IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – People in Irving cried when the Big State Drug Store closed. The landmark had graced Downtown Irving since 1948. But it will soon open its doors again — without the pharmacy but saving the soda shoppe and grill.
The new owners have a vested interest in Irving; they are lifelong residents.
“It’s huge because Big State is Irving history,” said Rick Fairless, who with wife Susan Fairless were regulars at Big State. They were there last week when it closed. Now they will take charge of its new life as a ’50s-era soda fountain and grill.
“And then we’re going to have a little candy shop inside there and we’re going to have a snow cone stand, we’re going to have gifts, greeting cards,” along with a jukebox filled with ‘50s and ‘60s tunes, according to Susan.
The couple went on dates at the drug store during high school. Rick’s parents did, as well. “We hung out at Big State our whole lives, my grandmother took me and my brother as early as I can remember,” said Fairless.
Susan is a sixth generation Irving legacy. She sees the new Big State as a place for families to come. “We’re hoping to bring younger families in,” she said adding, “most of the people that come in there are older an crowd and we’d like to get it where younger families get in there.”
She wants new blood to appreciate the store. “You get those kids to grab their parents and say, ‘Hey, Mom, Dad — this is where I want to go. I’ve got a dollar to spend. Let’s go!’”
Susan and Rick are not business novices. They run the highly successful Strokers motorcycle sales and parts business in Dallas, along with its tattoo parlor and a bar and grill.
They see no difficulty bridging the tie-dyed world of bikers in Dallas and what they hope will be a family attraction in Irving. “Well, that’s one world,” Susan said of Strokers, “and we’re about to begin a new world.” Rick is even more direct. “Even though we’re going to come in and shake things up, it’s not a new business, it’s kind of a new twist on an old Irving icon.” He added, “My whole life is in the past, Bud, I live in the ’60s; I’m just going to dial it back one more decade and I’m going to live in the ’50s, too!”
It’s not only the grill and soda fountain that get a new lease on life; the iconic “Big State” neon sign stays as well. “We just have to take the word ‘drug’ off there,” said Susan adding, “and we’re going to change the word ‘drug’ to either ‘fountain’ or ‘grill.’”
They loved the food from the old store. Rick even has one of its menus on his desk at Strokers. “I’ll for sure want to keep the BLTs and I’ll for sure want to keep the cheeseburgers; they’ve got a really good cheeseburger.” His favorite item, though, was the vanilla shake. “I love the shakes, I love the banana splits. I love the grilled cheese sandwiches.” And he promises to add fried bologna sandwiches.
Long-time customers will be happy to learn that the new owners said two popular Big State employees, Chef Leland and Waitress Cheryl, will continue to work behind the counter when it reopens.
It’s all part of the history of the place that they say is at the root of their dream. “We’re passionate about it, it means something to us,” said Fairless. “It just, it’s a piece of Irving that I do not want to see go away.”
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