Deliciously frozen in time, Lebanon’s Snow White Drive-In is changing hands, but its legions of fans need not hold their breath. Few changes will be coming down the pike, although two items likely will be added to the menu.
“Everything will stay the same. The only change, after we’ve had it for a little while, we’ll probably add some new barbeque items, like ribs and smoked chicken. We’ve got to get our feet good and wet,” said Sandra Wyatt-Moore, who, with her husband, Mark Moore, will begin operating the iconic diner on the west side of town on July 1.
The couple is purchasing the business from Sandra’s brother, Billy Wyatt, who has run it for about 10 years. Previously, their mom, the late Ann Birdwell, and sister, Edie Oats, operated Snow White.
A throwback to the 1950s, an era when two-lane, blacktop highways were dotted with mom-and-pop diner-dairy bars bore such names as the Cream Castle, the Frozen De-Lite and the King Kone, Snow White has stood the taste of time while dishing out countless BBQ baskets, hamburgers, French fries, chili dogs, banana splits, milk shakes and soft-serve ice cream cones.
And, just like the first day it opened in 1957, the restaurant continues to give customers the option of curb service: Blink your lights and a car hop will walk to your window and take your order.
“I grew up around Snow White. It was always a huge treat to be able to pull up and get ice cream in the summertime. My mom, the love of her life, was Snow White. We always felt so close to her here, and it’s become such a legacy in my family. My mother started the meat-and-vegetable plate here. We want to continue on that family legacy. My husband and I both have servant hearts. We’re not here to make money. We’re here to serve people,” said Sandra, a Lebanon native.
“Since Snow White has been in my family, it has been its own community, a place where people can come and visit with family and have a meal. All of that will continue. I’ll handle the business aspect, and Mark will handle the people and the restaurant side.
“Mark has been working with Billy’s recipe and been making barbeque for several months to make sure everything stays the same. We’re looking for a seamless transition.”
Billy is ready to turn over the reins, get away from the hickory smoke and enjoy life outside the BBQ pit where he has been spending 12 to 14 hours a week.
“Sandra asked me if I would sell it, and I said, ‘I believe I would.’ I hadn’t thought nothing about it,” said Billy, who will turn 61 soon. “It got to the point where me and my wife want to get out and go places. I’m gonna miss it, but it’s time for me to get on down the road and let somebody else enjoy it.
“I can’t run it like it needs to be ran. Just getting wore out. I was doing about 100 to 115 hours a week for over a year before I retired from the county to do this full time.”
Jerry Vantrease, whose father and mother, Wesley and Myrtle Vantrease, opened Snow White in 1957, told the Wilson Post in 2009, “I remember the first order we ever got. I was running the curb service myself. The order was for four hamburgers, four orders of French fries and four Cokes. It was $2.12. They almost went nuts. They thought that was high.”
Vantrease said that he, his brother Bobby and his father constructed the Snow White. Originally, there was no inside seating but two windows up front for people to place orders. About 90 percent of their customers preferred the curb service.
Sandra, a registered nurse who has a degree in organizational management, grew up in restaurants and began making cheeseburgers at the age of 8, helping her mother in Ann’s Kitchen in Carthage and later at the old Dairy Queen in South Carthage.
Asked why she believes Snow White has survived for more than a half a century, she answered, “A lot of things change in this chaotic world when you can’t tell up from down sometimes. Snow White has been a constant.
“It has always been here to serve the people, and we’re going to give people what they want. It’s not a big corporation where it’s ‘no, you can’t have that.’ We’re going to make it,” said the newest member of the Wyatt family to watch over one of the Cedar City’s most appetizing crown jewels.
SNOW WHITE DRIVE-IN
Where: 1714 W. Main St., Lebanon
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday-Saturday
Contact: (615) 443-4299