The Michigan Gravesite Location of Restaurant Founder, Bill Knapp
We've talked about the defunct Bill Knapp's restaurants many, many times...how it's missed, etc. But what do we actually know about the man and his restaurant?
For one thing, his name wasn't even 'Bill'...his full name was Clinton Beecham Knapp, born in 1907. At just 39 years old, Knapp founded his restaurant in 1948 in Battle Creek. While the Bill Knapp's restaurants are thought to be Michigan-only, there were locations in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
His goal was to make it a place where whole families could come and get a home-cooked meal way from home. Desserts, soups, casseroles, etc. were all made from scratch. Meatloaf and macaroni & cheese were Knapp favorites, while the kids scarfed down burgers and meals named after zoo animals.
Knapp's made sure customers celebrating their birthdays were treated well...a meal discount was applied depending on your age...anniversary couples received free chocolate cake...and anyone who made it past the age of 100 got a free meal.
Unfortunately, when the 'swingin' single' 80s and 90s rolled around, family units were less and less. Senior citizens still flocked to Knapps to have their favorite meals and get their discounts.
To save money, Knapps made less homemade foods and started implementing re-heated frozen dinners and food service items. Their homemade mac & cheese was replaced by Kraft. Burger patties came frozen. The number of customers began decreasing and others didn't want to go, thinking it was an “old person's restaurant”.
Knapps tried to re-tool in 2001 but it was unsuccessful...the company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002.
The downfall of Knapp's cannot be blamed on Bill Knapp...he had passed away in 1974 at the age of 67. If he had been around he might have come up with a good course of action to save his business.
Bill Knapp is buried in Battle Creek's Oak Hill Cemetery under his real name, Clinton Beecham Knapp. The gallery below includes photos of his final resting place. From what we have seen and learned, Bill was indeed a kind, 'gentle man'.
Bill Knapp's Michigan Gravesite
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Michigan Drive-In Restaurants & Memorabilia
Vintage Hamburger Diners and Michigan's First Drive-in Restaurant