MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — Big Boy is back and it looks like area residents couldn’t wait for the restaurant’s return.
Big Boy’s Burgers and Shakes opened for business Tuesday at 1288 SOM Center Road, selling once again its beloved burgers with special white sauce and the ice cream cake treat once known as (and soon to be known again as) the Sweetie Pie.
Opening day customers couldn’t wait to again sample the foods many of them knew when they were youngsters.
“Today was our first day and at 9:30 (a.m.), a half-hour before we opened, there were seven people waiting outside,” said Chief Marketing Officer Dave Crawford. “There was one guy who said he drove two hours to get here. He said he was glad we weren’t closer to his home or he’d be eating here every day.”
Then, pointing to the line of people that stretched from the counter to the store’s entrance, Crawford said, “It’s been like this all day.”
Unlike Big Boy’s from the past, this one is not a stand-alone building. It is located in a retail strip, across from Eastgate Shopping Center, in a storefront that last housed Menchies Frozen Yogurt.
It joins Big Boy restaurants in Valley View and Cleveland as the only ones in the area.
“We thought since we were opening this one,” Crawford said, “we would spend money on the other ones. We completely remodeled the Brookpark location (12920 Brookpark Road) at over $1 million, and put about a half-million dollars into the Valley View location (7800 Granger Road).”
Big Boy’s comeback to the far east side comes with a few changes.
“This is our first fast food casual restaurant,” Crawford said. “We’re not selling breakfast here. We’re specializing in burgers.”
Customers will have the opportunity to select from several items and build their own burger, for $6.99, or order the well-remembered Big Boy sandwich, officially known as “The 1936 Original Double Decker.”
An immediate “yes” was the answer from Mary Jane Murray, of Mayfield Heights, and her daughter, Terese Pece, of Mayfield Village, when asked if double deckers they had just eaten tasted just as they once did.
For many in the store on opening day, Big Boy wasn’t only about the food, it’s about the memories. There were once several of the drive-in variety Big Boys in the area from the 1950s to the 1970s.
“I couldn’t wait until they opened again,” Murray said. “I was a car hop when I was 16 at Big Boy. All the cars would park there and turn on their lights. This was 1955-56.”
Pece remembered coming home for lunch with her brother as an elementary school student to her South Euclid home.
“On our way back (to the old Victory Elementary School),” she said, “we’d get a Sweetie Pie at the Big Boy at Mayfield and Warrensville (Center Road).”
Pece was at first disappointed that Sweetie Pies were no longer part of the menu, but was later informed that they were, under the name of “Hot Fudge Ice Cream Cake.”
Big Boy management, aware of the attachment local people had to Sweetie Pies, say the name will be changed back to its former moniker.
“People have also been asking for onion rings,” Crawford said. “We’re concentrating on french fries. That was my mistake.”
Crawford said onion rings could soon be on the menu, as people remember.
The new Big Boy’s Burgers and Shakes features a kids’ menu, and, as its name implies, lots of milk shake flavors, from peanut butter and jelly to birthday cake, and the old standbys chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. There are also several varieties of sundaes.
The menu also includes salads, veggy patties and chicken tenders.
“Manners was known a long time ago for its chicken,” Crawford said, referring to the name by which local Big Boys were known.
Just as it did with the special sauce, Big Boy went back about 60 years to recreate the breaded chicken recipe that was once used at Manners’ Big Boys. Crawford said Big Boy’s current ownership is dedicated to using authentic former recipes.
Big Boy was founded in 1936 in Glendale, Cal. Locally and nationally it has undergone several ownership changes. Elias Brothers owned Big Boys into the 1980s. Since that time, the number of its restaurants has dwindled.
Crawford said plans under Liggett call for expansion. It is expected that a Big Boy will open sometime this year in Strongsville. Solon, Mentor, Avon and Rocky River are also being considered for future locations.
Manager of the local store, Keiren Powers, said he knew people were ready to accept Big Boy back in the days leading up to the restaurant’s opening.
“From the first day our sign went up, people were stopping to take pictures of it,” he said.
A grand opening is being planned for sometime in the spring. For that event, Crawford said, attempts will be made to include a member of the Manners family.
Crawford said Big Boy is committed to using local suppliers when possible. Although it makes its own ice cream, Big Boy does employ in its milk shakes some Pierre’s Ice Cream and, in its sandwiches, Orlando bread.
Any local supplier who wants to be considered by Big Boy can send an email to [email protected]
Big Boy is also looking for four charities it plans to support by making a donation for each milk shake sold. Interested charities can send an email to Associate Vice President of Marketing Julie Zurawka at [email protected]
The Mayfield Heights Big Boy will be open seven days per week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.