Kip’s Big Boy

The history of the Big Boy Chain is long and complicated, but its basics are as follows: The original idea for Big Boy comes from Bob Wian. He developed the concept and named his restaurant Bob’s Big Boy. The chain had a diner-style menu serving both sandwiches and more complicated affairs such as the shrimp dinner. Though the signature dish was easily the Big Boy Hamburger. This includes a sesame seed bun, special sauce, and two beef patties separated by a piece of bread. Sound familiar? Invented in 1937 the Big Boy was the inspiration for the Big Mac (also providing half the name) among many other similar burgers across many chains. Bob had some chain experience in the way of operating a Pig Stand. The concept took off quickly, and Bob found himself approached by more potential franchisees than he knew what to do with. A concept that he was not supportive of. This led to Bob focusing on licensing rather than franchising. He would end up choosing a small set of franchisees for broad regions of the United States and allowed those franchisees to grant sub-franchises. In 1958 Texas’ franchises were granted to a Houston native, Fred Bell, who was living in Dallas at the time.

The 3839 Westheimer location, was converted to a Dot Coffee Shop after Kip’s closed. This photo was taken shortly after Dot had closed but prior to demolition in early 2000. The “steaks, shake, & pancakes” signage would be adopted by other Dot Coffee Shop locations and is still used as of 2019. Photo by: David Bravenec

The idea was that Bell would help franchise new Kip’s restaurants to owners in other parts of Texas. An early member of what was called the Big Boy System, Kip’s was mostly aligned with Bob’s only making a few regional changes to the menu. Bell opened Kip’s first Texas location in 1958 immediately after being granted rights to do so. By 1965 Kip’s was up to 7 locations in Dallas, and 4 in Fort Worth. In March 1965 Bell announced plans to bring the restaurant to his hometown. Within a few weeks, the location of the first Houston store would be set at the corner of South Park (MLK) and Griggs, taking the place of a former lumber yard. The first Houston Kip’s would open only a few months later in August. The quick turnaround on the restaurant necessitated flying in a crew from Dallas to support the local staff who were still in the process of being hired. Mr. Bell also noted that Kip’s plans in Houston were to continue expanding. He immediately announced a second location in Bellaire and stated that the company soon announce more Houston locations.

This advertisement from 1966 uses a promotional image previously used to advertise the Grigg’s location. Notice the use of the Steaks Shakes and Pancakes signage. Source: The Bellaire & Southwestern Texan

In February 1966 The Bellaire location became the second in Houston to open. From here, it seems that the expansion operations of Kip’s Coffee Shops as they were officially known took a pause in Houston, opting instead to build a store in Dallas the next year. Nevertheless, Kip’s would then build another Houston store by 1968, this one in Highland Village at the corner of Westheimer and Weslayan. From the surface it seemed that Houston operations were going great. However, the truth was a bit different, the knowledge that Bell had of his home town was somewhat dated. He was picking locations which had been hot spots, but were quickly changing during the suburban exodus of the 60s. To help combat this, the next location planned in 1969 would be at Westheimer and Hillcroft in the Weingarten Shopping Center. While this isn’t “truly suburban” by modern day standards, it was on the edge of town back then. However, the existing stores seemed to have a constant issue with robbery no matter the location. The 4th location, which was planned to open in 1970, was pushed back with construct finally starting in May of that year. During the delay Kip’s hadn’t neglected on expanding, opening 4 locations in the DFW area. The fourth Houston Kip’s would finally open in January 1971. This location would also be the “final true Kip’s” to open in the chain. As just over a year later, Frisch’s would purchase the Kip’s Big Boy locations in Texas. The sale was amicable on both sides, as Bell planned to soon retire, and Frisch’s was in the market for expansion. Frisch’s noted that they would also pursue a more aggressive plan for expansion. Through this sale Frisch’s had also purchased rights to chain within Texas, meaning they could potentially expand to other cities. While Bell had the opportunity to expand to other cities through franchising, it seems this never came to pass.

After the 1972 purchase, the chain sat dormant for the next year. Although not published this is likely related to the 1973 Oil Crisis, which caused massive economic instability, especially in cities tied to the oil dollar, like Houston and Dallas. However, by 1974 expansion would begin again, and Pasadena would have honor of the first Frisch built Big Boy to open in Texas, although it should be noted, that the chain never used the Frisch’s name publically, sticking with Kip’s. The same year, Dallas would also receive two restaurants. Over the next few years DFW would receive three more restaurants with none for Houston. In 1977 while vacationing in the Bahamas Fred Bell, his wife, and another couple they were flying with passed away, after a plane which Bell was piloting crashed. At the time Fred Bell Enterprises had kept on Kip’s era employees and had been expanding into the autocare market, eventually purchasing the Houston-based Brake Check chain which they still own as of 2022. Meanwhile, A more pressing downfall for Kip’s during this time was the closure of the Grigg’s location. While no official reasoning was given, it likely had to do with continued determination of the era. After the restaurant closed, it would rotate through a few clubs and bars, before being demolished. At this point it seemed inmentn that Big Boy was going to give up on Houston. However, a few months later in 1978, a new Kip’s location popped up off the Gulf Freeway and Monroe. A few miles away from the Grigg’s location it seems that this store was meant to serve as a successor to Houston’s first location. Over the next few years, no movement would be made by Frisch’s in Texas.

