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Kewpee, Inc.
Company typePrivate corporation
IndustryFast Food
FoundedFlint, Michigan, U.S., (1923; 101 years ago (1923))
FounderSamuel V. Blair
United States
Number of locations
5 Restaurants (2022)
3 corporate
2 franchises
Area served
Midwest United States
Key people
  • Harrison E. Shutt (President[1]
  • Myrna Shutt (VP)
  • Scott Shutt (VP & GM)[2]
ProductsFast food, including hamburgers, french fries, pies, and Frozen Malts
Revenue$6+ million (2009)[2]
OwnerHarrison E. Shutt[2]
Kewpee in Racine, Wisconsin

Kewpee Hamburgers is the second oldest chain of hamburger fast-food restaurants, founded in 1923 in Flint, Michigan under the name "Kewpee Hotel Hamburgs".[2][3] Kewpee's current headquarters is located in Lima, Ohio.[2] The chain is named after the Kewpie doll.[2][4] Kewpee was one of the first to institute curbside service, which later morphed into a drive-in service, and then finally was transformed into drive-thru service.[2][3] The Lima Kewpee locations have locally raised beef delivered daily to each Kewpee restaurant.[2] The Kewpee Restaurant in Lima, Ohio is considered a historic site.


Kewpee Hamburgers is a chain of fast-food restaurants founded in 1923 in Flint, Michigan, by Samuel V. Blair[2] under the name "Kewpee Hotel" in a stand.[3] In 1926, Blair sold the rights to the Kewpee trademarks to Toledo, Ohio Kewpee Hotel operator Ed Adams.[5]

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.[4] Kewpee's early plans under Blair and Adams seemed to stay out of major cities. After Prohibition, some Kewpee restaurants added real beer to their staple of root beer, which was on many Kewpee menus joining the standard coffee offerings of other hamburger chains.[3] In 1928, the Lima, Ohio, location opened under the ownership of Hoyt “Stub” Wilson.[2][6] About 200 Kewpee locations existed by 1929.[3] In 1936, with a Kewpee already located in Findlay, Ohio, Wilson opened a restaurant there called Wilson's Sandwich Shop.[6] At its peak just before World War II, there were more than 400 Kewpee restaurants in operation.[3]

Blair, upon his retirement on April 1, 1944, started renting the original location. Blair died in 1945 and licensees continued to lease their locations and paid royalties for use of the Kewpee name from Adams. The Blair estate owned locations went up for sale in 1958. The original location was sold to leaser William "Bill" V. Thomas with Thomas paying license fees to Ed F. Adams's Kewpee Hotels partnership of Toledo, Ohio.[3][7][8] About 1958, Harrison "Harry" E. Shutt went to work for Wilson at his Lima restaurant.[1] In 1963, the Grand Rapids licensee locations were sold and separated from Kewpee as Mr. Fables.[9]

Ed Adams' partnership, Kewpee Hotels transferred the Kewpee trademark to Kewpee Hotel Systems, Inc. in 1965[8] of which Ed Adams was president.[10] 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,[7] but not at the original location which was torn down in 1979.[11] After Edwin Adams died in 1974, his widow Hortense M. Adams took over as president of Kewpee Hotel System, Inc. by March 1975.[12] In 1969, a Kewpee International partnership, (later most likely incorporated as Kewpee of Toledo) led by former Kewpee Hotel System Vice President Robert L. Dame, purchased the Kewpee rights from Kewpee Hotel System, Inc.[13] The Kewpee, Inc. was formed in 1969 by Harold J., James F. and Richard E. Meredith based in Lima, Ohio.[14] Upon the closing of Kewpee's operations in Toledo, the owner of Kewpee in Lima, Ohio acquired the Kewpee trademarks in 1985.[15] "The Kewpee, Inc. of Toledo" assigned the trademark of Kewpee to "The Kewpee, Inc."[16] Shutt became president in 1970 of Kewpee, Inc.[2] and purchased Wilson's Lima location upon Wilson's death[6] in 1980.[2]

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 the famous restaurant that Thomas eventually founded in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969.[2][17]

In January 2010, Kewpee was named to the National Restaurant News 50: All-American Icons list,[18] and the Lima City Council passed a resolution congratulating the company.[19]

A book about Kewpee's history titled Kewpee Hamburgers: A Mity Nice History became available on July 24, 2023.[20]


Their advertising slogan is: Hamburg pickle on top, makes your heart go flippity-flop![3]

Earlier Slogans
  • "Mity Nice Hamburger".[3]
  • "Your Granpappy ate here"
  • "We cater to all the folks"[2]
  • "Hamburg Pickle On Top! Makes Your Heart Go Flippity Flop!"


