"...After all, there aren't many places like the R-B anymore. Mom-and-Pop diners that once dotted many a town across America are nearly extinct."
In Hutchinson, however, the 62-year old business still thrives. "This was the city's first drive-in" says Pamela Wheeler who runs the operation with her husband, Charles. "People come in thinking about the memories."
Her father and mother, Lawrence and Dorothy Burgess, started the R-B with Wheeler's uncle in 1948. Instead of bags, food was served on trays. Burgess took over the business a few years later. In 1984 when he decided to retire and put the diner up for sale, his daughter quickly stepped up. "I couldn't stand to see it leave the family," Wheeler says, noting she worked at the diner since age 7.
The 21st Century R-B still has carhops, but customers can order from the stainless steel counter inside and take a seat at a table. The menu includes items like burgers and pork tenderloins, as well as curly fries, breaded okra and ice cream. Many items are made from scratch, such as the hand-breaded mushrooms and homemade onion rings."
- Hutchinson Magazine, Spring 2010
"After being operated continuously for 68 years by the same local family, Hutchinson's iconic R-B Drive In has changed hands."
Kirk and Julia Johnson took over operation of the restaurant at 201 E. Ave. A on July 18, buying the establishment from Pam and Charles Wheeler.
There are no plans to change the restaurant, which features 18 parking stalls served by carhops, as well as seating for 18 people indoors at tables and along a stainless-steel counter... in fact, the goal is not to change it, but to preserve what many consider a local institution, Johnson said, as he hand-breaded pork tenders at the restaurant last week.
"It's something my wife, Julia, and I have a passion to do," Johnson continued. "We've both been raised to believe that we are caretakers. Whatever we touch, we should leave it better than we found it... and this place really belongs to the city of Hutchinson and all those customers over the years that have made it such a great place."
The business was founded in 1948 by Melvin Robinson and his nephew, Lawrence "Larry" Burgess -- thus the R-B.
At some point, Robinson left, and Larry's wife, Dorothy, joined the operation. In 1984, when they were ready to retire, the Burgesses sold the business to their daughter, Pam Wheeler, who had worked there for years.
"The Wheelers were ready to pass it on, but their criteria was a promise it would not change, that we'd take great care of their customers and carry their brand and reputation into the future," Johnson said. "Really, our intention is to pass it from one great family to another, to do our best to maintain and make it better going forward."
- Hutchinson News, July 2016