A look into Houston's retail past

Kip’s Big Boy

Kip’s Big Boy

Company History:

The history of the Big Boy Chain is a long and complicated one, the basics of it though are as follows. The original idea for Big Boy comes from Bob Wian. He developed the original concept naming his restaurant Bob’s Big Boy. The chain had a diner style menu serving both Hamburgers are more complicated affairs such as the Shrimp Dinner. Though the signature dish was easily the Big Boy Hamburger. Which includes, a sesame seed bun, special sauce, two beef patties separated by another piece of bread. Sound familiar? Invented in 1937 the Big Boy was the inspiration for the Big Mac among many other similar burgers. The concept took off quickly, and Bob found himself approached by more potential franchisees than he knew what to do with. A concept which 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.

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

Houston History:

With Bob’s focus on licensing, as opposed to franchising, a large variety could be encountered between restaurants. Generally the only guaranteed connecting factor was the burger and the name. The entire state of Texas was part of the Kip’s Big Boy Franchise. Also operating in Oklahoma, and Kansas; Kip’s for the most part aligned themselves with Bob’s only adding a few extra items to the menu. Kip’s Texas locations began popping up first in Dallas during the early 1960s, and by the middle of that decade the expansion had moved to Houston. The first Houston location to open was at 5111 Griggs Road. The original restaurant was also the first to close, not making it into the 1980s. The building was demolished sometime during the early 2000s, and a small commercial center was built in its place, which was later demolished as well.

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

In 1966 The Bellaire location became the second to open. This location would eventually be demolished to build a bank. The Westheimer location was the third to be built, it was also one of the last to close as Kip’s. In the 1990s it was converted into a Dot Coffee Shop location, and was eventually demolished for Central Market. The Westheimer and Hillcroft location was eventually converted into a Mexican restaurant which was demolished in 2016 for a new strip center. Finally, this leaves us with the Gulf Freeway and Spencer Highway locations, both of which are still standing and operating as restaurants, as of 2019. The Spencer Highway Kip’s opened in 1974, and was the second to last to be built. It operated as a Kip’s up until 1995, at which point the contents of the store were sold at auction. The restaurant would sit vacant until Frank’s Grill opened in 2004.

Pasadena was the last of the three restaurants to be built. It resembles most other Big Boys of the time.

List of Locations

5111 Griggs Rd Houston, TX 770211965-1978 Originally a Restaurant Called Golden Hour. Later converted into a few unsuccessful clubs, then demolished.
5320 Bellaire Blvd Bellaire, TX 774011966-1990 Demolished to build headquarters of Citizens National Bank.
3839 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 770271968-1988 Converted into Dot Coffee Shop, Demolished 2001 for Central Market.
8520 Gulf Fwy Houston, TX 770171978-1994 Converted into Omega Family Restaurant. Now Mannie's Seafood Restaurant.
3807 Spencer Hwy Pasadena, TX 775041974-1994 Sat vacant until Frank's Grill opened in 2004.
7705 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 770631974-1989 Converted into Doneraki Mexican Restaurant, Demolished 2016 for new center.

Reader Comments

  1. Somewhere in the tangled Big Boy mess is Shoney’s, which we had a few of Houston in the 1990s. A lot of the Shoney’s in central Texas became Jim’s (which I lost the article that described it…) and the Jim’s in Houston became Champs…

  2. I remember the Kips Big Noy in Grand Prairie, Texas in the late 60’s. We lived in Irving. I think there wa one in Irving too but think it turned to Shoneys.

          1. Yes IRemember the One on Spencer & Now Frank’s Grill. I also Remember Shoney’s & they used Kips big Boy statue.

  3. Kip’s in TX (Houston Best!) was a great run for Fred Bell owner, and Mr. Bill Crozier his top man, operating a multitude of Kip’s Big Boy locations through out Texas. A true success story similar to Bob Wian in CA. Mr. Bell was a sharp and wise business man and had great compassion on all the staff and employees who shared the Kip’s Big Boy experience on the daily basis as employees and unit management. Fred Bell compensated his workers very well and everyone respected him immensely for who he was. His untimely demise still saddens many in Tx and the US.We miss Kip’s Big Boy!

    1. Glad to hear from someone who was around for Fred Bell. There’s lot of info about him online, most of it supporting what your saying. Please feel free to add anything else you’re willing to share!

  4. Mr. Fred Bell and his wife were very influential in the starting of Kip’s Big Boy Restaurants in Oklahoma. Mr. Tom W. Holman Sr. and his wife Pat Holman Knew and associated with Fred Bell and his wife (Linda, I think, maybe error) met in the fiftys in La, CA while Tom was still working for Bob Wian the originator and founder of Bob’s Big Boy in CA. Fred Bell and Tom agreed to use the name Kip’s for the OKLA. franchise (and KS) as it is a “catchy and likeable name) and would mean Kip’s would be seen and known in the Midwest and TX as recognized excellent “Big Boy Family Restaurants” in the US. It worked out as a positive thing for the “Bells” and “Holmans” until Marriot and a few others bought out,merged, and collapsed the Big Boy Restaurants national franchises and caused the majority of great Kip’s and other franchises to close. Today there are only a few “Big Boy Restaurants” remain compared to the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s . Bob Wian’s dream consisted of men like Fred Bell and Thomas W. Holman Sr. not only dedicated and hard working, but sharing success to all who worked with them.

    1. What a great write up on the folks behind Kip’s. I wonder if any original photos of Kip’s still exist. Everything I’ve been able to find has been secondary sources.

  5. I loved Kip’s Bog Boy and really miss them. I wish they could return to Houston.I really loved them. We need better burger competition.

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