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Johnny Rockets to open four types of Route 66-themed restaurants September 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants, Theaters.
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The Johnny Rockets restaurant chain plans to open four types of Route 66-themed prototype restaurants — including drive-ins, food trucks and drive-in theaters —  as soon as this year, according to a news release Monday from the company.

The restaurant stated:

Established in 1926 as one of America’s original highways, Route 66 became the major path for those who migrated west, and it supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed. No company is better suited to resurrect the nostalgic brand than Johnny Rockets, which was founded on Classic Americana and opened its first location down the road from the culminating point of Route 66 in Santa Monica.

“Johnny Rockets launched exactly one year after Route 66 was officially removed from the highway system in 1985,” explains James Walker, chief development officer of Johnny Rockets.  “We feel privileged to have the opportunity to re-introduce the Route 66 brand to the new car culture generation through our already cravable food in what we are sure will be a cravable environment.”

The Johnny Rockets Route 66 concept will take the form of four distinct prototypes: drive-thru, drive-in, food truck and pop-up.  Through enhanced operational efficiencies and technology, the Route 66 concept allows guests to enjoy Johnny Rockets’ made-to-order burgers and hand-spun shakes while they are on the road or being entertained at the classic American drive-in.  Johnny Rockets anticipates some of the first prototypes to debut as early as Q4 2014. [...]

Drive-Ins LLC, a company that collectively has 135 years of experience in the motion picture exhibition, production and distribution industry, is spurring a resurgence in the American drive-in theatre.  At one time, there were an estimated 6,000 active drive-in theatres across the country, with the number now dwindled to 350. USA Drive-Ins LLC, however, announces plans to open 200 new drive-in locations including Johnny Rockets Route 66 as the food and beverage option for attending guests. These locations will present family-friendly films and embody a nostalgic, all-American experience.

Also in cooperation with Drive-Ins LLC, Johnny Rockets will configure a pop-up theatre prototype with a combined mobile restaurant that allows owners to create a dinner and movie combination in a myriad of venues, throughout the country. As with existing Johnny Rockets restaurants, this combination of food, families and fun was created for franchise partners interested in providing an entertaining and satisfying dining experience. For current Johnny Rockets restaurant owners, Route 66 food trucks now provide the capability to increase visibility and sales. The Route 66 food truck can be utilized for catering and community events or added to a market’s existing food truck line up.

Nation’s Restaurant News also has a few more details about this four-pronged initiative. Franchise info — including discounts for entrepreneurs who are veterans — is here.

This entire plan sounds incredibly ambitious. Then again, the number of drive-in theaters has declined to a point to where perhaps Johnny Rockets sees an opportunity in select areas — especially in suburbs that never had a drive-in.

And I suspect the drive-in and drive-through restaurant ideas take aim at Sonic, which built its business on largely the same model.

As for the food trucks, Johnny Rockets probably is betting that people — especially children — will more often order food from a truck with a familiar name.

In case you’re wondering, Johnny Rockets has locations in only the Route 66 towns of Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

(Images courtesy of Johnny Rockets)

The rebirth of Tulsa’s 11th Street September 15, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Restaurants, Towns.
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KTUL-TV in Tulsa recently did this story about the “rebirth” of 11th Street in town, known as Tulsa’s Route 66.

KTUL.com – Tulsa, Oklahoma – News, Weather

We’ve dutifully reported about many of these businesses — including Ike’s Chili — moving to the more-prominent alignment of Route 66 in Tulsa. I was a bit saddened Ike’s moved from the older Route 66 alignment of Admiral Place, which has a few of its own charms. But if such a move provides greater assurance for the century-old Oklahoma landmark restaurant, I’m all for it.

And I suspect more businesses will follow to the 11th Street corridor. Lots of space is available, and the more tourists talk favorably of 11th Street, the more tourists eventually will follow.

(Image of decorative brick inlays along 11th Street in Tulsa by Don Thornhill via Flickr)

Annual Cruise-In at The Mill slated for Saturday September 11, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Museums, Preservation, Restaurants, Signs, Vehicles.
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The annual Mill Car Cruise-In classic-car show will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the landmark but long-closed Route 66 restaurant in Lincoln, Illinois. The event also serves as a fundraiser in ongoing efforts to preserve The Mill.

Geoff Ladd, former leader of Logan County Tourism, a Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County board member and a key figure in The Mill’s preservation, sent along a news release about the event that contains intriguing news, including that the landmark is being considered for use as a recording studio, as well as a local museum.

