Voting Home / Chicken Shack
Nominated for: BEST Barbecue
In the beginning . . .
After leaving the Navy in 1946, John Sobeck and a friend caught a train from Pennsylvania with John wanting to go to Cleveland and Andy wanting to go to Detroit. They flipped a coin and John lost. He went back to the job he had left before entering the Navy for Briggs Manufacturing at Mound and Eight Mile as a tool and die maker. In September 1946, John met Iola Jesswein, his future wife. They were engaged in December and married the following April 19, 1947. Having noticed how many people with 25-year seniority were being laid off, they decided to try their hand at being in business for themselves, living the American Dream. During their honeymoon, they made the decision to build J & J Ice Cream in Lexington, Michigan. After the summer, they sold the business for a profit with a desire to find a more year round business. In 1948, they built another J & J Ice Cream on Woodward Avenue and that was the beginning of home made ice cream, hot dogs, and hamburgers.
Their family grew quickly starting in 1951 with the birth of their first child, Claudette, then Mark in 1953, Michelle in 1955, and Cheryl in 1957; they had their future work force in place. As the children grew older the house rule was “If you don't work, you don't eat". To this day, it instilled a work ethic that is difficult to match. Closing only 3 days a year, a 90-hour workweek was the norm rather than the exception.
In 1956, after trying Broasted chicken at Bill's Hideout on Woodward, John and Iola decided to sell the J & J and start a restaurant called Chicken Shack. They started with two Broasters with the capacity to cook 32 pieces of chicken every 8 minutes (today most locations can produce 512 pieces every 8 minutes). The Sobeck goal was set, “give customers the highest quality product possible at a reasonable price.”