|Founded||Flint, Michigan, U.S., (1923)|
|Founder(s)||Samuel V. Blair|
|Headquarters||Lima, Ohio, United States|
|Number of locations||5 Restaurants (2010)
|Area served||Midwest United States|
|Key people||Harrison E. Shutt, President
Myrna Shutt, VP
Scott Shutt, VP & GM
|Products||Fast food, including hamburgers, french fries, pies, and Frozen Malts|
|Revenue||$6+ million (2009)|
|Owner(s)||Harrison E. Shutt|
Kewpee Hamburgers is the second known chain of hamburger fast-food restaurants, 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. The Lima Kewpee locations have locally raised, boneless beef delivered daily to each Kewpee restaurant.
In Lansing, Michigan, the Weston family has owned and operated the Kewpee's 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 seemed to stay out of major city. After Prohibition, some Kewpee restaurants added 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 Hoyt “Stub” Wilson. About 200 Kewpee locations existed by 1929. In 1936, with a Kewpee already located in Findlay, Ohio, Wilson opened a restaurant there called Wilson's Sandwich Shop. At its peak just before World War II, there were more than 400 Kewpee restaurants in operation.
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 leaser William "Bill" V. Thomas while the trademark went to Ed F. Adams's Kewpee Hotels partnership of Toledo, Ohio. About 1958, Harrison "Harry" E. Shutt goes to work for Wilson at his Lima restaurant. In 1963, the Grand Rapids licensee locations are sold and separated from Kewpee as Mr. Fables.
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) led by former Kewpee Hotel System Vice President Robert L. Dane, purchased 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 Kewpee, Inc." Shutt becomes president in 1970 of Kewpee, Inc. and purchase's Wilson's Lima location upon Wilson's death in 1980.
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 was 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.
Their advertising slogan is: Hamburg pickle on top, makes your heart go flippity-flop!
- Earlier Slogans
There are five known remaining Kewpee restaurants, as follows:
- Kewpee Sandwich Shoppe, Lansing, Michigan
- Kewpee Sandwich Shop, Racine, Wisconsin
- Whit Smyth (2010-01-24). "Kewpee Hamburgers - Lima, Ohio". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
- "Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame Inductee". Lima City Schools. Retrieved 2008-06-03.
- Hogan, David Gerard (1997). Selling 'em by the Sack: White Castle and the Creation of American Food (1st ed.). NYU Press. p. 50. ISBN 0-8147-3567-3. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- Jack Schaberg. "Dining Delights". Lansing Business Monthly Magazine. The Greater Lansing Business Monthly, Inc. Retrieved 2008-06-03.[dead link]
- Mike Lackey (2008-05-24). "Final words (maybe) on a few recent topics". Lima Ohio.com. Freedom Communications, Inc. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
- Rauschert, Jeff (2010-12-28). "Halo Burger to be sold by Thomas family to Dortch Enterprises". NBC 25 News. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
- Ed F. Adams (1965-05-13). "Assignment of Registration". Business Filing Information. Ohio Secretary of State. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- Rademacher, Tom (September 11, 2008). "Sorry, folks, I can't pry loose the Fables secret". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
- Ed F. Adams (1965-05-17). "Trademark Renewal Application". Business Filing Information. Ohio Secretary of State. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- Christy Ryan (2008-04-21). "Halo Burger reluctant to leave in fall" (shtml). Michigan Times (Flint, Michigan: University of Michigan-Flint). Retrieved 2008-06-02.
- Hortense M. Adams (1975-03-25). "Trademark Renewal Application". Business Filing Information. Ohio Secretary of State. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- Robert L. Dame (1985-08-15). "Trademark Assignment". Business Filing Information. Ohio Secretary of State. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- "Articles of Incorporation". State of Ohio. 1969-11-17. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- "Assignment of Trademark". State of Ohio. 1985-12-12. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- "Wendy's Founder, Dave Thomas, and the Kalamazoo Kewpee". WWMT. Freedom Broadcasting of Michigan, Inc. 2002-01-08. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- "NRN 50: All-American Icons". Nation’s Restaurant News. Jan. 25 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
- "City Council honors Kewpee". The Lima News. February 22, 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
- Kewpee, Lima OH MySpace page
- Kewpee Sandwich Shop, Racine, Wisconsin official web site
- Kewpee Sandwich Shoppe, Lansing MI official web site
- A Tasty Part of Flint History