Feature

The History of the Pig Stands

“America’s Motor Lunch”

by Daniel Vaughn · February 18, 2015

Brisket may dominate barbecue menus in Texas today, but nearly a century ago, a Dallas institution built its mighty restaurant empire on a simple Tennessee-style barbecued-pork sandwich: the “Pig Sandwich.” Perhaps some already know that I’m referring to the signature item served at the Pig Stand, a Dallas-based chain that formed in the twenties and quickly grew into a nationwide franchise.

And when I say quickly, that’s no exaggeration. According to an advertisement from 1924— when the Pig Stands Co. was only 30 months old—50,000 sandwiches were sold each week from just the ten Dallas locations (there were Pig Stands in six other states by then too). That’s a mighty impressive number for such a young company.

The Pig Stand’s history captured my attention long ago, mostly because of its much-ballyhooed legacy as the first drive-in. This sounded like a big claim to stake, and I wanted to know what happened to the restaurant chain that could not only sell 50,000 sandwiches a week in Dallas when the city only had about 250,000 residents but also invented the concept of the drive-in. After some digging, I found that there was no significant event that led to the eventual shuttering of the last Pig Stands in 2006. In fact, I discovered, despite rapid expansion and the public’s cultish obsession with the place, the franchise went quietly into the night, not with a squeal, but rather with a prolonged whimper that dragged out over decades.

Even though this isn’t an uncommon problem with restaurants, the history of the Pig Stand’s fast-rising and slow-falling star was enthralling nonetheless. It started in 1921* when Jesse G. Kirby opened the first Pig Stand on the southwest corner of Fort Worth Pike Road and Chalk Hill Road. This was beyond the outskirts of town back then, and, following the credo of “location, location, location,” Kirby opened his second Pig Stand near the center of town—Zang and Bishop, now known as Colorado Boulevard, to be exact. By September of 1923 he had sold the original location and, with his business partner Dr. Reuben Jackson, set sights on expansion in Dallas—and beyond.

Pig Stand 1924 DMN ad

1925 Dallas Morning News ad

Credit is often given to Kirby for creating the first drive-in restaurant. And rightly so, if, for anything, the fact that the concept of carhops was first introduced at the original Pig Stand. There are plenty of other firsts attributed to them too: the first onion ring, the first chicken-fried steak sandwich, Texas toast, neon lights. Some of those claims might be hard to prove, but they all serve as anecdotal evidence of Kirby and Jackson’s innovativeness.

But it’s a different kind of pioneering they should get credit for but often don’t: Kirby and Jackson may have been the first people to invent the restaurant chain as we know it today. Howard Johnson restaurants are generally attributed with developing the concept of franchise restaurants. But consider this. The second Howard Johnson was a franchise location when it opened in 1932; by that time there were already more a hundred Pig Stands, and the company had been offering franchises to hopeful entrepreneurs since 1925. As Kirby once cleverly told someone of opening a franchise, “Give a little pig a chance, and it will make a hog of itself.”

In 1926, just a few short years after the Pig Stand started, the company lost its founder. Kirby became ill on a train ride to St. Louis in April and died suddenly from pneumonia. He left a wife, Shirley, and two sons, both of whom would go on to become restaurateurs.

After Kirby’s death, Shirley continued operating the Pig Stand company with his partner, Jackson. Under their guidance, the brand got so popular that copycats began to appear. The company took out an ad in 1927 ad that read “Imitation Pig Stands are springing up like mushrooms all over Dallas.” They would unsuccessfully sue one of them, the Dixiepig Stand, whose specialty was a “Dixiepig Sandwich.” (Another Dixie Pig exists in Abilene, Texas. They have a “Pig Sandwich” on the menu, but with roasted pork and barbecue sauce, it’s not one that Jesse Kirby would recognize. It’s missing the “sour relish which gives zest to the Pig Sandwich.”)

