If you go to Jesse's Drive-In on South Oak Avenue now, you won't see the red 1963 Chevrolet Impala that was customarily parked on the side. After 40 years of ownership, you also won't see Jesse and Sandra Gonzales there.
The couple who first met six decades ago when they worked at the Baker Hotel have sold their iconic restaurant to a formerly retired couple, Curtis and Beth Henderson. The Hendersons say they don't plan to change a thing. For the regular customers, no longer seeing the Gonzaleses there will be change enough.
"It's kinda sad I guess," said Jesse, sitting at one of the dining tables Tuesday morning, rather than scurrying around the place getting ready for another day's lunch run. "In a way it's kind of different."
Sandra said her husband jumped up Tuesday morning thinking he needed to get to the restaurant and meet a vendor. He didn't need to. Jesse said he is not sure how he will adjust going forward.
"I just live a day at a time," he said. "That's what I do."
Sandra said the couple has watched second and third generations of customers come into the restaurant over the many years.
"I will miss the people and interacting with them," she said. "I have enjoyed seeing customers with their kids and grandkids."
"We have made a lot of friends along the way," Jesse said.
Friends and customers will have a chance to wish the Gonzaleses well with a retirement party and reception this Saturday from 2-4 p.m. at the restaurant, located at 1504 South Oak Avenue.
It wasn't long after the couple met in 1958 that they married – they will celebrate another anniversary next week. Jesse worked in the Baker Hotel kitchen and Sandra worked a manually operated elevator.
Jesse is a lifelong Mineral Wells resident, while Sandra is from Milwaukee, coming with her family to Mineral Wells when her father was stationed at Fort Wolters. Sandra's father was sent to Iran, but she married Jesse and stayed in Mineral Wells.
They have three children, one boy and two girls, and four grandchildren. Jesse went to work in the kitchen at Southern Airways, and then later at the old Goodyear business downtown before they decided in 1980 purchase the business, known then as Mutt's Drive-In, after the previous operator passed away. The restaurant was originally built by Tommy Patterson, and he is who the Gonzaleses purchased the property from.
"It was existing, it didn't look anything like this," Jesse said.
Mutt's was your basic hamburger, fries and soda business. The Gonzaleses over time added menu items like steaks, chicken-fried steaks, hamburger steaks and homemade enchiladas to make Jesse's Drive-in more of a restaurant.
If you want to own and operate a restaurant, Jesse said there is one thing you must have.
"You have got to be committed," he said.
The Hendersons are no newcomers to running a restaurant. Though more recently, Curtis was a county commissioner and Beth recently retired from a longer career as a Mineral Wells ISD librarian.
Their first customer Tuesday morning? Jesse Gonzales.
The Hendersons says they are committed to keeping everything the same at Jesse's Drive-In, including the menu, the employees and the name. After all when something has been successful for four decades, why change?