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Big Boy returns for a celebration

Sun Advocate publisher

Restaurants 30th birthday brings back much beloved character to Price

It would seem after 24 years of working for JB Restaurants at the corporate level and then owning the Carbon County JB Restaurant as a franchise since 1991, that no one would understand what a part of the fabric of the community the eating establishment on Main Street and 800 East in Price is better than Tom Niederhauser.

However, from a long time customers view, maybe Felix Bruno does.

"I watched them build this restaurant back in 1977 and I was the first one standing in line when it opened," he said on Tuesday morning as he sat at a table in the establishment. "And when they built the pie case I was the first one to buy a pie as well."

In those days the place was JB's Big Boy Restaurant, and the "Big Boy" that sat out front was a favorite target of pranksters who stole him at least a few times.

The Big Boy symbol is a much loved one in many places in the United States. Big Boy is a restaurant chain that was started in 1936 by Bob Wian in Glendale, Calif. as Bob's Big Boy.

But over the years, Wian started to sell off the rights to using the Big Boy symbol to various restaurant chains across the nation, including such well-known names as Shoney's. But other than the restaurants he controled directly, Wian didn't want his first name used in conjunction with those restaurants so emerged over 18 different restaurant names associated with the Big Boy across the United States.

JB's was started by Jack Broberg, who realized when his kids attended BYU that Provo did not have a Big Boy. After making a deal for the Big Boy name, Broberg started one in west Provo. That was in 1961.

He began to hire a management team to run the facilities he was opening soon after. The president of development was Tom Godfrey and the food service manager was Paul Warner, who previously worked for BYU food services.

Not long after that a young man who had just returned from an LDS mission was introduced to the management, and that was Niederhauser.

"I was a student at the University of Utah and I was looking for something to do and they gave it to me," he said.

Tom Niederhauser stands with his son Matt, Lisa Ivie, Danielle Harris, Bob Chesley and Kristine Lillard in the front of the restaurant. This group is only part of the 40 people the store employs.

As he learned the business, and moved up he also started to realize that the company was changing. Many of the original officers of the company were retiring and in 1967 Marriot bought out Wian.

JB's held onto the Big Boy symbol for a number of years and still had it when Kathy and Blake Hawkins began managing the new Price location when it opened. But in June of 1988, JB's Restaurants divested themselves of the Big Boy affiliation and soon after that the company changed even more. Soon certain stores came up for sale as franchises. At first Niederhauser wanted to buy the Richfield restaurant, but found that the company did not want to sell that one. They did mention that the Price store was for sale however.

"I had always liked Price and thought it would be a great place to run a restaurant," said Niederhauser. "Soon I was running my own franchise."

Over the years, Niederhauser and his staff have built up quite a reputation amongst his local clientelle.

"Tom always gives the attitude that the customers come first," said Bruno. "They have a menu that satisfies people. They have an organized system that is clean and efficient. Even when they are busy they get you seated very quickly."

Bruno says that when the place is busy, and he comes in almost every day, he has seen Tom out in the restaurant cleaning off tables so customers can be seated.

"This is a hands on business," said Niederhauser. "It needs to be that way to make customers happy and satisfied."

Over the years the store has grown too. In the early days the sun room facing Main Street was added, but Niederhauser said that room was a cooker at certain times of the year for customers. He had a roof put over it. Then Niederhauser had a west wing added on the restaurant to accommodate more people and expanded the kitchen as well.

"I remember when they first opened the pie case you could get a serving of strawberry pie, one with full strawberries in it for 39 cents," said Bruno. "That was the first time I remember any restaurant having full strawberries in their pies in Price."

On May 10, a gathering of former employees and managers from the old days will form at the Price location to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the opening of the store.

"We have enjoyed serving the people of Price over the years,' said Niederhauser. "It has been our pleasure."

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