Everyone in Morgan County knows Steph’s by their delicious food and satisfying Tangees. But how many of us know the history of Steph’s and how it came to be? Steph’s is a family run business down to its third generation now currently ran by J.R. Hopkins.
In 1957 Steph’s was known as Hopkin’s Café, originally owned by John Rawl Hopkin found on Commercial Street. It was built there due to the train station. Stephanie Nance (daughter of John Rawl Hopkin) commented, “one of the fresh trademarks of the drive in was, grandpa (John Pennington Hopkin also known as Jack) always hand pounded the hamburger, and still continue to do that today.” “Grandpa also always had the kids work at the drive-inn.” Steph worked at the drive- in from the time she was 13 years old. The original menu consisted mostly of Hot Dogs, Hamburgers and French Fries. It has grown since then to include many other scrumptious menu items. It also used to serve breakfast at 5 am.
Over time Commercial Street began to die due to lack of business. Hopkin’s Café then made the move to where it stands today, off of State Street, and changed the name to Jay’s Drive Inn.
The building used to be just an order and pick up counter and customers would eat outside. After Jay’s, Stephanie Nance bought Jays Drive Inn and had it changed to Steph’s Drive Inn. Later the dining room was added. In 1978 Steph’s sold the drive-inn to Janet Jacobsen, and then bought it back in 1983. In 2006 her nephew J.R. Hopkins bought Steph’s Drive-Inn and is currently running the business. Stephanie Nance still works on occasion at the drive- inn. She is known for her infectious laugh, and her nephew J.R. Hopkins said, “sometimes I think people come to Steph’s to hear that signature laugh of hers.” When we asked J.R. what was the most requested item, he said the Tangees are probably number one, along with the Oreo Cookie Shakes and Fresh cut Fries.
Steph’s has been the place for treats and eats for 50 plus years. When Steph’s was just about ready to celebrate its 50 year mark, there was a fire that consumed some of the inner parts of the building, leaving it to close for repairs. Now restored it;s enjoyed on a daily basis, by teens, families and those passing through!
On a personal level, Steph’s has been a place of tradition for my family since I was young. So many good family memories have been built within those walls with its bright yellow tables, and juke box. It’s been the place to celebrate a one on one birthday dinner and dessert with my parents, which we could decide whether we wanted a banana split, hot fudge sundae or a shake of our choice. It was also the place to go with your friends to hang out during lunchtime, usually ordering an Oreo Cookie shake with fries, and fry sauce. I now find myself treating my own kids to an Oreo Cookie shake or a Tangee, when they just need that “extra bit of personal time or attention with mom.”
Steph’s is definitely one big happy family bringing families together for big happy memories.