October 2, 2014

Drive-in steak house served Gardner residents in the 1950s

Mica Marriott
mmarriott@gardnernews.com

Restaurants come and go in Gardner, and sometimes the memories of good food, outlast the aroma and taste. One of these restaurants was The Ranch Inn.

Built in 1953 by Glen and Evelyn Hinderliter, this drive-in/steak house was the newest and greatest thing to the Gardner area. Famous for its steaks and burgers, the Hinderliters also served seasonal specialties like Bar-B-Q and  watermelon slices.

The former Ranch Inn restaurant is pictured during its heyday in the 1950s. Today, the building is The Liquor Barn on Main Street. Submitted photo

Glen Hinderliter built his own Bar-B-Q pit, and the restaurant also had its own ice house. They sold ice, along with fresh produce during the summer.
Clyde Collins, Edgerton, began working at The Ranch Inn when he was 9 years old.

“I started out peeling potatoes for 25 cents an hour, and I would make two dollars a day, seven days a week,” Collins said.

The Ranch Inn opened at six in the morning, and closed at midnight. The Hinderliters hired many teenagers from the Gardner area and servicemen from the Olathe Naval Airbase, now New Century AirCenter.

“Glen and Evelyn gave their employees Christmas gifts for Christmas, not cash or checks, but actual gifts. They were really good to us,” Collins said.
Glen purchased a new 1956 Mercury convertible.

“The very day he bought it, he let me drive it all around in the parking lot of the restaurant. I was only about 13 at the time, and I felt like a big shot.” Collins said. “I was from a poor family and the Hinderliters were very good to me. I felt like an adopted son to them.”

The Ranch Inn’s main door was on the west side of the building and in front was an awning for the car hops.

In the 1950s the city limits were  just east of Mulberry Street, (where Big O’ Tire and Golden Goose Floral are now).  “so The Ranch Inn was on the very out-skirts of town, all by itself along with the Standard Oil Station,” Collins explained.

In the late 1950s Glen Hinderliter heard the Naval Airbase was going to close, and decided to move the business to Lenexa. He purchased several acres of land beside the newly constructed Interstate-35, and built a new building “right beneath the Lenexa water tower and moved The Ranch Inn there in 1958,” Clyde Collins remembered.

Gardner residents drove to Lenexa often to enjoy their favorite restaurant.

The Ranch Inn Restaurant closed in 1972. Developers purchased the land from the Hinderliters and tore down the restaurant building in Lenexa. The original Ranch Inn restaurant building in Gardner is now the Liquor Barn, nestled between the Gardner Police Station and C&H Service Station.

Collins remained close to the Hinderliters over the years. “Glen and Evelyn were the witnesses at my wedding. Sharon and I have been married 53 years now,” Collins said.

Glen Hinderliter passed away in the late 1980s, and Evelyn passed away approximately three years ago in Topeka.

“I was with her when she died,” Collins said.

The Hinderliters left all their money to several charities and churches.
Clyde Collins inherited some old restaurant furniture and memorabilia from The Ranch Inn, and has recently donated a vinyl cowhide printed chair and two glass ash trays from Gardner’s old Ranch Inn Restaurant to the Gardner Historical Museum.

Comments

  1. I remember well the Ranch Inn in Lenexa. Went to many a company Christmas luncheon there and we had such fun. I went there quite often as a private citizen too and they had good food and good service. I can’t imagine how hard the Hinderliters had to work to bring all of that to the people.

  2. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    Although before my time as a Kansas resident, I can understand the popularity of the Ranch Inn — during its five years on Main Street, Gardner’s population grew from 959 to 1,430. Subsequent to Ranch Inn’s move north, Lenexa’s population increased from 2,150 in 1958 to 7,921 fourteen years later. Good food and good service draws a crowd.

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