‘Our community’s little piece of Americana’

Shelley Tiffany stands at the back door of Starbuck’s Drive-In. This back door has become very important for food pick-ups during the pandemic. Starbuck’s Drive-In, which started as a filling station (shown in the historic inset photo), is a longtime Nevada business, founded by Darrell Starbuck in 1956.

The current owner of Starbuck’s Drive-In, located at the east edge of Nevada along Lincoln Highway, understands the legacy of this longtime Nevada eatery.

Like the holiday coming up this Saturday, Starbuck’s Drive-In is our community’s little piece of Americana.

“I couldn’t even imagine Nevada without Starbuck’s,” said Shelley Tiffany, who has owned the business since 2016, but worked at the business many years before purchasing it.

Not to be confused with the franchise coffee business, Starbuck’s Drive-In is named after its founder, Darrell Starbuck, who started the Nevada business in 1956.

The Starbuck family shared Darrell’s story back in 2009. They told how Darrell had been running a filling station at the location, and there were also cabins and a trailer court the family also owned. Worried about income, Darrell felt he needed to do something more for his family. He decided to start selling hotdogs at the filling station.

Before long, two walk-up service windows were cut at the front as the filling station became a drive-in restaurant, selling hotdogs and a whole lot more.

The Starbuck family recalled that the business opened first as Dairy Sweet, and the name had to be changed after they found out it was the official name of another business.

During his years, Darrell laid a strong foundation for Starbuck’s Drive-In. His family remembered how he breaded onion rings at night and froze them for the next day. They remembered how popular the loose meat sandwiches became and how for a time, Starbuck’s made its own root beer for root beer floats.

The business was sold to its next longtime owner, John Hargis in 1987. Hargis expanded the front seating area during his time as owner.

Tiffany became a steady member of the Starbuck’s team during Hargis’ ownership.

“I did work for Darrell Starbuck back in the day. It was a summer when I was 19 or 20,” she said. In 1993, she started working for Hargis and stayed until 2000 when she moved to Minnesota for two years.

“When I came back to Nevada in 2002, I started right back up at Starbuck’s.”

Her primary responsibility during her many years of working for Hargis, she said, was making the sherbet and washing down the ice cream machines. “You’ve got to keep them in tip-top shape.”

When Hargis was ready to sell the business, Tiffany became an interested buyer. “I’d been here so long and enjoyed it. I didn’t want to work for anybody else or start over new somewhere,” she said. “I thought, I know what I’m doing here, and I know the people.”

She also loved the schedule. Open from March to October, no winters. “I love to read and spend time with my puppy dogs and just kind of hibernate in the winter,” she said. “So, this suited me.”

This year, COVID-19 brought new challenges to the iconic business. “We were really struggling in the beginning,” Tiffany admitted. “So much so that I didn’t know if I was going to make it.”

But she got the word out that the back door would be a drive-up order pick-up for people, and little by little business picked up. About a month ago, the business introduced car-hop service on the east side, and that has been pretty popular as long as people have “patience,” Tiffany said.

She’s thought about opening the inside seating area back up, but now said she wouldn’t do that this year. After recent spikes in positive COVID cases, she’s changed her mind and said it would likely be drive-up and car-hop only this season.

Income-wise, “I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m keeping my head above water,” she said.

Nevada residents have supported Starbuck’s very well through the years, and they’ve helped to keep its traditions alive. For Tiffany, two of the most significant traditions offered by the business are the soft-serve sherbet and the tenderloins.

“I’ve tried to keep [the tenderloins] the same way… We pound them out ourselves and brown them. It’s ‘pound, pound, dip; pound, pound, dip; pound, pound, into the fryer.'”

Tiffany plans to continue to own and operate Starbuck’s Drive-In for as long as she can. She thanks some of her main employees for their excellent work ethic and help. Those employees include Kim Williams (who started in 2000), Dawn Mills (whose son, Tayler, helps out often), Minnie Coffman, Vicki Schadt, and Evelyn Yoder, who has been Tiffany’s office manager/HR.

She also thanked the people of Nevada. “The Nevada community is really the reason we’ve made it this long.”

Tiffany said she’d be open on July 4th, but will close early at 5 p.m. so her employees can enjoy the holiday evening with their families and friends.

The City of Nevada appreciates its businesses and residents and will occasionally spotlight them on this page. If you would like to nominate a business or resident spotlight, please message our page, or email: mbarker@cityofnevadaiowa.org.

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