Rupe's to celebrate 50th anniversary
As he prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of what started as Vaughn's A&W, Kevin Rupe pondered on the key to success.
"Dad set a high standard that I still try to uphold," said Rupe, who has operated Rupe's Burgers since 1987.
"You have to like people and be friendly," said Kevin's mother, Carol, as she watched him visit with the customers. "They were both like that."
Vaughn Rupe worked for Challenge Dairy back in 1962 when the previous owner suggested that he buy the business.
"I didn't see how we could afford to do it," Carol recalled. "He was making good money where he was.
"Vaughn's boss said he would save his job for him," she continued. "He told Vaughn he would be back in six months."
That, it turned out, was the wrong thing to say to him.
"It worked out for us," Carol said. "Each year got a little better.
Vaughn operated the food stand from 1962 to 1987 before selling it to Kevin.
"I saw the potential that was there," Kevin Rupe said of his decision to get into the business he had grown up with. "After getting out of college and doing other things, I decided fast food was what I wanted to do. So I did."
Of course, the fast food industry has changed vastly since Vaughn began the Rupe family's journey.
"We had 30 cent hamburgers and fries were another five cents," Carol recalled. "We had five cent root beer. And everything was made from scratch."
Over the past 50 years, the store at 302 Northeast Main has undergone several changes. Vaughn and Kevin did some of them in concert.
"He and I planned this whole thing but he wasn't able to stick around to completition," Kevin said of the most recent additions back in 1999. That's when his father died.
"Competition is always an issue," Kevin said of the challenges he continues to face. "But competition is a great thing. It tends to keep business in town.
"Costs continue to go up," he said. "I have a hard time with that. I'm always slow to pass that on to my customers because they're my friends.
"The loyalty of our customers is absolutely amazing," he said. "We have to rely on local business or we would be gone."
Over the years Rupe, his wife Jana and their children have been heavily involved in the community.
"This community has given me and my family so much," Kevin said. "I need to give back. I'm a firm believer that if you give back, you get back.
"Blackfoot is a great community to live in. I want to do my part to keep it that way," he said.
"I can't believe it's been 50 years," Kevin added. "I couldn't have done it alone. I've had a lot of help through the years."
Some of that help has come from Leo Wallace, who has been day manager for 21 years, and from Torina Hardy-Young, who has been a waitress there for 12 years.
It has also come from his children — Tyler, Tara and Camille, who have taken their turn in the business.