There are five remaining Kewpee restaurants. Three of these are in Lima, Ohio.

The Kewpee sign at the downtown Lima, Ohio, location
Kewpee in downtown Lima, Ohio
  • Kewpee Hamburgers Downtown – located in Lima, Ohio and also known as Kewpee Downtown, it opened under the ownership of Stub Wilson in 1928 as a Kewpee franchise.[21] The architecture of the Kewpee is Streamline Moderne, featuring porcelain enamel and stainless steel. The building was approved for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 but was marked as Owner Objection and does not appear on the register.[22]
  • Kewpee Hamburgers West
  • Kewpee Hamburgers East[2]

In addition, Racine, Wisconsin and Lansing, Michigan each have one Kewpee restaurant. The Lansing location is named Weston's Kewpee Sandwich Shop.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame Inductee". Lima City Schools. Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2008-06-03.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Whit Smyth (2010-01-24). "Kewpee Hamburgers - Lima, Ohio". Nation's Restaurant News. Archived from the original on 11 October 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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.
  4. ^ a b Jack Schaberg (October 1, 2005). "Dining Delights". Lansing Business Monthly Magazine. The Greater Lansing Business Monthly, Inc. Archived from the original on March 28, 2015. Retrieved 2008-06-03.
  5. ^ "Birth of a legend: Kewpee". 16 December 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Mike Lackey (2008-05-24). "Final words (maybe) on a few recent topics". Lima Freedom Communications, Inc. Retrieved 2008-06-10.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b Rauschert, Jeff (2010-12-28). "Halo Burger to be sold by Thomas family to Dortch Enterprises". NBC 25 News. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  8. ^ a b Ed F. Adams (1965-05-13). "Assignment of Registration". Business Filing Information. Ohio Secretary of State. Archived from the original on 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  9. ^ Rademacher, Tom (September 11, 2008). "Sorry, folks, I can't pry loose the Fables secret". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  10. ^ Ed F. Adams (1965-05-17). "Trademark Renewal Application". Business Filing Information. Ohio Secretary of State. Archived from the original on 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  11. ^ Christy Ryan (2008-04-21). "Halo Burger reluctant to leave in fall". Michigan Times. Flint, Michigan: University of Michigan-Flint. Archived from the original (shtml) on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  12. ^ Hortense M. Adams (1975-03-25). "Trademark Renewal Application". Business Filing Information. Ohio Secretary of State. Archived from the original on 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  13. ^ Robert L. Dame (1985-08-15). "Trademark Assignment". Business Filing Information. Ohio Secretary of State. Archived from the original on 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  14. ^ "Articles of Incorporation". State of Ohio. 1969-11-17. Archived from the original on 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  15. ^ "The Blade | Toledo's breaking news, sports, and entertainment watchdog".
  16. ^ "Assignment of Trademark". State of Ohio. 1985-12-12. Archived from the original on 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  17. ^ "Wendy's Founder, Dave Thomas, and the Kalamazoo Kewpee". WWMT. Freedom Broadcasting of Michigan, Inc. 2002-01-08. Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  18. ^ "NRN 50: All-American Icons". Nation’s Restaurant News. Jan 25, 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  19. ^ "City Council honors Kewpee". The Lima News. February 22, 2010. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  20. ^ "Kewpee Hamburgers: A Mity Nice History|Paperback".
  21. ^ Mike Lackey (2008-05-24). "Final words (maybe) on a few recent topics". Lima Freedom Communications, Inc. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  22. ^ Phyllis G. Hopkins (May 15, 1980). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form: Lima Multiple Resource Area" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-08-17.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]