Published: December 9, 2011
By Vince Staten, Staff Reporter
Wendell Potter was in town last week visiting his mother at Asbury Place. The two were reminiscing when, for no particular reason, Wendell thought of the old Biff Burger that was located at the corner of Stone Drive and Eastman Road, where Applebee's is now.
Biff Burger was one of the first businesses to locate on the brand-new Super Highway (Stone Drive) to Bristol when it opened in 1964. It wasn't the first fast food joint to open in Kingsport; McDonald's had its grand opening on Fort Henry Drive two years earlier.
(I guess you could make the claim that all local drive-ins, from the Dutch Boy to Pal's were Kingsport's original fast food places. McDonald's and Biff Burger were the first chain fast food places.)
"Going to the Biff Burger was a once-a-week treat for us. For years, we stopped at the Biff-Burger every Sunday on the way back home from Temple Baptist Church. We usually would stop with our friends the Rollins, who died several years ago, was one of my closest childhood friends."
It was a moms-kids kind of trip. "Our dads weren't able to join us very often because they both were shift workers, my dad at the glass plant and David's at Eastman. So it was usually just or mothers plus David and me and David's sisters Joyce and Kay."
Thinking about those Sunday treats brought back pleasant memories for Wendell.
"I used to love those burgers. It was the first fast food I had ever had. But it was not a place where we got most of our meals. the rest of the week we ate what Mom cooked. Thank goodness. I'm so grateful for that now. And the once-a-week Biff-Burger."
A lot of folks in Kingsport have fond memories of the old Biff-Burger.
Biff-Burger came to town in the summer of 1964, proclaiming itself "Kingsport's Newest Ultra-Modern DRIVE-IN, PARK 'n EAT ESTABLISHMENT!"
It also claimed the best burgers, offering four reasons for that boast:
- Always Broiled The Roto-Broil Way, Never Fried
- Made with 100% USDA Inspected Western Beef
- Dipped in Tangy Bar-B-Q Sauce
- Served on Golden Toasted Bun
Biff Burgers were 15 cents. Add fries for another 15 cents and a 15 cent shake and you had a meal for 45 cents.
If you were a hot dog man, there was the Biff Dog, also 15 cents and a unique concoction. The hot dog was sliced halfway throught and curled around on a hamburger bun with slaw in the hole in the middle. Dee-lish.
Biff Burger made a big splash that first summer it was open in Kingsport with the Biff Sweepstakes, daily drawings and a cavalcade of prizes including the first-place prize, a brand-new 1965 Ford Mustang.
The Biff Burger chain started in 1956 in Clearwater, FLA. Jack Wright was the local franchisee in Kingsport. The name Biff didn't come from some tough in the Our Gang comedies. It was actually an abbreviation for Best In Fast Food.
At its peak there were 127 Biff Burgers, stretching from Fort Myers, FLA, all the way to Toronoto, Canada, and as far west as Fort Worth, Texas.
The company fell on hard times in the mid-1970's after its parent company, Mary Carter Paint(!), decided to pour most of its resources into casinos. The Kingsport restaurant closed in late 1974.
Wendell says he looked up the company online and discovered that there is one Biff Burger left, in St. Petersburg, FLA.
"I plan to check it out the next time I'm there."
And I expect a full report.
Contact Vince Staten at firstname.lastname@example.org or via mail in care of this newspaper. Vopicemail may be left at 723-1483. His blog can be found at http://www.vincestaten.blogspot.com/.