Bob's Pig Shop1

A Pig Sandwich at Bob’s Pig Shop in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma

After the company lost its battle in court, other copycats used the legal precedent to cash in on the pig stand fever. Among those were Van’s Pig Stands in Wewoka, OK (1928); Ju-Cy Pig Stand in Denton (1932); Bob’s Pig Shop in Pauls Valley, OK (1933); Flying Pig Stand in Denison (1937); and Pearl’s Pig Stand in Jefferson (1939).

The company couldn’t fight back with the law, so it would, ahem, stand out, so to speak, by design. The company created a signature building and layout for its restaurants, one that would be easily recognizable to motorists. The Pig Stands Co. hired architect F. J. Woerner, the man who designed the Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, to be in charge of the company’s new branding. The prototype was built on the site of Pig Stand #2 before being rolled out to other cities and states.

Pig Stand Number 2

Pig Stand #2 after a 1928 reconstruction

During the Depression, the Pig Stand expansion came to a halt and the chain retreated back to its Texas locations. This didn’t stop them from implementing big ideas. During the thirties and early forties, they introduced 24-hour service and new menu items like “chicken in the rough,”—basically a fried half chicken—tamales, enchiladas, and “hamburger steak with creole sauce.”

Pig Stand 28 Menu

Menu from Pig Stand #28 at 1611 Forest Ave. in Dallas. Dallas Historical Society, et al. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 19, Number 01, Spring, 2007, Michael V. Hazel, editor, Journal/Magazine/Newsletter, 2007; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35086/ : accessed February 18, 2015), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society, Dallas, Texas.

After World War II was over and the country was booming again, the Pig Stand opted not to expand. In fact, it seemed new ideas were the order of the day. B J Kirby, who was just three when his father, Jesse, passed away, had been working at Pig Stand #4 on Greenville Avenue in Dallas since he was eleven. By the time he turned 24, he had taken over the store from his mother and ran it successfully. And as all good businessmen do, BJ decided to build on that success. In 1954, when Highway 75 replaced Greenville Avenue as the main thoroughfare, BJ took a week off and reopened the Greenville Pig Stand as Kirby’s Charcoal Steaks. He ran that before selling it to the group that now runs the Kirby’s Steakhouse chain in Texas.

But it wasn’t all roses for the Pig Stands. Competition was encroaching. By the mid-fifties, America had entered a new era of drive-ins. Sonic, which opened in Oklahoma in 1953, offered an even-more expedient experience. Customers placed orders into speaker boxes, and food was quickly ushered out to be consumed on premises or taken out. Drive-in restaurants became more functional places than weekend hangouts.

Co-founder and company visionary Dr. Reuben Jackson passed away in 1955, and former carhop Royce Hailey took over soon after. At the fortieth anniversary in 1961, 23 restaurants were on the company roster, all of them in Texas.


Video with Richard Hailey at Pig Stand #29 in San Antonio

From there it was a drawn-out decline. Hailey converted some of the locations to a new Rockeyfeller Burger concept before handing the reins to his son Richard in 1983. Two years later the final Dallas location, Pig Stand #50 at Northwest Highway and Abrams, closed leaving the city that bore the Pig Stands without one. Just ten were left in the state: locations in San Antonio, Houston, and Beaumont. In 1985, the Fort Worth Star Telegram declared that “Pig Stands…are almost a thing of the past.”

Pig Stand sign of the pig

An early ad in the Dallas Morning News

The last real hurrah of the Pig Stands was a stand-off with the Hard Rock Café in 1992. The Pig Stands held a trademark on their “Pig Sandwich,” so when Hard Rock Café put the same item on their menu, they were taken to court. The trademark was upheld, which is why you can now dine on a “Hickory-Smoked Pulled Pork” sandwich at Hard Rock.

The death blow came in 2006. Hailey hoped to keep the doors open after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005, but the bills were too steep. The two remaining locations went dark on November 14, 2006.

Pig Stand SA

The sign inside Mary’s Pig Stand in San Antonio

The end of this story isn’t all doom and gloom. A few months later the final official location closed, Mary Ann Hill, long time manager at Pig Stand #29 on Broadway in San Antonio, purchased the restaurant. Now you can still get a Pig Sandwich and onions rings while you listen to your very own jukebox provided in every booth. Hope is still alive in Beaumont too. A group there is trying to find a buyer for the former Pig Stand #41 on Calder Avenue. Maybe they’re just trying to will history into repeating itself.

