Kip’s Big Boy

Company History:
The history of the Big Boy Chain is a long and complicated one, but the basics of it 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 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 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. 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, major differences existed between Big Boy chains. Generally the only guaranteed connecting factor was the burger and the name. The entire state of Texas was assigned to the Kip’s Big Boy Franchise. Also operating in Oklahoma, and Kansas; Kip’s mostly 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, due to a string of robberies as the area shifted. Kip’s however would survive all the way up until 1995 when the Pasadena location would close.

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 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 the second Dot Diner 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 2020. 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 1994, when the contents of the store were sold at auction. The restaurant would sit vacant until Frank’s Grill opened in 2004.

List of Locations

Address
Notes
5111 Griggs Rd Houston, TX 770211965-1978 Building new in 1965, required demolishing a closed restaurant named Golden Hour. After closing converted to a few unsuccessful clubs, then demolished for a beauty supply store. Now location of Alice McKean Young Library
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. Slightly updated, but still looks like a Big Boy
7705 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 770631974-1989 Converted into Doneraki Mexican Restaurant, Demolished 2016 for new center.

27 comments

  1. Great Family. Fred’s wife was Shorty Leake Bell. 4 of them died in a plane crash in 70’s coming from the Bahamas. Fred, Shorty , Harry Leake (her brother and his wife) Fred had a heart attack. Funeral was at St Monica’s Catholic Church. Dallas Tx. They had Fredda, Linda and Freddy JR. The other key driving person on MGMT was William Lamar Crozier. The Best General Manager of Fred Bell Enterprises. I worked there 1962-68. I know. Jerry.

  2. We used to eat at the the one on Westheimer all the time. Usually after concerts at the Summit. I think around 1984 was the last time i went so it was already in its final years then.

  3. I remimber going to Kip’s Big Boy in Fort Worth, it was my all time favorite place to eat.
    I sure wish we could get them to let us get a Texas franchise going again.

  4. I think there really is a demand nation wide for the “revival” of the Bob’s Big Boy family of restaurant and locations are needed. I worked for Marc’s Big Boy #1 on W. Capital Dr. in the sixties while in high school as a dishwasher and then line cook and learned a lot about food service that will always stay with me. I continued from Milwaukee WS to the Okla. City area and was hired in a new large Kip’s Big Boy recently opened located at SW 59th and S. Western Ave. in OKC. Again I was privileged to get hired as a dishwasher by store mgr. Danny W. and I was assigned to Daryl W. on the busiest night shift experience ever! Soon I was elevated to the line cook position again and after two weeks I joined the Manager Trainee Program designed by Bob Wian (president Bob’s Big Boy CA) and Tom Holman Sr. (then a 20 year exec. with Bob) and I was glad and proud to be a Kip’s manager trainee working my way into a possible management position. Within 24 months working at Kip’s and often enough in several local locations and learning and enjoying my career choice I was promoted to shift manager and with a white shirt and black bow tie and worked the unit shifts in OKC area Kip’s Stores and while working in the Kip’s #1 Unit on 32nd and N. May Ave. I was promoted to Unit Manager got a great raise and more responsibility. I was not sure I was ready for that job but steadily and sure with great patience and friends like Tom Holman and Tom Jr. Bucky Reed (franchise partner) Andy House, Jerry and Alex O., and others I settled in as the youngest Unit Manager at Kip’s and known of in the Bob’s Franchised Units. I was sent to a new Kip’s Big Boy restaurant #4 on Air Depot Blvd. in Midwest City, OK (suburb of OKC) to run the unit. I had a great and challenging experience and learned continualy to be the best manager I could be by working example and actions and being open minded to all issues known and unknow in the business. One of Tom Holman and Bucky Reeds lead by example “policies” was to employees always be Friendly,Fair, and Firm and no judgemental!Thanks!
    I will respond to any and all emails from interested people. MarkGelhaarGelhaar[at]Gmail Retired Now by stay busy! Happy 2021!!!

  5. As a kid growing up in Shawnee, Oklahoma, my grandmother would take me downtown Shawnee to have A Kips Big Burger. The room was Retro Red with a Record player if you put a quarter in in each booth it would play your favorite song. The Red Sparkle Booths and the Retro tables. The Kips Mascot with the hamburger in his hand standing proudly outside. The hamburgers were the biggest and the sesame seed buns the biggest. The taste of the hamburger was Great. The day I spent with my Grandmother back then was special to me. Lunch at Kips Big Burgers and then shopping downtown Shawnee with her. I miss Kips Big Burgers living in Omaha, NE. There was one in Gretna Nebraska, I know because my boyfriends house now my husband lived in Gretna and we would drive right by it on the way to his house. I wish you would build a Kips Big Burger in Omaha on 73rd and Q st, that would make my day. Hope you will consider it.

    1. Not that I’m aware of. Texas was exclusively Kip’s territory, what time period do you remember it being there?

  6. I used to eat at Kipps on Griggs Road and Southpark across from Palms Center in the 60’s to 70’s.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

      1. Yes, Mike I have some personal photos and articles from Kip’s Big Boy Restaurants in OK, TX, and KS. I also have much Big Boy memorabilia items. I have original Big Boy statue figures of various sizes, Dolly and kids toy items and many original Big Boy famous comic books handed out to most patrons at all Big Boy Family restaurants including the franchised units in all the U.S. locations. I have some jewelery, watches, and pins, awards, and gift items with “Big Boy” licensed “Logo” on many of the items. I have personal gifts given to me from Kip’s owner/s and immediate family members through the years. Many have special memories of times past and events experienced when I worked for Kip’s Big Boy from my late teens through my mid thirties. I have a special Bob’s Big Boy historical record and famous book issue. I have reams of computer info,reports, and articles about many franchise activities, etc. Thanks for your interest. Mark Gelhaar

  9. 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!

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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…

  12. I remember my dad and I would eat at the one near hobby where he had his little 2 seater cessna tied down. Happy times!

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