JB's Big Boy

812 S. Minnesota Avenue
On June 18, 1974 Sioux Falls' first Big Boy restaurant opened at 812 South Minnesota Avenue. It would be followed the next year by a location at the Empire Plaza mall. Both of these burger joints would be gone in late 1979.
The Big Boy restaurant chain was started in 1936 by Bob Wian in Glendale, CA. The original establishment, a hamburger stand called Bob’s Pantry, did well and became Bob’s, Bob’s Drive In, Bob’s - Home of the Big Boy Hamburger, and then Bob’s Big Boy. The Big Boy hamburger was the signature dish at Bob’s. It was created in February of 1937, when a local big band asked for “something special” to wow its members. Wian did not disappoint, returning from the kitchen with a double-decker burger that nearly fell over. Bob called it “the special” for a while before settling on a name. Legend has it that while Bob was trying to come up with a name for the special, six-year-old Richard Woodruff walked into Bob’s restaurant. Wian greeted him with “Hello, big boy!”, and a lightbulb went off. Wian would use Woodruff as a model for the restaurant’s mascot.
An ad from JB's Big boy printed in January, 1975, the familiar chubby mascot delivering your food.
The Big Boy hamburger changed over the years, but always consisted of a three-layer bun, two beef patties, special sauce, American cheese, and lettuce. The rules of the franchise dictated that the bun needed to be 1 1/2” thick at the bottom, 3/4” in the middle, and the patties had to consist of 1/4 pound of beef together. The requirements of the beef content were allowed to change over the years as beef prices rose and availability wavered during World War II.

Sioux Falls has had two run-ins with Bob’s Big Boy invention. The first was in May of 1956, when the Town ’N Country at 2104 W. 12th Street transitioned from a cafe model to a drive-in. The restaurant offered a Bill’s Big Boy hamburger for 50¢. Bill would be Bill Wilson, who owned the Town ’N Country. He must’ve been able to license the recipe for the Big Boy without turning the whole restaurant into a Big Boy-branded enterprise. Advertisements for the burger showed the familiar chubby mascot. The Big Boy was sold there until at least 1962.
The second run-in was JB’s Big Boy, which opened in 1974. Part of the franchise latitude given by Big Boy was the ability to personally brand stores for their owners. JB was Jack Broberg, from Provo, Utah. He’d seen Bob’s operation when he attended college in California, and thought it’d go over well in Provo, where many from southern California attended Brigham Young University. Business boomed, and Broberg began to acquire franchisee’s locations around him, including Vip’s, Leo’s, Kebo’s, Bud’s, and Bob’s of Arizona. In September, 1971, he expanded into South Dakota, starting in Rapid City. The Aberdeen location opened in April, 1973. Next up was the opening of South Dakota’s third JB’s Big Boy at 812 S. Minnesota Avenue in Sioux Falls. The restaurant was announced in December of 1973 when it was under construction. It was expected to open in April or May of the following year. The building would measure around 5,000 square feet and have seating for 100 at a cost of $160,000. JB’s was expected to employ 40 and to be open from 6:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with hours extended to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays.
Manager Keith Garry returns to work after the birth of his first child to find the familiar Big Boy mascot decked out in a diaper.
JB’s Big Boy opened June 18, 1974, a little late, but worth the wait. This was the 42nd JB’s, though there were around 700 other Big Boy restaurants controlled by 26 different corporations. Big Boy served breakfast until 11:30 a.m. and appealed to children with its Little Boy Hamburger, a free birthday club membership, and a free comic.

In September of 1975, the Empire Plaza Mall opened. JB’s Big Boy in the mall opened shortly after the mall’s grand opening with the familiar chubby mascot adorning the hallway near the restaurant’s entrance.

By November, 1979, both JB’s Big Boys in town had pulled up stakes and left. JB’s would continue on and eventually sue to leave the Big Boy franchise. The Rapid City location carried on for years to come. In April of 1980, a new Arby’s opened in the spot on Minnesota Avenue that once held JB’s Big Boy. The location at 812 South Minnesota became home to Beckman-Zea Real Estate in 1984, In 1991, Metro Personnel Service moved in, and Viereck Commercial Real Estate in 1999. All very necessary businesses, but sadly devoid of delicious meals. On April 14, 2010, Dan Viereck moved his offices to 57th and Cliff, selling the land to Dan Hudson, Taco Bell franchise owner. Hudson's latest Taco Bell location opened on December 15, 2010. The location across the street closed at the time.

Big Boy restaurants still exist today. The closest one is in Bismarck, North Dakota, but otherwise, there are several clustered in Michigan, California, Nevada, and Ohio.