Iconic Augusta 'Miller's 5 Drive In' reopens under new ownership

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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AUGUSTA, Kan. -- On a very cold Super Bowl Sunday, Augusta's Crystal Socha huddled outside of Miller's 5 Drive In along State Street in downtown Augusta.

Thirteen years of memories and her favorite Miller's 5 treat had brought her back to the familiar window that she knew would reopen in just minutes after almost a year of being closed.

"I'm waiting on some of their good ice cream, in the cold!" Socha said.

She was the first in line Sunday for the grand reopening of Miller's 5. The iconic Augusta restaurant officially began a new chapter under new ownership.

Miller's 5 had closed in March 2013. after being open for more than 49 years. Judy and Lee Miller originally opened Miller's 5 in 1964.

"It's very exciting. I've been looking forward to it ever since we found out," Socha said. "I've got to have the ice cream!"

The ice cream is exactly what Lisa Marache fell in love with after her husband Curtis introduced her to Miller's 5. For 30 years, Curtis would make the short drive up from his hometown of Douglass to enjoy the great food.

"We'd love coming here," Lisa said.

When Miller's 5 closed, it was a difficult time. Judy Miller had decided to step back because of her battle with cancer. She had been keeping the restaurant going since her husband died about three years earlier.

Judy passed away in August 2013. The Marache's wanted to find a way to keep her tradition of Miller's 5 alive.

"When we saw it go up for sale, we watched it for a while. At one point we decided we are just going to go for it," Lisa said.

They went for it with a very simple principle in mind:

"I told (Lisa) that if we get it, we need to keep it the same," Curtis said. "(I said) We need to find out where they ordered all their food, how to make all their food, so everything pretty much stays the same."

They've done just that.

They've kept the same food items, the same signs, many of the same employees. The only visible difference is a little rearranging of cooking equipment inside.

"It worked for all those years, so why change it?" Lisa said.

That mentality is something the Miller family says it can really appreciate.

"I think it's great and I'm so glad I can help them get started," said Tearie Shipman, one of Judy's daughters.

Tearie was in the back cooking up the burgers Sunday afternoon. She and other members of the Miller family have volunteered to help show the Marache's the ropes to ease the transition.

"We have to give a lot of credit to the family that is so willing to come in and help us on their time," Lisa said.

The continued close connection to the Miller family is something that also means a lot to the customers of Miller's 5.

"I think it's great that it's coming back," said Christina Keen of Leon. "A lot of people are looking forward to it."

Customers say it's been worth the wait and it was worth braving the cold Sunday for a taste of the future of what has been such a staple of their past.

"Yes, it's wonderful!" Socha said as she ate her vanilla ice cream. "It's great. It's totally worth it!"

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