Bill Knapp’s

Do you remember Bill Knapp’s?

The first Bill Knapp restaurant was located in Battle Creek Michigan in 1948. It was an American family restaurant chain known for its made from scratch home-style foods and famous chocolate cake. This chain grew to 60 locations in the Midwest including Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Indiana.. Its early success was attributed to locating many of the restaurants off major highway exits. This freeway-focused placement attracted travelers offered a convenient meeting place for friends and families.

Bill Knapp “was interested in providing decent food for a reasonable price with friendly service.” The target clientele of his restaurants was families, often three generations eating together at long tables pushed together. As the decades passed, the clientele remained nearly the same as it had when the first restaurant of the chain opened in 1948. By the 1980s and 1990s, with the breakdown of extended families, the clientele was predominantly senior citizens.

The “That was then, this is WOW” campaign not only changed the interior and exterior décor, but the menu as well. Prior to 1996, Bill Knapp’s cuisine was prepared, home style, in a commissary which supplied all of its restaurants daily or every other day. In an effort to cut costs, the commissary model was abandoned in favor of purchasing food from food services local to each restaurant, as well as substituting Lipton soups and Kraft macaroni and cheese for the previously home-made versions provided by the commissary.

The Menu

Bill Knapp’s featured a menu primarily filled with typical family dining items. The menu included a limited breakfast, sandwiches, baskets, and luncheon and dinner plates. A children’s menu, featuring meals named for animals, was also offered. Recipes for their fried chicken, bean soup, ham croquettes, vegetable soup, onion rings, au gratin potatoes, and chocolate cakes (later purchased by Awrey Bakeries) were also featured. Locations replenished inventory on a daily basis from the commissary in Battle Creek, Mich., with their own fleet of trucks. Bill Knapp placed great emphasis on the quality and freshness of the food, with added emphasis on preparing the food “from scratch.

The Rise & Fall of Bill Knapp’s

Bill Knapp’s was Founded

Bill Knapp's was an American family restaurant chain. It was founded by Clinton B. Knapp in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1948. The chain operated in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Indiana, with more than 60 locations at its peak.

The End of Bill Knapp’s

On Tuesday May 21, 2002, Bill Knapp’s filed for voluntary Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan. At the time the company operated 29 restaurants. By the end of 2002, the chain's last restaurant had closed.

Click through the gallery above for some of the most popular forgotten retail spots that are now gone, but never forgotten. Did we miss one of your favorites? Share your memories in the comments.

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