FAIRLAWN—On a road filled with big-box stores and fast-food restaurants, Hanks Drive-In has been holding its own—and then some—since reopening its doors in early December.
The burger joint has been a local favorite since Hank Kesterson, now 89, opened it in 1972, but the restaurant was forced to close in March 2016 after he was no longer able to run the business.
Shena Viers, Kesterson’s niece and the new owner, said that her uncle isn’t able to stand for long hours anymore and that his hearing has gotten worse.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl,” she said. “It’s always been Hank’s, and I couldn’t stand to see it be anything else,” she said.
Viers, 54, helped run the business while Hank was out taking care of his late wife, but it ultimately closed in October of 2016 due to the building’s diminished conditions. But during the 14-month hiatus, much work was done on the building with the costs being split between Viers and the building’s owners, Rob and Margaret Leonard.
“They replaced the roof, and we took care of pretty much everything else,” Viers said.
The outside got a fresh coat of paint and the inside has been completely transformed, with everything from new floors, the kitchen layout and even a ventilation system. In all, Viers estimates that renovation costs totaled nearly $30,000.
Viers husband Brent, who is the co-owner of Blackstone Construction, did all of the work, often after putting in full days with his company.
“He would come home take a nap and then work until one or two o’clock in the morning getting this place ready. He put so much sweat equity into it and this is how much he loves me,” she said, looking around the restaurant.
Working nearly 70 hours a week since opening, Viers said she has relied largely on family members to help manage the overflow of customers coming in.
“My daughter is an RN at Roanoke Memorial, and she was like, ‘Mom, I’m coming in on my day off and working.’ Everybody just cares about this place so much.”
Viers said she needs all the help she can get since they have been seeing between 150-170 tickets a day, a single ticket often consisting of four or more meals.
Customer have the option of coming in and eating, but most of them prefer the old-fashioned drive-in where an employee comes out to the car, takes the order and brings it back hot and fresh.
Viers said the menu has not changed much since Hank opened the joint, so customers can still get their favorites. Consisting of mainly burgers, hotdogs and sandwiches, the prices are competitive with the fast-food places in the area, if not cheaper.
Wait times may be a little longer than the average drive-thru, but Viers said that her customers don’t mind.
“Everything is made-to-order, so it is always really fresh. That and our friendly service are what keep people coming back,” she said.
Pat Holmes, 79, has been coming for her “favorite hamburgers and hotdogs” for decades and said she was thrilled when it reopened with a fresh look.
“I just love coming here. The food is great, and you always see someone you know,” she said.
Viers said that, other than her family, her faith in God gave her the strength to keep the family business going.
“God has been good to me and my family, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I just feel so blessed,” she said.
Viers said that Hank has been pleased with the renovations and still comes by when he can get out every so often.
“I’ll be here when I can. I’m just glad that it is being kept open. It looks great,” Kesterson said.
Viers said that she hopes to expand hours in the summer (9 a.m.-7 p.m. currently) as well as finding room for a milkshake machine and adding outdoor seating to the storefront. Hank’s is located at 7431 Lee Highway.
Most important to her, though, is extending the legacy in the community that her uncle created.
“I may be the new owner, but as long as he is living, it’s his,” she said. “I’m just trying to carry on his name.”