While the chain we know today as Burger King started off as Insta-Burger in the 1950s in Florida, there was already another monarch on the block to contend with: Known as the original Burger King, an Illinois restaurant that’s been around since 1954 — and trademarked that name before the nationwide chain — is changing hands after decades of ownership by the couple who founded it.
Back in 1952, the couple bought a Frigid Queen in downtown Mattoon, IL and renamed it Burger King, opening in 1954, reports the Herald Review.
When the Burger King we all know today came around, the owners of the solo eatery had already trademarked the name in Illinois, prompting the two businesses to go to federal court to settle things. The judge ruled in 1968 in favor of the national chain, giving it the right under its federal trademark to name its restaurants as such everywhere else in the United States… except in Mattoon.
To this day, there can be no other Burger King within 20 miles from the Mattoon Burger King, a restriction that will remain in effect with the new ownership.
The locals have fond memories of the place, and the new owners say they want to keep those warm feelings going forward.
“I hope we can continue what they started so many years ago,” the new owner said of the couple who’ve owned the restaurant for decades, noting that he often stopped by the Burger King with his teammates growing up. “They are great people and they have done great things for Mattoon.”
Meanwhile, the couple says they’re happy to hear from their customers during this time, and they’re not going to just kick back and relax in their retirement. The new owner has pledged to work with them to tap their vast wealth of knowledge running a restaurant.
“We do appreciate the support we have gotten. We could not have done this without the customers,” the husband half of the equation told the Herald-Review. “We don’t plan to just sit in a porch swing. We can’t do that.”