ROCK SPRINGS – Rock Springs’ landmark burger diner, Grub’s Drive-In, reopened Thursday with a new owner planning to revive the classic restaurant.
The restaurant closed in March of last year, after operating for 77 years. Co-owners Jaycia and Justen Hunt purchased the building shortly after it was listed. While many would see an opportunity to open their own burger stand using the Grub’s name, Jaycia wants to bring the diner back to its former glory, and has the unique experience to do it. Jaycia worked under the original owners Nick “Grub” Skorup and his wife Loretta starting in 1987, until Loretta’s death in 2001. She started as a dishwasher, moved up to working as a server, then ultimately became a cook for the restaurant. During her years as a cook, she would cook between 100 and 150 burgers a night and estimates she has made more than a quarter million burgers.
As for why the Hunts purchased the business, Jaycia admits having a feeling that she was being guided towards it. She said she and her husband ate there three days before the closure and felt the sadness of the situation.
“It felt like the community lost a piece of its history,” Jaycia said.
Following Grub’s’ closure, Jaycia said she kept hearing about the business from clients at her day job as a nail tech and got updates as to when the building was listed through a realtor. However, one of the strongest pulls came from her father and a dream he had. Jaycia said her father told her of a dream he had where Loretta Skorup had visited him. Jaycia then joked about Loretta telling him that she should buy the diner.
“That’s exactly what she said,” Jaycia recalls her father telling her.
Shortly after the building was listed, the Hunts were able to have a tour with their realtor. Jaycia recalls feeling a sense of sadness within the building and excitement as she reminisced about her time working at Grub’s, thinking about the old-timers who would come in for a morning cup of coffee, and working with people who became lifelong friends.
Jaycia spoke with her father after looking at the building and told him how happy she felt while she was there. Her father told her she saw the diner with her heart and recommended she look at it again. Following that visit and praying for guidance, she felt “the most peaceful sensation” and knew what she wanted to do. Following a discussion with Justen, Jaycia said they made an offer a week after Grub’s was placed on the real estate market.
“I know what I’m supposed to do here,” Jaycia said. “I know I’m supposed to own this.”
Not Fast Food
Jaycia said the menu will be shorter than it was in later years and is a call back to what was originally offered at the restaurant. The classic Shamrock is listed, as well as the Shamrock Deluxe, in addition to hamburgers, cheeseburgers and other classic fare. She said the restaurant will have six shake varieties as well. A local favorite, the fries with gravy, also make a return. Jaycia said the fries with gravy have long been a staple of the menu and something Grub’s is known for.
“I’m trying to go back to the menu from when I worked here,” Jaycia said.
A Family Operation
Grub’s has almost always been a family operation. The restaurant opened in 1946 as a way to keep Nick Skorup from a job in the coal mines after returning home from World War II. According to a Rock Springs Rocket-Miner article framed in the restaurant, Nick’s 16-year-old brother died in a mine accident and his father passed away from black lung disease in his 50s.
Jaycia plans to keep that family-focused management with the drive-in’s new iteration. Along with her husband, Jaycia said her daughters Michaelee Wisniewski and Jazlynn Hunt will also work at the restaurant, as well as Michaelee’s boyfriend Anthony Mitchell. Jaycia was also able to recruit former Grub’s employees as well. Kendra Scott worked at the restaurant for nine years, while her mother Bernie Keslar had worked there for 13 years.
Jaycia said family isn’t just blood relatives, and feels that familiar bond with people she worked with at the drive-in. Working with former coworkers and her family in reopening the restaurant has turned into a great experience for her and she has enjoyed the opportunity. She said a lot of people have a Grub’s story, either coming to the drive-in with parents or grandparents, or even stopping in for a burger after school or work. She said many of the people who spoke with her after she purchased the restaurant or stopped in during the soft openings she hosted throughout the week have shared those stories with her and have a sense of nostalgia for Grub’s.
She wants to extend a feeling of nostalgia for the community as well. Jaycia remembers going to Grub’s for a quick lunch while she was in high school, joining groups of students who would drive down the hill, pick up a burger and some fries, then eat it on the way back to Rock Springs High School, and she wants to give Rock Springs teens that same experience. She also wants to do something for students and fans of Rock Springs football before Friday night football games.
More than returning to the classic Grub’s menu offerings, and her desire to give residents a feeling of nostalgia when they come in, Jaycia wants to return the classic burger restaurant to its former glory and inspire positive change in the nearby neighborhood. She grew up near the restaurant and wants the rejuvenation of Grub’s Drive-In to inspire other nearby property owners in restoring the neighborhood to what it once was.
With the reopening of the restaurant, it’s a challenge she, her family, and friends intend to meet with each burger and basket of fries they serve.