So if anyone out there has never experienced a Kewpee burger you have never experienced the best burger ever!!! Today we took Aaron to the downtown original Kewpee in Lima to experience the ambiance. They were not busy when we were there which was kind of nice because we were able to talk a bit to some of the counter ladies and found out that it is a small world after all! (Sing with me!) One of the ladies we talked to had lived in the upstairs of a house that Chris’s great grandmother had rented out for awhile and she remembered the family —like I said—small world.
Anyway, it was a great meal and we topped it off with a slice of raisin pie to share which was yummy. I will post what Wikipedia has to say about it below:
Kewpee Hamburgers is the second known chain of hamburger fast-food restaurants, and was founded in 1923 in Flint, Michigan under the name “Kewpee Hotel Hamburgs”. Kewpee’s current headquarters is located in Lima, Ohio. The chain is named after the Kewpie doll. Kewpee was one of the first to institute curbside service, which morphed into drive-in service, and then finally was transformed into drive-thru service. Its founder, Samuel V. Blair, also claims to be the first to use the flat bun and developed the “deluxe” hamburger.
Their advertising slogan is: Hamburg pickle on top, makes your heart go flippity-flop! While an earlier slogan was: “Mity Nice Hamburger”.
Kewpee Hamburgers is a chain of fast-food restaurants founded in 1923 in Flint, Michigan by Samuel V. Blair under the name “Kewpee Hotel Hamburgs”. At its peak, before World War II, there were more than 400 Kewpee restaurants in operation with half closing during the Great Depression. The early Kewpees were not franchises and there was no group association. Each differently-owned Kewpee had its own menu with their own different style of hamburger. A later attempt at a franchise agreement lead to some Kewpees closing or changing names leaving even fewer Kewpee restaurants around.
Kewpee began operating out of a wagon then from a location on Harrison Street Downtown Flint. In Lansing, Michigan, the Weston family has owned and operated the Kewpees restaurant since it opened in 1923. The Weston family has had as many as two Kewpee restaurants open at one time in Lansing. The Westons are in their fourth generation of operating Kewpee. Kewpee’s early plans under Blair and Adams seem to stay out of major city. After Prohibition, some Kewpee restaurants add real beer to its staple of root beer, which was on many Kewpee menus joining the standard coffee of other hamburger chains. In 1928, the Lima, Ohio location opens under the ownership of Stub Wilson. In 1936, a Kewpee location is already located in Findlay, Ohio, so Stub Wilson opens a restaurant called Wilson’s Sandwich Shop.
Blair upon his retirement on April 1, 1944 started renting the original location. Blair died in 1945 and licenses continued to lease the location and paid royalties for use of the Kewpee name from the estate until the Kewpee trademark went up for sale in 1955 and Blair estate owned locations went up for sale in 1958. The original location and the rights to the Kewpee were split up in sale with the original location going to leasor William “Bill” V. Thomas while the trademark went to Ed F. Adams’s Kewpee Hotels partnership of Toledo, Ohio
Ed Adams’ partnership, Kewpee Hotels transferred the Kewpee trademark to Kewpee Hotel Systems, Inc. in 1965. of which Ed Adams was president. The number of Kewpee locations dropped considerably in 1967 when the Kewpee Hotel Systems, Inc. demanded a full franchising arrangement and a percentage of the profits. The locations which objected either closed or changed their names. The original Flint location changed its name to Bill Thomas’ Halo Burger which is still a thriving business, but not at the original location which was torn down in 1979. Hortense M. Adams took over as president of Kewpee Hotel System, Inc. by March 1975. In August 1985, a Kewpee International partnership, (later most likely incorporated as Kewpee of Toledo) lead by former Kewpee Hotel System Vice President Robert L. Dane, purchase the Kewpee rights from Kewpee Hotel System, Inc. The Kewpee, Inc. forms in 1969 by Harold J., James F. and Richard E. Meredith based in Lima, Ohio. “The Kewpee, Inc. of Toledo” assigns the trademark of Kewpee to the “The Kewpee, Inc.”
According to a 2001 interview with Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, as a child, he lived near the intersection of Douglas and Kalamazoo Avenue in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Thomas used to love eating at a Kewpee restaurant, which stood at Burdick and South. He said it’s what inspired him to go into the business. Kewpee’s sold square hamburgers and thick malt shakes, much like that famous restaurant that Thomas eventually founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1969.