Kewpee sandwich shop with man (probably Carl Ruth), ca. 1940s. Image courtesy of Sandusky Library Archives Research Center
Fast food came to downtown Sandusky in 1941.
Located on the northeast corner of Wayne and East Market Streets, the Kewpee Sandwich Shop opened for business. It was the first fast-food establishment in Sandusky. Carl and Helen Ruth were the owners, the cooks and most of the staff. They also enlisted the help of their children and a niece to operate the business.
Originally, it was a white metallic building with a large smiling kewpie doll over the exterior front door. Long goose-necked lamps lit the outside of the building that created a dazzling glow against the shiny white walls of the building at night. Inside patrons could watch their food being prepared as the grill was in full view.
The menu consisted of hamburgers, ham sandwiches, doughnuts, pies, coffee but NOT French fried potatoes. The establishment also offered vegetable sandwiches (tomato and lettuce) and a variety of soups. Carl ground his own beef and used a local bakery (Knoerle’s Bakery) for the buns. Prices in the 1940s: chili – $.10; hamburger – $.15; ice cream cone – $.05!
In 1954, the Ruth’s sold the business to Lyle Mayhew. The name changed to Whitehouse Restaurant. The kewpie doll disappeared, but very little else changed.
In 1964, Roger Markley took the establishment over, remodeled it and changed the name to Markley’s Restaurant. Markley’s remained in business into the 21st century but finally closed its doors. A portion of the site is now occupied by a Subway Restaurant.