KN Root Beer Drive-In has gone national
Joey Guest, Special to The Press
What started as a friendly fan page on one of the Web’s most popular sites now has more than 1,200 members. Fans stretch from Seattle to Miami, from Southern California to Northern New England and everywhere in between.
With creative titles for the group’s officers, such as Chief Frosty Mug Officer and Senior Pickle Procurator, among others, Fans of KN Root Beer Drive-In has sparked a wave of online discussion posts, mostly from former local residents with fond memories of this Martin tradition.
“(It’s) one of the only reasons I go back to Martin,” exclaims Jeffrey Adams, now of Nashville. “I’ve got to have a James Adams Cheeseburger, a pizza burger and cold KN Root Beer!”
“Best slaw burger known to man,” said David Loosley, now of Longview, Texas. “I’ve been known to drive to Martin from Texas just for the burger!”
All of this has been thrilling for the Wright family, who say they’ve seen a spike in business since the group’s creation in early March, just a few days before they celebrated 47 years of operation.
“It’s been really fun,” said Sandy Clayton, the eldest of the Wright children and now a mother of two daughters who also work at the drive-in. “I come in every day and tell everyone how many members we have now. When it got to 150, I thought that was just grand. And, now, it’s amazing!”
Roy and Barbara Wright opened their restaurant on a snowy day in March 5, 1962, at its original location down the street, where Sudden Service Stations now stands.
After about eight and a half years there, says Roy, they opened their new place at 242 North Lindell St., where it continues to satisfy hungry appetites to this day.
Along with daughters Sandy and Susan and granddaughters Allison and Erica, the Wrights have made lasting impressions with their great food and southern hospitality.
“Sam and I used to go to the KN when we were college sweethearts, and our favorite thing to order was the Texas chili pie and root beer way back in 1965,” said Donna Bellis Sinclair. “When my family comes for our fall fest, they all want to go to the KN for a treat!”
“I will always remember having my first real job working at the KN,” said Claudia Lamb, of Jonesboro, Ark. “Mr. and Mrs. Wright are the best people to work for, and I had a wonderful group of co-workers to go with it.”
Those lasting impressions can turn up in the most unusual circumstances, as Martin native Alan Hughey discovered on a business trip to Los Angeles.
“I’m in L.A. pitching a sale to executives of a big company and had previously only spoken to one of the five in the room. As I begin my presentation, one guy stopped me and asked if I was from Texas or Tennessee (due to the accent). I told him I was from Martin, Tennessee. He said, ‘I have one question to ask you: Is KN Root Beer still there?’ I said, ‘Yeah … eat there all the time.’ I asked him, ‘How the heck would a guy from L.A. know about KN?’ He said he graduated from UTM and turned to the rest of guys and said, ‘There isn’t a better cheeseburger in the nation than one from KN Root Beer in Martin, Tennessee!’”
The secret to the great taste of a KN cheeseburger is pretty simple, said Roy. “We use a good product, and I know how to cook. We are very particular about what we send out to the customers.”
One of the items that makes this restaurant so unique is its root beer, which they make in house and serve ice-cold in thick, frosty, glass mugs. Another is, of course, the slaw burger, which usually invokes a look of disdain when explained to a KN newcomer but has been the joint’s top seller for decades.
There’s also the pizza burgers, Texas chili pies, corndogs, crispy tater-tots and onion rings, and the list goes on, including the James Adams Cheeseburger, named after a long-time customer who preferred his with slaw and tomatoes.
But, the secret to the Wrights’ success is not entirely due to the quality of their food and drinks. It’s mostly the Wrights, themselves. They’ve done more than feed the bellies and quench the thirsts of loyal customers for more than 47 years -- they’ve touched their hearts.
KN will be closed for two weeks beginning July 4.
That’s why this writer is the creator and CEO (Cheeseburger Executive Officer) of the Facebook group Fans of KN Root Beer Drive-In and why I wrote this story. It’s also why I’m proud to call all of the Wrights my friends.
To read more posts and discussions from Fans of KN Root Beer Drive-In, visit http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=54225888147.
Free-lance writer Joey Guest has enjoyed a No. 3 Cheeseburger, tots and a frosty mug of KN Root Beer for nearly 40 years. He can be contacted at 731.332.1164 or via e-mail at email@example.com.