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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

'Kirbyburger' has family touch

Monday, April 26, 2004

Sharon Kirby grills up a 'Kirbyburger.'
SIKESTON - Sharon Kirby started as a youngster working in her father's sandwich shop. And this wasn't your ordinary shop it was Kirby's Sandwich Shop, home of the "Kirbyburger."

"I would hide every year when the Cotton Carnival would roll around," Kirby said. "That was our busiest time of the year and Dad would always try to make me work. So I would hide at Max's barbershop and let my friends go in as long as they wouldn't tell him where I was."

Kirby's has been part of Sikeston since 1907 when Jim Kirby decided to open a small takeout restaurant. The original building was located at the 100 block of East Front Street, where he started selling his sandwiches for a nickel.

"During World War II my grandfather moved the restaurant to 136 East Front Street before moving to our current location here at 109 North Kingshighway," Kirby explained.

The original restaurant was much smaller than it is today. It wasn't until Kirby's father, Red, took over that the building was enlarged to include seven tables and several bar stools in the restaurant.

In 1977 Red died and his brother-in-law Raymond Wright operated the restaurant for about 10 years. It was in 1987 when Sharon Kirby, Red's daughter, took over the management.

"I felt like I had to keep the tradition going," Kirby said. "There were many regulars that came in everyday along with people who would drive miles to eat a Kirbyburger."

At that time the downtown area of Sikeston was also different than it is today.

"There were a lot more people working in the downtown area, the telephone company employed over 200 people at the downtown location," Kirby said. "During this time I had about seven people working in the restaurant to keep up with the crowd."

One of the services Kirby's provided to the community was feeding a complete meal to the prisoners in the Sikeston jail. "We fed them a full course meal, excluding dessert, three times a day until the DPS finally bought a microwave," Kirby said.

The other interesting feature Kirby's offered was the people who would come in and dine. She said it wasn't unusual to see a couple of state senators or judges on a regular basis.

As the time's changed there weren't as many senators and judges coming around but one thing is for sure, the locals never left.

"Our customers are our friends and have been coming to see us for generations," Kirby said.

One thing is certain the menu hasn't changed much although there is one other addition to the menu the breakfast, which is served daily.

In 2001 Kirby made a very tough decision that would yet change the management of Kirby's once again.

"It was beginning to be a big load on me and after 17 years of managing the restaurant I was beginning to want a lighter load," Kirby explained.

This was all Kirby had known to do in her life: to carry on the tradition her grandfather, father and uncle had passed on to her.

In 2001 right before Kirby's was to shut down so everyone could take their annual vacation, Don Newton approached her with an offer.

"It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make," Kirby said. "I thought about it during my vacation, and realized it was best for me to sell it."

While Newton became the new owner of Kirby's that wouldn't stop Kirby from being part of the atmosphere. She started cooking for the restaurant and has continued to do so.

"Kirby's means so much to me, and to think that people come in here just to get a one-of-a-kind Kirbyburger makes me think how proud my father would be," Kirby said.

After 97 years of business Kirby's isn't looking like it's slowing down, and with a Kirby still behind the grill, you can get your original Kirbyburger from an original Kirby.