Originally Published: June 21, 2013 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Kendall Jaspers opened Kendall's Famous Burgers & Ice Cream in 1987 in the former Dent's ice cream parlor across Cortez Street from the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza.
Jaspers serves up old-fashioned hamburgers, French fries and other treats, and displays photos of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Louis Armstrong, Coca-Cola, classic cards and other icons from bygone eras.
Jaspers, who graduated from Prescott High School in 1968, returned to the community in 1986 after attending Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and working in the food service industry.
"I had to do something," he said. "There weren't a lot of jobs" in Prescott.
He said he opened Kendall's with his partners at the time: siblings Paul and Kathy Murphy.
"I bought them out after a few years," Jaspers said. "They were very good in getting this place started."
Jaspers said he started in food services washing dishes at the age of 14 in the Elks Club, then located above the Elks Opera House. He also worked in the kitchen of an area dude ranch during the summer.
He tries to set Kendall's apart from fast-food franchises and chains.
"We cut our own French fries," he said. "We batter our own onion rings. We also cook every burger to order. I will do medium rare if you ask."
Jaspers said some customers date from the early years of his business and now bring their children to eat at Kendall's.
"I've had a couple of second-generation employees," he said.
"We have always done our marketing to locals," Jaspers said. "That is our bread and butter. Tourists are great, but you can't make a living off it."
Some older tourists inquire about a scene from "Billy Jack" filmed from when it was the ice cream parlor, Jaspers said. He displays a poster of the movie with filmmaker/actor Tom Laughlin.
Besides running Kendall's, Jaspers has served as the part-time executive director of the Prescott Downtown Partnership for longer than two years.
"It's sort of like a chamber of commerce for downtown businesses," Jaspers said. "I have a lot of experience in issues that affect downtown."
Jaspers said he enjoys interacting with the public, and has no plans to retire.
"I'm having a good time," he said. "I don't know what I'd do if I retired."
Like the downtown, the menu at Kendall's has evolved to accommodate changing tastes, Jaspers said.
"People are looking for variety," he said.
Selections include a half-pound "uptown" burger for $6.09, a chicken sandwich for $6.29, a 5-ounce steak sandwich for $6.99 and a garden burger "for our vegetarian friends" for $5.99.
Other items are a three-piece fish and chips for $8.99, and shrimp and chips for $6.99. Patrons may order a salad for $3.29 and cup of chili for $3.49.
For $3.39, customers may order fries and a medium drink with any sandwich.
Patrons also may order 16 Thrifty ice cream flavors, including strawberry, rainbow sherbet, pecan praline and black cherry. Prices include $2.19 for a one-scoop cone, $4.39 for a regular-size float and $6.99 for a banana split.
Hamburgers are by far the favorite food at Kendall's, Jaspers said. Customers may build their own burger by adding condiments.