By Tim Ashley
It can’t officially be declared deceased, but the drive-in restaurant is clearly not as popular as it once was. Earlier this year, another one was permanently closed when Shopoff’s Drive-In, 417 S. Huntington St. (SR 13), Syracuse, served its last meal.
Although many will remember the restaurant by its most recent name, the history of the building dates back several years prior to when it was purchased by Jon and Margie Shopoff in 1982 or 1983.
A history of the building was provided by Tami Gallahan Tschiniak, daughter of Harold and Annie Gallahan. Tschiniak noted her parents purchased the lot in 1954 from Bob Lucas, who at that time was selling franchises.
The Gallahans had moved from Peru to Syracuse to start their new business. When they purchased the franchise, they had a simple square building built to serve as a B&K Root Beer stand. “Friends of theirs had bought one in Goshen and had told them it was a good investment and they should buy one from Bob and move from Peru to Syracuse, so they did,” Tschiniak said.
She recalls watching her dad mixing up the root beer from scratch. “He had a huge 50-gallon stainless steel drum that stood on a wooden platform with wheels so he could wheel it out when it was done and pour it into the root beer fountain that it came out of,” she said. “He used a huge wooden paddle, similar to a boat oar to stir it.”
She also remembers him lifting up a 25-pound bag of sugar and mixing it into the water and root beer concentrate. He would also make the Spanish sauce fresh nearly every morning.
Eventually living quarters were built onto the back of the building and that is where the Gallahans lived, including Tschiniak, while they owned the drive-in.
There is a connection between the Shopoffs and the Gallahans other than both owning the restaurant. Margie Shopoff had worked for the Gallahans when she was in high school.
Jon had been in the restaurant business since he was in high school in Portland, Ind. He worked 21 years at a steak house restaurant so he had plenty of experience.Shopoff’s offered patrons a true old-fashioned experience with corn dogs, coney dogs, chili dogs, root beer floats and more. There were also carhops, many of whom were high school students.
The restaurant business is highly competitive and for any eatery to stay open nearly 40 years they must be doing something right. In addition to the old-fashioned experience, Shopoff’s offered quality food such as premium beef.
The property has yet to be sold.