July 24, 2012

Our Neighbors: Burgers and the American Dream

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — There’s no secret to the success of Big Bob’s Burgers — just good food with personality and cleanliness, according to owners Bobby and Barbara Sizemore.  A variety of customers from truckers to old friends keep the Swiss Colony business running.

Opening about a year ago off west Ky. 80, Big Bob’s Burgers lets customers know when they are open for business with a brightly lit traffic sign.  They are open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sizemore has been in the restaurant business since high school. His late mother, Hazel Hacker-Sizemore, ran a handful of restaurants in London where he got his start by busing tables, flipping burgers and waiting.  

She had a dedication to hard work and customer service.

“She passed away with cancer at 54.  The woman on her death bed, bless her heart, was talking about starting a restaurant when she got better,” he said.

Sizemore wasn’t always in the restaurant business. He was a trucker at heart.  But with a down economy and no local lumber company logging, he needed to find new income.  They owned the building where Big Bob’s Burgers is now located and it just seemed like the logical thing to do, Bobby said. It’s convenient, because it’s just down the road from the couple’s home.

“It may not be the best location, but it’s working for us,” he said.  “We’ve got Walmart D.C. and the Industrial Park up the road, and a lot of locals come in and sit around and eat.”

One customer asked “Big Bob” what his secret recipe was, and to his astonishment, he answered that there was no secret recipe.

“Just salt on a burger,” he said.  “Fresh meat never frozen and fresh-cut potatoes everyday.”

But cleanliness is just as important.  Clean, white tables throughout the burger joint create a friendly 50’s classic diner feel.  

Cleanliness is so important to Sizemore that he’ll send a worker home if they are not following sanitary guidelines.  

“They wear their gloves,” he said. “You’ve got to wear your gloves and get a hair net. You’ve got to do it — there’s a sign.”

Sizemore admits working with family isn’t always easy, but he remembers a word of advice from his late mother that workers should never bring their troubles to work with them.  

“You can make a fun thing out of it or you can make it like work everyday,” Bobby Sizemore said. “I have a lot of friends who come in and sit around to drink coffee, and I yack with them and have a good time.”

As for his wife, Barbara Sizemore, she enjoys doing a little bit of everything around the family restaurant, including meeting new people and working side-by-side with her daughter.  She opens everyday and prepares for the lunch rush while brewing fresh coffee.  

If you ever ask Bobby Sizemore why he picked burgers to be his chief sell, he’d reply, “The American Dream.”

“Where else can you get a down home style burger?” he asked.

Big Bob’s Burgers is located at 176 Abbuhl Road in London.

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