The man who built one of the most recognizable and fun icons of the Dallas restaurant scene has passed away. Jack Keller, a beloved hold-over from the “good old days” of the 50s, has died at the age of 88.
One day after receiving the disappointing diagnosis of liver cancer, this one-of-a-kind Texas businessman departed from a huge community of drive-in culture lovers who owe their night life memories to this entrepreneur. No longer will the gray Lexus driven by the king of Dallas fast food pass through the streets of the City of the Eternal Spring.
Keller’s drive-in set the standard for modern fast food restaurants that cater to a crowd loving the full drive-in experience. Keller’s model inspired thousands of other Texas restaurants, and start-ups nationwide. Without expansive restaurant properties and typical high-society behavior, Jack Keller was able to build a successful restaurant, maintain it through many changes in the economy, and emerge as one of Dallas’ most revered legends.
Keller’s Drive-In evolved from humble beginnings into a mega spot for travellers. The original burger stand was once a pig meat market similar to the one Jack Keller received his first training within. Outdated low hanging eves over parking spots better suited for roller skate service still mark the original Keller’s Drive-In location on the Northwest Hwy in Dallas. Though the drive-ins are small, and remind all customers of a hip and hoppin’ past, tourists still come to these unique drive-ins to satisfy a desire to be part of Dallas history.
Jack Keller was rather obstinate when it came to expanding his restaurant empire. He lent his name and logo to several grocery food lines, but always maintained a traditional feel in his business. His restaurants grew to include attractions like the Keller Girls and visits from the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. They have also drawn the attention of international restaurateurs who are amazed at his success. When asked about the people who prefer Keller’s Drive-In, Jack Keller humbly responded, “I really couldn’t tell you, people who like hamburgers, I guess!”
Jack Keller’s simple take on life and business is obviously the reason for his local success. A great Dallas icon has passed away, but the Keller Drive-In tradition lives on in many locations throughout the Dallas area and beyond.