The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

July 2, 2010

50 years of Schroeder’s

DANVILLE — A half-century of hamburger heaven is being celebrated at Schroeder’s Drive-In as the restaurant observes its 50th anniversary this month. Spending more than 30 years on Gilbert Street as part of the Burger Chef chain, the store was originally owned by Hank Schroeder and Lou Hussman, though Schroeder bought Hussman out after being open for just one year.

Hank Schroeder’s son, Butch Schroeder, eventually took over the business, having worked there for 48 years before selling it to Dan Dubois October 2008.

Dubois, 37, has worked at the restaurant since he was 16 years old.

“I worked my way from the bottom up,” Dubois said. “It’s the only thing I know.”

Many employees stay true to the restaurant, some remaining on board through retirement after 40 years on the job. Others went on to pursue other professions, but keep the burger stand close to their heart — like Vermilion County State’s Attorney Randy Brinegar.

Brinegar worked at Burger Chef during the “lunch rush” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. between his classes at Danville Junior College between 1970 and 1972. His job was to feed the broiler hamburger patties, but had to know how many and when, depending on what orders the front line was yelling out.

At first, he didn’t know if he could keep it all straight.

“I soon learned I could,” Brinegar said. “It was my first experience in multi-tasking and that comes in handy now as an attorney.”

Brinegar said he last ate at Schroeder’s just a few days ago, and his favorites are the double cheeseburger and fish sandwich.

“I still take pride in being a former employee,” Brinegar said, who worked for both Hank and Butch Schroeder. “I still go in as a former employee. I’m happy to see they’re still in business here.”

Butch Schroeder said the family-owned business had many good people work for them through the years who went on to become successful. Many former employees remain incredibly loyal to the hamburger stop.

“My philosophy was to treat the people that work for me in the manner that I would like to be treated,” Butch Schroeder said.

Part of the magic at Schroeder’s is consistency. Dubois said friendliness, cleanliness and good service have always been a top priority and always will be.

“Basically, we tried to run things the way we always have,” Dubois said. “There haven’t been any changes at all, except me working more.”

Busy is normal for Schroeder’s, with 4,000 customers coming through the doors and drive-thru each week. Dubois instituted the 99-cent double cheeseburger and it’s a top-seller, with 6,000 flying off the open-flame broiler weekly.

One mystery about the burgers at Schroeder’s is the trademark plastic bag each sandwich comes in. Butch Schroeder said he believes the tradition began as a Burger Chef thing and customers came to expect it.

Other popular items at the restaurant include “The Works” bar, which was made popular through their time as a Burger Chef chain. In-house customers use it for building their sandwich to taste. The salad bar, fish fillet, tenderloin and turkey sandwich are all top-sellers. They also make their tartar sauce from scratch.

Customers Mary Mayfield of Danville and granddaughter Alyssa Heaton, 6, were enjoying chicken nuggets, fries, hamburgers and frozen vanilla yogurt one day this past week in the store.

“We’re in here way too much,” Mayfield said. “It’s a nice, community place to eat, the food is delicious and the people are nice.”

Mayfield said the approachable employees are what makes Schroeder’s stand out, and to her their fries are the best in town.

Activities for the 50th anniversary celebration are planned for July 12, 13 and 14, which include the sale of hamburgers, fries and a drink for 50-cents each.

Also, former employees are being welcomed back, with some manning their old stations. Butch Schroeder will be back on-site and cooking on the back line at times.

“We’d just like to encourage the people who used to work for us to come in and say hi,” Butch Schroeder said.

Mike Shade, 21-year employee and current manager, said he is excited for the upcoming anniversary.

“I can’t wait, with some of the old employees coming back,” Shade said. “Without them we wouldn’t be here, we learned from them …”

Dubois said the restaurant means everything to him.

“It’s where I started and it’s where I hope to retire from,” Dubois said. “Butch has been great to me and it’s always been a great place to work.”

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