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.
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.