*Most agree that the year was 1921, but a few records suggest it may have been in early 1922. Court records from a lawsuit against Dixiepig Stand from 1929 list the original opening date as April 15, 1922, and an ad celebrating the achievements of the company that had “opened less than thirty months ago” ran in the Dallas Morning News on October 12, 1924.

Addendum: I’ve attempted to find the locations of the various Pig Stands across the country. I couldn’t find a complete list, so I’ve pieced together a few that I found during my research. If you can provide any of the missing pieces, please add the information into the comments section below.

#1A Dallas, the original opened in 1921 or 1922 on Fort Worth Pike (now Davis) at Chalk Hill Rd.

#1B Dallas at 1400 Second Ave. at Trezevant (demolished to make way for Fair Park expansion)

#2 Dallas at 1301 N. Zang and Bishop (now Colorado)

#3 Dallas at 5119 East Grand Ave.

#4 Dallas at 3715 Greenville

#5 Dallas at 3702 Maple Ave.

#7 Houston at Washington and Sawyer

#10 Beaumont at Port Arthur Rd. & Highland

#11 Fort Worth at 643 North Main St.

#12 Fort Worth at 1615 Park Place

#13 Fort Worth at 2736 W. Seventh (became Randolph’s Bar-B-Cue in the 80’s, then Stagecoach BBQ in 1991)

#15 Dallas at 4605 McKinney & Knox

#15 Dallas at 736 W. Jefferson

#18 Los Angeles

#23 Beaumont

#25 Dallas at Gaston and Grand (air conditioned)

#28 Dallas at 1611 Forest Ave.

#29 San Antonio at 1508 Broadway St. (now Mary’s Pig Stand)

#30 Houston at 4803 Main.

#38 Dallas at 4017 Oak Lawn

#41 Beaumont at 1955 Calder

#42 Dallas at 1907 S. Buckner

#42 Fort Worth at 2320 E. Belknap

#49 Beaumont

#50 Dallas at Abrams and Northwest Hwy. (Last location in Dallas. Closed 08/25/1985)

#? Dallas at 1801 S. Ewing

#? Dallas at 1512 Main

Comments

45 Comments

    Tim Morris says:

    The 1929 Dallas City Directory shows several from your list, some with slightly different addresses. It also lists #26 at 1614 S. Ewing Ave. Directly above the Pig Stand listing is Pig-N-Calf Stand at 3902 Maple.

    Drew says:

    There was a Pig Stand in Coffeyville KS was it part of this chain?

    Steve Barnes says:

    There is still standing an original Pig Stand building in Arlington. It is on the property of the Candlelight Inn, next to Bodacious BBQ at 1202 E. Division. Built in the early 1930’S. I have found old clippings that referred to it as Arlington Pig Stand #1, but have never found it’s # designation with the chain. Other clipping showed that we had a second location here, but I think Arlington Pig Stand #2 became the Rockeyfellers that we had on Main Street. Great Article!

    Tim Morris says:

    The 1929 City Directory also lists these BBQ restaurants:

    C&B Barbecue & Coffee Shop
    308 S Bishop Av

    Cain’s Barbecue #4
    306 S Beckley Av

    Dixie Pig Cafe
    2716 Greenville Av

    Florence’s Barbecue & Lunches
    3223 Ross Av

    Schafer Barbecue Stand
    1357 N Zang Blvd

    Not a BBQ stand, but noteworthy for its name:
    Roastateria
    4104 Live Oak

    Marc says:

    http://www.frankshogstand.com/

    The other remaining San Antonio pig stand on South Presa eventually turned in Frank’s hog Stand in 2010, and is now China Garden, a local Chinese chain.

    It’s known for its parking lot pig building that still stands.

    james says:

    #50 still stands as a liquor store.

    I ate at that location many times as well as Gaston and Grand, which that building still stands I believe.

      James Todd says:

      The Pig Stand that was at Gaston & Grand is not still standing. It was located next to the rail road embankment where a Quick Stop is now. I used to eat there with my parents in the 50’s. Great article.

