Ludlow’s newest business is inspiring community comradery by honoring a time when their most cherished sports team was crowned champions — a feeling the owners want to share with their customers every time they walk through the door.
1975 Burgers Shakes Fries opened on Feb. 11 to much community fanfare. The restaurant’s namesake honors the 1975 Class A football state champion Ludlow Panthers. Coincidentally, the building it’s located in also has a significant amount of history.
“This restaurant brings it all full circle,” said Matt Brock, cofounder of 1975 Burgers Shakes Fries. Brock is a Ludlow native who played football in the youth Panthers system growing up. When his sons were old enough, they also played football for the Panthers.
The 1975 Class A state championship football game was a sunny day slobberknocker. It pit Ludlow against Heath, a school in Paducah which no longer exists after consolidating into McCracken County High School.
In the end, Ludlow emerged victorious by besting Heath 7-6 in a contest that featured only two touchdowns. Overall, the team finished the season with sterling record of 12-1, suffering their lone loss at the hands of Lloyd Memorial in the first game of the season. On offense, the Panthers were led by star running back Jim Lokesak, who earned all-state honors.
The 1975 Panthers are revered within the city after they netted Ludlow High School one of its two team sports championships in school history.
“Growing up in Ludlow myself, playing football for the local high school, I certainly heard quite a bit about the 1975 football team,” Ludlow Mayor Chris Wright told LINK nky. “Growing up, we had different players from the team, and even the coach of the team, come into class as guest speakers to talk to us about various life lessons.”
Brock, who works as a real estate entrepreneur, realized he wanted to open a restaurant at 478 Elm Street after driving by the lot’s vacant building every day on his way to youth football practice.
“Last fall, right after football season, I was driving by and said to myself, ‘You know what? I’m going to open a restaurant here,’” Brock said.
Brock knew he needed someone with experience in the restaurant industry, so he contacted his friend Austin Bauer. Now his business partner, Bauer runs the kitchen and delivers a quality dining experience.
Built in 1958 by brother Burr and Jim Reeves, the building overlooks historic James Rigney Stadium, the home field of the Ludlow Panthers. The first restaurant that operated in the location was named Dairy Cheer, which was then renamed to Reeves Drive In by the brothers after they learned another restaurant was already operating using the Dairy Cheer name.
The building’s last tenant was Buck’s BBQ, which closed their Ludlow location in the summer of 2021. Months prior to their closing, the restaurant was engulfed by flooding caused by heavy rains. Buck’s BBQ currently operates out of location in Florence.
Other restaurants that have operated out of the location over the years include Deelites Dairy Bar and Subway.
When Brock was growing up in Ludlow during the 1990s, he remembers frequenting Deelites with his friends, grabbing ice cream or food on their way to the park.
“When I was a kid in the community, I would go down to Deelites and grab a Big Burr or a Ham Deluxe, eat lunch or dinner there with all my buddies,” Brock said.
The Big Burr is a signature menu item that dates all the way back to the Reeves Drive Inn. The burger features two ground beef patties topped with American cheese, tartar sauce, shredded lettuce and pickles, capped off with a sesame seed bun. The Ham Deluxe is a classic grilled ham and swiss sandwich topped with shredded lettuce and tartar sauce on a sesame seed bun.
“The Reeves family here in Ludlow originally started this,” Brock said. “That’s actually where a lot of our menu items come from. The Big Burr, Ham Deluxe, those were items that were on their original menu back in 1958.”
In many ways, the restaurant is in a perfect location for future success, especially since it’s themed around the a legendary community sports team. In December 2022, Ludlow Independent Schools announced they would be installing a new synthetic turf field at their football stadium. The turf color won’t be the usual green, but a bright red — similar to Eastern Washington University’s football field.
“It’s been the talk of the town,” Ludlow football coach and co-Athletic Director Greg Taphouse told LINK nky in December. “The kids are excited and the hype back down here is through the roof. It’s not just football either. It’s great for all athletes.”
Brock is well aware of the foot traffic the revamped football stadium could bring to their new business, as it sits at a convergence of many Ludlow Schools sports facilities.
“It’s at the perfect location because it’s right by the park,” Brock said. “You can go to the park, play some basketball, walk up there to go grab a milkshake and a burger. With the new football field coming, we’re positioned right by the football field, soccer field and baseball field. That’s what we’re going to lean on this spring and summer — pumping out the ice creams, shakes and burgers.”
Being from a small town, Brock, Bauer and Wright all understand what small businesses mean to their communities. Brock said he’s received nothing but support from his.
According to Wright, people in Ludlow are excited to have a family-focused place they can visit after a ball game or spending time in the park.
“I think Ludlow as a community is very proud of its tradition and is proud of its past,” Wright said.
Correction: Ludlow has two team sports state championships. In 1999, Ludlow won the KHSAA Class 1A Girls Cross Country State Championship.
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