipate any immediate change in operations.
His restaurants were co-owned by his son-in-law, a financial adviser, and son, vice president of a bank, but with both of them living full lives, and Coe said he decided now was the right time to sell.
“I was very fortunate to have my son and son-in-law involved in the business for so long, but they are now happy doing other things. We all feel we are leaving at the right time, and also leaving the restaurants in good hands,” he said in a prepared statement.
Coe won’t be disappearing to a golf range.
He said he would like to become more involved with the nonprofit community — he wouldn’t name which ones — and will continue to work as a restaurant consultant.
“I believe you should be part of the community,” Coe said. “Lompoc has been good to me and I’d like to see what I can continue to do."
In the past Coe has been a generous donor to the community. He is a former school board member. An organization he started has donated money to Cabrillo High School’s math department, the English program at Lompoc High School, and other community programs.
His wife was a secretary at Cabrillo High School for about 15 years, until 1980.
He said he was proud of the job opportunities that he brought to young high school and community college residents. Coe was involved with the savings and loans industry before transitioning into fast food.
Last year, Coe closed his original Taco Bell restaurant, 426 North H St., which was bought in 1968, after receiving orders from Taco Bell’s corporate office to replace the mission-style structured building to a more modern style. The building is currently home to a Thai restaurant.
He asked for an extension to remodel the building, but after the corporate office turned down his request he decided to close the profitable restaurant down rather than spend $1 million on renovations.
Taco Bell Corp., based in Irvine is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., which has more than 36,000 restaurants in more than 110 countries.