Zip’s Drive-In History

Historical Zips Photo

There really was a guy named “Zip.” Robert “Zip” Zuber built his first Zip’s Drive-in with the motto “Thrift and Swift” in Kennewick Washington in 1953, wisely figuring to serve the workers, scientists, and their families coming to the Tri-Cities to work in the new nuclear industry.

Zip knew they would be looking for a quick meal at a fair price and boy was Zip right, they came in droves for the fresh-off-the-grill hamburgers, hand-cut halibut, crinkle-cut fries made fresh and the tartar sauce made from scratch.

Zip built his next store, in Spokane, on North Division – an immediate hit with the students at nearby Gonzaga College. In 1958 he sold the store to Jake Vorrath who then opened the second Spokane drive-in on this site of the well-known, Gage’s Diner on Northwest Boulevard, he in turn sold the store to Harold Laing, and the Division Street store to the drive-in’s young manager, Harold Fettig. Laing passed away in 1969, and his wife sold the business to Ed Minor, a Nalley’s Potato Chip salesman, who partnered with Don Kelly, a Wonder Bread salesman. Fettig, Minor, Kelly, their families and former store managers remain operators of the majority of the Zip’s Drive-ins today.

In the 1960’s Zip’s Drive-in was the quintessential American Graffiti-era drive-in, replete with cars encircling the buildings beneath colorful awnings, phones for calling in your order from your car or table, and carhops and waitresses to bring your food. As charming as this might have been – and as much as it is missed by some – it was not quick enough to keep up with America’s fast paced lifestyle, and by the early 70’s drive-ins all over the country were closing.

Minor and Kelly were savvy enough to see this trend and built some of the Northwest’s first drive-through lanes, allowing Zip’s Drive-in to remain one of the few local hamburger chains to continue to thrive, still keeping Robert “Zip” Zuber’s motto “Thrift and Swift” at the heart of our business today.

Thank you for letting us serve the Northwest since 1953!