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Hundreds welcome Steak 'n Shake to Tempe

(KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- People are lining up for Steakburgers and milkshakes in Tempe.

Fast food chain Steak 'n Shake opened its new location near Mill Avenue and University Drive on Thursday.

It is the Indianapolis-based chain's first location in the state. General Manager Kirk O'Keefe said the company is expanding in the west.

"Arizona seemed to be the perfect spot," O'Keefe said. "There's so many people from the Midwest here that Steak N' Shake already had a following."

A lot of customers were excited about this morning's opening.

"We had people starting to line up around 4:30 a.m.," O'Keefe said. "By the time we unlocked the doors at 10 a.m., we had over 150 people in the line, which was going down the block."

The first 100 customers got free Steak 'n Shake meals for the next year.

By noon, the line had thinned out, but there was still at least a five-minute wait to get in. One of those in line was Jessica Austin, who was a regular Steak 'n Shake customer when she lived in the Midwest.

"I'm very accustomed to Stake 'n Shake. I love them," Austin said. "I have a feeling it's going to be just as good here. I'm really super-excited."

O'Keefe said the company hopes to open other Arizona locations, but no deals have been finalized.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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