Two bands — The Runner Ups and The Howell — will perform at The Mill from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Ladd explained the bands’ performances won’t be just for entertainment:

“We’re trying out some ideas to multi-purpose the facility here at The Mill, while the restoration process continues. We’ll run a Vendor Market with a variety of flea market items, crafts, specialty products and antiques on a monthly basis from May-October, headed up by our new member, Andrea Dykman. We’re also having these bands play to test the waters on whether the building would be good acoustically as a possible sound studio.”

An old wooden structure such as The Mill may very well be ideal for recording purposes, so the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds on first blush.

The vendor market will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Other nuggets of information:

  • The group is planning a crowdsourcing campaign soon to help raise the remaining estimated $50,000 to finish restoring The Mill.
  • “Thanks to a very special anonymous donation, we will also have on sale made-in-the-USA T-shirts with our brand-new Mill on 66 logo on them,” Ladd said. Other collectibles also will be on sale Saturday to raise funds.
  • The City of Lincoln plans to bring The Tropics restaurant neon sign to The Mill for a photo ops. The city took down the historic sign a few months ago and plans to eventually restore it.
  • The event will be dedicated to the late Mike Fak, who died recently. Fak was the preservation group’s treasurer and helped restore the wood floors on the restaurant’s first floor.
  • Tours of The Mill will be available that day.
  • The event includes a special lunch by Hallie’s Restaurant of Lincoln, which is owned by a descendant of the family that owned The Mill during its heyday.

The Mill, which featured a Dutch-inspired design and a turning windmill, opened on U.S. 66 in 1929. The restaurant fell into decline during the 1980s and closed in 1996. It appeared in 2006 the ramshackle restaurant would be razed, but Ladd and other area preservationists intervened and formed a resurrection plan for the landmark. The Mill is on the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame, and members of the Illinois Route 66 Association has done several big renovation projects for it.

More information about The Mill and Saturday’s event can be found at SaveTheMillOnRoute66.com. The webpage also has a PayPal donation button; the group is a tax-exempt nonprofit.

(Image of The Mill courtesy of Geoff Ladd)

Bun Boy Restaurant in Barstow torn down September 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants.
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The abandoned Bun Boy Restaurant that once served Route 66 travelers for decades was leveled last week to make way for a new medical center, reported the Victorville Daily Press.

IPA Administrator Marie Langley provided the “hammer swing” on the building.

“Although the building has been on Main Street for years, over the last couple of years it has been abandoned, in extreme disrepair and an eyesore,” she said. “Our goal is to provide a facility that all residents of Barstow can look upon with pride.”

Bun Boy served generations of travelers and local residents with distinctive dishes like the Ortega Burger.

According to the Route 66 News archives, the restaurant closed June 2012.

Some online sleuthing revealed the Bun Boy in Barstow started during the late 1940s to early 1950s by Willis Herron, who gained later fame north of town in Baker, California, when he built the World’s Largest Thermometer next to a Bun Boy Restaurant there. Herron died in 2007 at age 82.

(Image of the Bun Boy Restaurant sign in Barstow in 2009 by Thomas Hawk via Flickr)

Historic Seligman Sundries changes owners September 6, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, People, Preservation, Restaurants.
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A couple from Flagstaff, Arizona, took over ownership Friday of the Historic Seligman Sundries coffee shop and souvenir store on Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona, from longtime proprietors Frank and Lynn Kocevar.

Thomas Muetzel and Ursula “Uschi” Fuchs, who were regular customers for about four years, plan no big changes for the business. The Kocevars plan to hang around for another 30 days or so, assisting the couple in the transition.

The Kocevars posted an announcement on the Facebook page about the handover Friday afternoon:

It all began with 2 years of renovations on the iconic but deteriorating, 110-year old Seligman Sundries building that would be brought back to life after being closed for a number of years. Over the past 10 years, owning, renovating and operating Historic Seligman Sundries has been a truly rewarding experience for us. The friendships we’ve developed are invaluable and will be treasured always.

But there comes a day when it’s time to move on to new adventures, and today is the day. Historic Seligman Sundries welcomes Uschi and Thomas, friends for the past four years, as its new owner/operators. We look forward to assisting our friends in maintaining the atmosphere and history that make Historic Seligman Sundries a landmark in Seligman and working with them to help foster a smooth transition.

As we enthusiastically begin a new journey to explore all that life has to offer, from our home in Seligman to wherever our Route 66 travels take us, we want to convey our heartfelt gratitude and say “thank you” to all of you who have supported and befriended us over the past 10 years. Meeting and greeting you from behind the counter was a wonderful way to begin friendships, but coming out from behind that counter and actually traveling the same roads and attending the same events as you will be an even nicer way to nurture those friendships. Welcome, Uschi and Thomas! And to all our friends and family on Route 66 and around the world … watch out, here we come.

Contacted by phone Saturday, Kocevar said the opportunity presented itself earlier this summer.

