I have to admit I'm a little worried about the Big Boy.

The Big Boy restaurants that once populated The Mitten have slowly disappeared. Take Plainwell, Wayland, and most recently the Pearl Street location in downtown Grand Rapids.

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There had been so much back and forth over the iconic Pearl Street Big Boy location I just assumed, mistakenly, that would be the one location to survive the cuts.

Unfortunately, the sudden closing of the downtown Grand Rapids location leaves only two Big Boy restaurants within reasonable driving distance: Wyoming and Battle Creek.

Big Boy Michigan
Lauren G-TSM/Canva

I recently visited the Battle Creek location and it definitely felt like I was stepping back in time-- for better or for worse. This most recent shake-up got me curious to check in on the state of things and that's when I learned:

83% of all Big Boys are actually located right here in The Mitten!


Big Boy Michigan
Lauren G/TSM

Big Boy's Beginnings

At first I thought maybe Big Boy was actually founded here in Michigan, but it turns out that is not the case. In fact, Big Boy got his start on the west coast in sunny California.

Founder Bob Wian purchased his first roadside food stand in 1936 in Glendale, CA and called it "Bob's Pantry." One night a customer asked Bob for a something a little different and that's how Bob got the idea to create the first double-decker cheeseburger.

Customers came from all over California to try Bob's double-decker, including a movie studio animator who sketched the now-famous Big Boy mascot on a napkin. Thus, Bob's "Big Boy" was born!

Pearl Street Big Boy Grand Rapids
Pearl Street Big Boy Grand Rapids - Google Maps

Big Boy Moves to the Mitten

Brothers John, Louis, and Fred Elias cemented the Big Boy's history in Michigan when they opened the restaurant's first franchise in Hazel Park, MI in 1952. By 1964 the Elias brothers operated over 100 stores in the Michigan-Ohio area and in 1987 they purchased the chain outright and eventually moved the company's headquarters to Warren, MI.

Today Big Boy is still Michigan-owned, belonging to a group of investors who renamed the company the Big Boy Restaurant Group. So that explains why there are so many Big Boys in Michigan!

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