Since the city of Morgan bid a fond farewell to Steph’s Drive In, nothing has been more talked about and more anticipated than the opening of J’s Drive In. The wait is finally over. Drop what you are doing and head over to J’s right now. It is worth it.
A friends and family event was held May 13 and 14 and first on the list of those invited was J.R. Hopkin and his family. Hopkin, the restaurant’s previous owner, was happy to find someone to restore the building that had been held so dear to his family for so many years. It is keeping memories alive, right down to using the restaurant’s original moniker.
“This family has done everything we always wanted to,” said Hopkin. “We are proud of what they have done. Everything looks and tastes great.”
Hopkin left his legacy in good hands. Blane Smith has spent most of his life in Morgan, including the last 30 years with his wife Janae. Smith is a busy man. He runs the local Pretzelmaker as well as 16 other Pretzelmaker locations across the west.
Family means everything to Blane, so no one is surprised to learn that his children help out with his ever-growing business ventures as well. Justin and his wife Andelyn help with the Pretzelmaker side of things while Smith’s daughter, Jessica Thackeray, and her husband Kyle are heading up J’s.
Kyle and Jessica both grew up in Morgan, lived in South Ogden for a few years, and came back to Morgan when this opportunity presented itself. Kyle says he couldn’t be happier to be back among family and friends.
Those who took note know that the Smith and Thackeray families have been on location day in and day out putting their own blood, sweat and tears into updating this establishment. Most people just call in a crew and call it a day, but Blane’s construction background makes it possible for them to throw their own shoulders to the wheel.
“We hired guys for things like glass and electrical, but we did most of the work ourselves,” said Kyle. Beaming with pride, Jessica said probably 90 percent of the work was done by family members. The Smiths also tried to keep any contract work local. “Our graphic guy is from Morgan, our window guy is from Morgan, the guy who did our gas is from Morgan. We are trying to support people who will in turn support us.”
Some family members have worked close to 80-hour weeks in the last few weeks to assure that everything is ready on time. Like a proud father, Kyle said, “We didn’t put this much time, work and money into this business to watch it fail. We wanted something truly special for the people of Morgan. We just want to open a new chapter of the legacy of this place.”
All the long hours were well spent. No detail was missed. The dining area has a bigger feel to it, the restroom has been updated, the kitchen is beautiful and the menu is well organized. All of this lends to a better flow of the entire restaurant.
Kyle referred to this venture as a work in progress. The family will continue to add new business to their existing storefront, maybe a car wash now that the old one has been torn down.
The spot in between Nebco and J’s will be paved over, providing a new way to enter the drive-up window. The old entrance to the drive-up will be turned into outdoor seating, providing more room for patrons during nice weather. There will be improved landscaping and things to really make it beautiful.
The only thing simple about this new family undertaking is their menu. “We want to speed up wait times,” said Justin. “In order to do that, you need a more simplified menu.” J’s will be focused on providing families with quality food, for a reasonable price, in a reasonable amount of time. “Everything we have done, our menu, everything, has been to make us more efficient.”
In fact, Kyle assured that during the grand opening events, there will be plenty of people on staff to handle any new problems they may encounter. He said with a smile, “We will have about 20 people running around like crazy, doing our best to make sure we do everything we can to make this special for people. If we’re going to fail, we’re going to fail trying our hardest.”
The grand opening will be Friday at 10:30 a.m. “It will be a lot of fun. We have the army truck all ‘logo’ed up and our electrician is bringing some race cars, some dragsters,” said Justin. There will be extra seating outside as well to accommodate any crowds. “We will have the old Steph’s benches out front. We’re just going to have fun and hope the weather holds up for us. It will be great.”
Summer hours will be from 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m. Monday – Thursday and 10:30 a.m. - 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Kyle added, “We will adjust the hours if needed. We want to accommodate people as much as possible.”