“About three months ago, they asked us to contact us if we ever thought about selling,” he said. “We thought the business needed some new energy; it needs some new life.”

Kocevar said he and Lynn have no firm plans to retire and may look for a new venture. But first, they want to explore the Mother Road that brought them so much business and memories over the past decade.

“We want to explore Route 66 from a different viewpoint,” he said. “We want to be able to do a lot of different things, such as drive a car in the (Arizona Route 66) Fun Run. We greatly enjoyed what we did at Seligman Sundries, but we weren’t able to get away because we had to run the business. We have cyberfriends all over the country we’d see once a year; we want to be able to visit them.”

The Historic Seligman Sundries building opened in 1904 and remains one of the oldest in town. Over the years, it has served as a theater, dance hall, trading post and soda fountain. It even hosted high school graduations during the early years of Seligman. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

The above photo of the Kocevars handing over the large key to the couple was a key-making sign hanging near Historic Seligman Sundries’ front door.

“We were going to hand over the keys, and thought of that big key sign to hand over instead for the photo,” Kocevar said, chuckling.

(Image courtesy of Frank Kocevar)

Developer runs into snags with Irv’s Burgers structure September 6, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants.
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When a developer essentially forced out the operators of Irv’s Burgers on Route 66 in West Hollywood, California, it probably thought its big problems were over.

Meanwhile, the Sonia Hong family is thriving with Irv’s Burgers at a new site on Route 66 in West Hollywood. And the developer has run afoul of the local preservation commission for not adequately keeping the old Irv’s Burgers structure in its plan.

According to WeHoville.com:

Members of the West Hollywood Historic Preservation Commission last night expressed doubts about whether a plan to incorporate the building housing the former Irv’s Burgers into the adjacent Beach Nation would adequately preserve the culturally designated burger stand. [...]

Beach Nation is an outdoor cafe on the northeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Sweetzer. Its owners asked the Commission for permission to build a storage area, enclose part of the outdoor patio and build an outdoor dining counter at Irv’s Burgers, effectively making Irv’s a kitchen for Beach Nation. They had to seek the Commission’s approval because West Hollywood in 2005 designated the hamburger stand as a cultural resource, noting that it was one of the last such stands on the historic Route 66. The burger stand was built in 1947.

The features of Irv’s Burgers that were determined to define its character included its corrugated roof, open patio and lunch counter and a large sign that now says “Irv’s Burgers.” The Beach Nation proposal included restoring the corrugated roof and keeping a sign identifying the building as a burger stand. But several Commission members questioned whether other changes would integrate the burger stand into Beach Nation so much that it would lose its separate identity.

“If you want to make cohesive site here, you don’t do it by trying to make Irv’s into Beach Nation,” said Commissioner Edward Levin. [...]

The Hong family, owners of Irv’s Burgers, were evicted last year by Standard Oil Investment Management, the owner of the lot on which both Beach Nation and the burger stand sit. Standard Oil had proposed increasing the Hong’s rent from $4,250 to $7,000 a month and making them pay for improvements to bring the property up to city building standards.

WeHoNews also has a more acerbic take on the Irv’s building situation.

Irv’s originally was a Queen’s Burgers stand in 1950. The original building stands empty at 8289 Santa Monica Blvd. George Motz, host of the Travel Channel’s “Burger Land,” has cited Irv’s as having one of the best burgers in the country.

A few commissioners questioned the decision to designate Irv’s a cultural resource. Regardless, it shows once such a designation is bestowed, it’s hard to weasel out of it, no matter how much clout or money Standard Oil Investment has.

Meanwhile, the Hongs’ newly relocated restaurant continues to draw crowds and raves for its food and hospitality. If one believes in karma, it seems to be working in this situation.

Historic preservation on Route 66 remains important, but it’s the people who give the indelible memories.

(Hat tip to Scott Piotrowski; image of the original Irv’s Burgers by Ben K. Adams via Flickr)

Pops opens a stand at the Tulsa airport September 6, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Food, Gas stations, Restaurants.
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In addition to its flagship location on Route 66 in Arcadia, Oklahoma, and a satellite location at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Pops in recent days opened a new location inside Tulsa International Airport.

The report from KOTV in Tulsa:

News9.com – Oklahoma City, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports |

Unless you’re a passenger on a flight there, don’t go looking to go there, however.

It’s past the security checkpoint, near Concourse A. [...]

Even though this Pops is smaller, it still features the best flavors you’ll find at the original store in Arcadia.

The original Pops in Arcadia features a restaurant, gas station, convenience store, and more than 500 types of soda. In less than a decade, it’s become a major Route 66 landmark.

(Image of the soda display at Pops in Arcadia, Oklahoma, by Matt Grimm via Flickr)

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