Now Here’s A Rabbit Hole: Hamburger Row on Kalamazoo’s Westnedge Ave
Boy, did I stumble upon a rabbit hole: Hamburger joints back in the 60s on Westnedge Ave in Kalamazoo and Portage. This was the early days of hamburger chains. The franchised McDonald’s were only about a a decade old, if that. Then there was Burger Chef (not Burger King, though that came along, too.). And who remembers Henry’s Hamburgers?
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Henry’s story is good. They were founded by the Bresler’s Ice Cream Company, who were looking to expand their food business. The first one opened in 1954 but for the most part they were gone before 1980 (although the very last one is in Benton Harbor, at 1832 M-139).
This story beings with a picture posted on (closed group) Facebook’s Kalamazoo: Then and Now. And the follow up comments filled in some of the blanks. Greg Gabry (founder of Vanished Kalamazoo) added “5229 S. Westnedge next to Van Den Berg’s Furniture (just South of Schwarz’s) directly across from Kinney Shoes and Robert Hall.”
Then Nancy McBride Hively added: “Burger Chef was south of Milham Rd, where Chili’s is now. In front of Meijer there was a Schwartz’s Restaurant and Drive-In where you’d order your food thru the individual speakers (Sonic does that now) and McDonald’s was across the street more or less from Schwartz’s.” And Rose Vinnick said, “That section of Westnedge was known as hamburger row in the 60’s.”
And if you want to go back even another generation, there was Kewpie’s, downtown on South Street. It inspired Dave Thomas to create Wendy’s. But that’s another rabbit hole.Click here to view photo gallery Click here to view photo gallery