    Ray C says:

    Outstanding write up and research my friend. Thank you.

    Ray

    Karla Kirby Corkran says:

    Really enjoyed your article Daniel! My Dad was BJ Kirby, mom Barbara and grandfather Jesse! I may have a few photos that you may not have if you are interested. Thanks for writing an historically accurate article!
    Sincerely,
    Karla

      J. Crabtree says:

      I don’t know if anyone would be able to collect information on the neon pig sign. I have it on good authority that my husband’s grandfather (verified neon sign maker in Dallas) may have had a part in making the signs. The company may have been called something like Hess.

    Joe gomez says:

    I remember the pig stand across the street from white rock lake spillway on garland rd. soon there after as a youth i worked for B.J. Kirby on greenville av. in the early 80’s as a bussboy then a frycook under Both Mr.Kirby and his Daughter Kim .

    I have done paintings of three Beaumont Pig Stands, #10, #41, and just recently, #49 on College St.which closed in 2006. Two have been used on menus. Each scene depicts a “particular day” the 50is

      Bobby Harville says:

      I am in possion of one of your drawings Pig Stand PA rd @ hghland. Must of been aprox 1957 as it had a 57 chev conv. I and many friends hung out at that Pig Stand many years 1952 till 1958 Navy come in the way. I had one of the first 55 power pack chevs & had many good outings with all commers. fun many friends

    Cynthia Robichaux Smith says:

    I spent many fun times at the Pig Stand in Beaumont, Texas. Our favorite car hop was a bleached blonde lady named Opal. She didn’t particularly care for teenagers (bad tippers) and the fact that three of us would order a Cherry coke with three straws costing 15 cents with a nickel tip..Giant hamburgers were 35 cents and order of onion rings 15 cents if we had a few extra cents..And at night, well no one ended a date without dragging the Pig Stand or driving in for a coke and to check out who had a date that night. We even held one reunion in the 90s at the Pig Stand.. We loved it.

    Cynthia Robichaux Smith says:

    Back in the 50″s one couldn’t end a date without pulling into the Pig Stand in Beaumont Texas on Calder Ave Giant Hamburger 35 cents.

    John Speer says:

    I remember when we would get a Cherry Coke w/a olive for a extra nickel which the boys referred to a a passion pill. I have got to remember that we were only kids with undeveloped brains!

    Barbara Guidry Martin says:

    I too frequented al three of the pig stands in Beaumont. The one on Highland Ave. was closet to my Highschool, South Park. The one on 11st was across from Rainbo Bread who my Dad was a route salesman for. Would go get a hot loaf and cross the street for butter and milk…yum…have a “placemat/menu from the Calder location. Those were the days!!!

    R. O. Williams Jr says:

    My father-in-law, Happy Mayberry, managed the Wash Blvd/Highland Pigstand in Beaumont for many years…also was at the one on 11th Street and at one time, there was a “Pig Jr” where he also worked…(I think was located on Washington Blvd…can remember them, so many times, speaking of their friend, Mr. Hailey…

      Wayne Koenig says:

      Most kids in Beaumont back in the day remember Happy Mayberry, he was a character.
      I think he hated us teenagers because we would tie up customer space for people that really wanted to eat and leave. Happy’s wonderful daughter, Judy still lives in the Beaumont area and is responsible for a monthly lunch meeting of 1961 South Park students. Go Judy!!!

    Ann Marie Tovar says:

    I believe there was a pig stand on n.main st.in Houston texas 77009. When i was a child

    Terry Carroll says:

    I worked @ #10 for three years starting in 1963 before going into the Navy. I worked with Happy during the “sit-ins”. What a good guy! Mr. Comoeaux and Mr. Brinkley were the best bosses, Ben taught me to cook and the carhops taught me…also. I still go there to the empty lot and relive beautiful memories every time I pass through Beaumont.

