El Dorado News-Times. March 18, 2013
Lipsey’s Sandwich Shop
Famished customers flock to eatery for nearly 60 years
By Allison Gatlin
(Editor’s Note: The following article is the twentieth in a series on established El Dorado businesses that have been in operation for 40 years or more.)
The freshly cooked onions, mustard and, of course, homemade chili coat a hamburger patty packed on top a steamed bun, but it’s still the same Lipsey burger that made it locally renowned 58 years ago, said Greg Hill, who now owns the 1603 E. Hillsboro establishment.
Under the tutelage of Hill, the burgers and menu have grown alongside the location change, but the quality is the same the restaurateur recalls from his own childhood eating at P.I. Lipsey’s burger joint decades before.
When P.I. Lipsey went into business in 1944 on Washington Avenue with only two tables, a booth and Donald Ray Dollarhide as a car hop, burgers were made his way alone, Hill said. "That was the only way he would sell it," Hill said. "If you went in there and told Mr. Lipsey you wanted no onions, he wouldn’t serve to you. ... If you wanted mayonnaise he wouldn’t do that. You either got it his way or you hit the highway."
Nowadays, Lipsey’s Sandwich Shop is more flexible, catering to a wide array of tastes within an expanded menu touting new names such as "Top of the Hill Burger," "Wildcat Philly Cheese Steak" and extras to boot, priced depending "on your attitude." Alongside those, he’s also added desserts including banana pudding, chocolate cake and pecan pie.
Old favorites still include hot dogs, tamales and chips; though Hill has also added on fries and hopes to eventually restore the milk dispenser he purchased, along with a number of original pieces, to its former glory.
When P.I. Lipsey passed away, his son, Jimmy Lipsey, took over in 1948, keeping the name but moving the establishment two buildings to the south on Washington Avenue. Under the restaurant continued to thrive and was eventually sold to Ann and Gene Nash in 1998. Following the Nashes, Mike and Darlene Atkins took over ownership in 2006 for just over five years until Hill answered a newspaper ad earlier this year advising a restaurant for sale.
At the time, Hill said he had no idea it was Lipsey’s, but was thrilled when he discovered which restaurant was being put up on the sale block. Along with the Lipsey’s name, Hill also purchased the original handwritten recipes recorded by P.I. Lipsey himself as he tested ingredients during his time in the U.S. Army — according to News-Times archives — equipment and fixtures from the restaurant under the Atkins’ owner ship.
In the interim between the purchase in April or May and reopening on Hillsboro in June, Hill said he worked tirelessly to restore the former Maggie’s, a bar, to workable condition after a long period of vacancy. It was a process into which he sunk significant time and money. The end result, however, is reminiscent of Lipsey’s in its heyday. "We wanted to kind of keep it the same style he had, you know, open where he cooked in front of the public," Hill said. "And we have the same edition he did."
The Lipsey burger remains just that: The Lipsey burger. "It’s almost like people get addicted to them," he said. "I mean, I have customers coming in two or three times a week to a get a Lipsey burger. They’re quite addicting." He added, "I think it’s the chili. It’s exceptional." That recipe, however, is a trade secret, Hill said. It’s one he hopes to pass on should either of his daughters, Kimberly Killingsworth, of Little Rock, and Alison Hill, of Fayetteville, or his grandson, decide to try a hand at the business.
Future developments could include expansions into Ruston or Magnolia, Hill said, explaining he’d love to see a chain of Lipsey’s Sandwich Shops. As for now, Hill said he has his hands tied in the restaurant and his other business, Razorback Maintenance, which keeps him on his toes at all hours with what amounts to basically two full-time jobs.
Entering the restaurant business has been a learning process, but despite challenges in food pricing and book keeping, every time he hears his burger still "tastes just like the original Lipsey burger," it makes the work worth it, Hill said. The burger and chili are particularly popular among those who grew up eating at Lipsey’s and are now returning to share the traditional fare with their children and grandchildren, he said.
"A lot of people remember Mom or Dad taking them and now they’re starting to bring their children down here," he said. "They had fond memories that was a trip with Dad or with Mom to eat at Lipsey’s and I just loved it." Lipsey’s new location is 1603 East Hillsboro. Greg Hill is the owner. The restaurant has been serving ‘Lipsey’s Burgers’ since 1944.