Decades after opening as a restaurant serving burgers to walk-up customers, Bucky's Drive In is closed.
Duane Buck - who turned a Sandy's restaurant into his own Bucky's, then sold the place nearly four years ago after 40 years behind the counter - didn't quite believe it until he saw the stark "CLOSED" sign for himself on the message board at 2120 W. Ninth St.
He'd driven in his pickup down from his home north of town, turning onto Ninth Street and facing the sad news through the windshield.
"It's a lot of history going," he recalls thinking. "It was a good business for me. It treated me good for 40 years. I just hate to see it close."
The restaurant has been something of a Lawrence institution for decades, opening in 1959 as Sandy's at the edge of Centennial Park, before McDonald's had come to town. Buck started work there in 1966, turned it into Bucky's by 1975 and still remembers the restaurant license bearing the number 12, attesting to its early approval and continued operations.
He sold the operation in early 2004 to Craig Miller, and then retired from making his signature Buckaroo burgers, serving up fries and waiting on customers using a drive-through window that hadn't opened until the 1980s, much later than those of his competitors - some of which would survive, but many others that would not.
"For 40 years, they kept building more restaurants, and it'd take away more of our business, and we'd promote a little more and do a little more, and it came back," said Buck, who at one point had 42 employees. "For 40 years it treated me real well, and the people of Lawrence supported it real well."
Miller, for his part, said Tuesday that he couldn't say much about the restaurant's fate other than confirm that the place wouldn't be open at any point this week.
Beyond that he wouldn't say, despite a sign in a window offering "Thanks to the community for the many years of support," and wishing happy holidays to all.
"We are closed at this time," Miller said.
A representative for Fayman Investment Co., which owns the building, confirmed Tuesday that the company had been informed Monday that Bucky's had closed.
The investment company has not yet formulated a plan for the property's future because, the representative said, "We're just 24 hours into this."
Miller has had the business up for sale for about a year but apparently found no takers, Buck said.
Buck had sold Miller the restaurant for "three times earnings," giving the new operator a chance to "make a go of it," Buck said.
But, like the sign now says, Bucky's is done.
"I'll miss it," Buck said.