    Dan smith says:

    I think there was a pig stand on long point in spring branch.
    This is in Houston, Tx just outside 610 loop on I-10

    John says:

    I grew up in Pleasant Grove in the 60’s. We ate fairly regularly at #42 on Buckner Blvd. fond memories

      Don Hillin says:

      John, glad you mentioned Pig Stand #42 on Buckner Blvd. in Pleasant Grove. I grew up in Seagoville and graduated in1962 and ate at the only Pig Stand that I know of and have been asking friends for years if they remembered it in Pleasant Grove and no one remembered and I thought I was going crazy. Thanks, Don Hillin

    Dr Michael Jackson says:

    My Great Uncle Dr Reuben Jackson was the Co-Founder of the Pig Stand restaurant chain

    Scott Hailey says:

    My great uncle was Royce Hailey and we had numerous family members that worked at the Pig Stand over the years.

    Andrew Rorschach says:

    One of my patients, Bertha Garnett, was a short order cook with the Pig Stand from 1955 to 1965. She worked at the Houston Avenue and White Oak Blved in Houston (#44).

    Barb says:

    There was a Grover’s Pig Stand in Endicott, NY and another nearby I think.

    Larry Hiney says:

    My parents took us to the Pig Stand at the Northwest corner of Ferndale Rd. and Northwest Highway. We were very young, but it was open when we moved to Dallas in 1969, so I think it was open into the early 70’s.

    Ed says:

    There were Grovers Pig Stands in Endicott and Binghamton NY in the 50’s when I moved there. You can still get the original ‘Pig Sandwich’ at ‘Brothers Two’ in Endwell, NY. They worked at the Endicott Pig Stand while in High School.

    Jody says:

    I have an old spoon from my childhood stamped “Pig Stands Inc”… it’s still my sentimental favorite utensil. 🙂

    Bobby griffin says:

    My father (Buddy Griffin) was mgr of Pig Stand #’s 2,3,15 and 25. My mother started off as a car hop then a waitress then cashier. I actually caught my first fish on Doc Jackson huge property where he had a lake.

    Candace Maxwell says:

    Texas Pig Stand
    No. 14
    2801 Guadalupe
    Austin, Texas

    My mother has a beautifully preserved menu from the restaurant. She was at UT in the 50’s.

    I washed dishes at the Austin Pig Stand on Guadelupe over the winter of 1953–1954. A runaway 14-year old from New York. I remember fondly the car hops, then older women, divorced, tough-talking, kind, and the black cook, called ‘Wash’ and his assistant LeRoy.

    Angela says:

    My friend has an old breakfast menu that came from The Pig Stands inc. #25. I would post a pic but can’t on here.

    rob noble says:

    There was a Short’s Pig Stand in Wichita Falls, TX, closed in the 60s I think. It is a flea market now at northeast corner of Lincoln and Burkburnett Rd. They have merchandise piled up under the carports and the original building is still there

    Curtis Riley says:

    My mom Hazel Riley worked at Texas pig stands for 27 years in Houston Texas on Northmain st she was Manager at Washington av she started working in 1964 we still talk about her memory’s today

    Mike Jones says:

    My uncle, Davey Jones, work for he Pig Stand company for many years, mostly in Texas, but also in California during the depression. Would anyone know of the locations of the Los Angeles/Santa Monica Pig Stands?

    Paul David Murrey says:

    My father, Paul Murrey was the owner of a used car lot on across the street for a Pig Stand on Colonial Ave near what used to be Forest Ave. and now is Martin Luther King Street.Both the car lot and the Pig Stand were on Colonial Ave. In 1942, I was born just down the street.

    Robbie Baker says:

    I would really love the hamburger steak recipe. They had the best hamburger steak

    Dan L Stricklin Sr says:

    I used to eat at Pig Stand on W. 7th St. Fort Worth TX in 1948.
    Dan

    ROGER says:

    Pig Stand on Broadway SA,Texas is the real deal.There’s are reason it’s still open in great SA.

    Chris Daigle says:

    There was definitely a Pig Stand in Houston at the corner of West 15th and North Shepherd from the late 1950’s to the 1980’s it was across the street from a Prince’s Hamburgers. It was at 1441 North Shepherd. Barbeque was great!

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