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

42 comments

  1. We lived in the third ward and went to Kipp‘s on Griggs when they opened. My fondest memory was sitting at the counter on the stools because they wiggled and a nine-year-old can’t sit still. One day I was shaking a bottle of catch-up and didn’t know the top wasn’t on good. The man sitting to my left was not amused but what was he going to do to a little kid? I can remember the look on his face when his shirt was covered in catchup. Lol

  2. Wasn’t there a Kips in Dallas on Lemon Ave? Or somewhere near there back in the late 60’s…early 70’s?

    1. I worked in all five Houston area locations

      272 on Bellaire 1978 – 1982

      274 on Westhimer 1982 – 1983

      273 on Westhimer 1983 – 1984

      275 on Spencer Hyw 1984- 1986

      276 on Gulf Fwy 1986 – 1987

      It was wonderful

  3. 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.

    1. Our first Kips Big Boy was on Lemmon Ave. No 2 on Zangs Blvd In Oak Cliff. No 3 was on Mockingbird Ln. No 4 on Main St in Grand Prarie , No 5 was on Camp Bowie in FtWorth. No 6 was on University Blvd in Ft Worth. No 7 was on NWest Hiway Dallas. No 8 was on Gaston Ave. No 9 was on Beltline rd Richardson. Then we went to Houston Tx.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. That’s the Kip’s we used to go to in Fort Worth in 1968 and up.
      It was located on University Dr. across the street from Charlie Herald Ford and Jack Williams Chevrolet and Keller’s Drive In Hamburger.
      We loved that place.

  6. 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!!!

    1. They were called VIPS IN OKLAHOMA Kips we only has the State of Texas as a Franchise area. We called all cooks “Manager Trainees”. Never line coos. FYI.

  7. 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.

  8. Wasn’t there a Kip’s on Katy Freeway between the beltway and Gessner? Or was that a Bob’s Big Boy?

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

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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

        1. I would love to see everything you have. Obviously very special meaning for me as Fred Bell’s grandson!

    2. Hello Mark. Fred Bell was my Grandfather and it is nice to read comments from people who worked for him and remember him as such a good man. As a child growing up in Dallas my Grandmother, Mary Helen Bell, or “Shorty” as my Grandfather called her, would take us everywhere. And if course we visited Big Boy every week! My Grandparents were very kind and helped so many people around them. Family was very important to them and they were the glue that brought our large family together and it sounds like that included their employees as well. Tragically it all changed in 1977 when his Cessna crashed in the Bahamas and we lost them and my Aunt and Uncle. I still think of them often miss them. I have also considered reviving the Kip’s Big Boy restaurant chain in his honor.

      1. Hi Clay, it’s all a very interesting story, and this is by far one of my most popular pages. The Bells obviously made lots of impressions. Let me know if you revive the chain!

  12. Thank you so much for the kind words about my grandfather. He was truly a great man and missed dearly..

  13. 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!

    2. Mr. Gelhaar – it sounds as if you are a huge fan of the Big Boy, too! Although from the North – I am a huge collector of BB items. Care to chat about the collections? – or anything else, Big Boy?? I would love to learn more about Kip’s in TX. I recently relocated to Denver, CO – Azar’s BB was here.

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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…

  16. 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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