However, around 1983 a development was made, and drive-thru service was added to Frisch’s in Texas the Kip’s locations would be retrofitted where possible to include a drive-thru. Around this time some of the earliest restaurants would also end up closing as their properties were redeveloped, with around 1-2 year being the average. In 1989, the first new Kip’s in a decade would open, with Frisch’s building a more modern designed location outside the Forum Mall in Arlington. The new store was completely up to modern standards including a built in drive-thru. While Frisch’s hoped for success, it was obvious that this was not found, by the end of the decade Kip’s was down to 10 locations throughout the state. At the same time, issues with the Big Boy system as a whole, and the increased popularity of fast food, led Big Boy to fall far behind the competition. In 1990 Frisch’s let their managers know that they were planning to shut down the restaurants by the end of the year. According to the Houston manager, Stan McFerrin, he was offered the opportunity to buy all the restaurants in the state, or simply just those in Houston, which had dropped to 4 after the Westheimer and Hillcroft location closed in 1989. McFerrin would only buy two of the locations, due to his home store being the Pasadena location. He would pick up the Gulf Freeway store, leaving Bellaire and Highland Village to close. The Bellaire location would soon be demolished, however Dot Coffee Shop would purchase the Highland Village store, and continue to operate it using many of the Kip’s elements in place. They would even adopt the use of “Steak Shake and Pancakes” from Kip’s era Big Boys into their existing restaurants. During this time a group of manager also purchased some of the remaining Dallas stores, however they would quickly transition them to Denny’s branding. McFerrin on the other hand would stick with Kip’s making his locations, the last remaining in Texas. He would finally shut his stores in 1994, due to issues with finding employees.

Location List

Store No
Address
Notes
2415704 Lemmon Ave, Dallas, TX 752091958-1983, Demolished
2422600 S Zang Blvd, Dallas, TX 752241961-1991, Later Denny's, Demolished for La Michoacana ~2015
2435706 E Mockingbird Ln, Dallas, TX 752061962-1984, Demolished
244425 E Main St, Grand Prairie, TX 750501962-1991, Later Denny's, Most Recently Agua Azul Seafood
2456540 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 761161962-1986 Demolished?
2461523 S University Dr, Fort Worth, TX 761071963-1991 Later Denny's, Demolished around 2010
2476833 W Northwest Hwy, Dallas, TX 752251964-1991 Demolished
2715111 Griggs Rd Houston, TX 770211965-1977 After closing converted to a few unsuccessful clubs, then demolished for a beauty supply store. Now location of Alice McKean Young Library
2725320 Bellaire Blvd Bellaire, TX 774011966-1990 Demolished to build headquarters of Citizens National Bank.
2486215 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 752141967-1983 Demolished, Bank of America
2733839 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 770271968-1988 Converted into Dot Coffee Shop, Demolished 2001 for Central Market.
2498687 N Central Expy, Dallas, TX 752251968-1987 Inside North Park Mall #207
2503789 W Northwest Hwy, Dallas, TX 752201969-1979 Demolished
2513725 Forest Ln, Dallas, TX 752441969-1989 Demolished
252500 W Belt Line Rd, Richardson, TX 750801970-1989 Demolished
2747705 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 770631971-1989 Converted into Doneraki Mexican Restaurant, Demolished 2016 for new center.
2753807 Spencer Hwy Pasadena, TX 775041974-1994 Sat vacant until Frank's Grill opened in 2004. Slightly updated, but still looks like a Big Boy
2532235 S Buckner Blvd, Dallas, TX 752271974-1991 Later Denny's, Demolished
2542945 N Buckner Blvd, Dallas, TX 752281974-1989 Demolished, Where Sonic is
2553330 Belt Line Rd, Farmers Branch, TX 752341975-1989 Still Standing, "The Diner" Restaurant, Still looks like Kips from exterior
2567754 Grapevine Hwy, North Richland Hills, TX 761801976-1992 Demolished?
5006616 Forest Park Rd, Dallas, TX 752351976-1989 Demolished
2768520 Gulf Fwy Houston, TX 770171978-1994 Converted into Omega Family Restaurant. Now Mannie's Seafood Restaurant.
2573002 E Pioneer Pkwy, Arlington, TX 760101989-1991 Outparcel of the Forum Mall, Later Denny's, Still Standing, Highly Modified Liqour Store

83 comments

  1. ….it was originally Kip’s Big Boy. Then they changed it to Vip’s and later took away the Big Boy. Then it became the Clock. Johnny Weissmuller was hired to sign autographs at the grand opening.
    8409 DYER STREET, El Paso, Texas

  2. Fred Bell would not let OKLA , NOR KANSAS USE THE KIP’S NAME,…OKLA USED VIP’S– PERIOD!!

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