Thursday, March 16, 2023

All in the Family: Regionally renown eatery under new ownership

 How about a double cheeseburger with hickory sauce? Add onions? Mustard? Swope’s Drive In just off I-49 in Rich Hill has you covered. And we can’t forget onion rings or their world famous Susie Q’s crispened to perfection. Add a soft drink or a shake and you’re all set.

And for just over 43 years, that is how it’s been under the ownership of Don and Linda Swope who purchased the restaurant in 1978 from friends of her parents who first brought the drive in to life in the late 1950’s.

Through this time there's a lot of memories. Here are some, in Don and Linda's own words:

"In 1993, Bill Grigsby, former announcer for the Kansas City Chiefs stopped by to eat and it just so happened that our grandson  was dressed in his KC Chiefs outfit which thrilled Grigsby. They enjoyed some conversation and Grigsby happily provided his autograph as a keepsake.

Covid was actually good to us. Lots of workers, less work because the dining room was closed and lots of business. This is our 3rd generation of family working. We have really been fortunate with family working. Both of our parents helped, all three of our kids worked, all my grandkids, most of our sisters, one brother and, lots of nieces and nephews. We have had to close just a few times in the last 43 ½ years for repairs and weather but otherwise closed only on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

We built the dining room on in 1982 so we could stay open in the winter.

The travel channel did a documentary on the Big Mouth (coal bucket) that is downtown Rich Hill and stopped by here and got some Susie Q's and added that to their segment so we got lots of customers from that. Customers would come down and say they saw us on the Travel channel! We have regulars from many states and they stop by every time they come this direction. Mostly Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kansas, and Arkansas. We also have a lot of customers during the hunting and fishing seasons.

Kameron has been working here since 1992. She had a daycare for about 3 years but still worked here at night. H
ouston been here off and on since his high school years. He is planning on getting married this September."

While it could be a sad moment for Don and Linda, it’s actually not. Swope’s Drive in will remain under family ownership as it has been purchased by their daughter Kameron Byran (mentioned above), a 1997 Rich Hill graduate along with co-owner (and grandson of the Swopes) Houston Bridgewater, who is also native to Rich Hill.

“I’ll be helping with the transition for awhile” said Linda Swope when asked what she plans to do with her time following the sale “After that, who knows” she added with a smile. The same remains true for Don, who enjoys time outside mowing and doing other work. Retirement well deserved, in our book.

The public is invited to stop by and get acquainted with the new owners while enjoying a delectable menu that has kept Swope’s on the map for over four decades.

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