HUNTINGTON — If you come into Huntington from the Hal Greer Boulevard exit of Interstate 64, you may have noticed that a prominent image on that route since 1959 is missing. Frostop Drive-In’s iconic giant spinning Frostop Root Beer mug atop the legendary drive-in is gone from the beloved neighborhood fixture.
“The mug has to have the bearings rebuilt in it and needs some upgrades, so I have been telling folks that it’s in the ‘mug hospital,’” said Marilyn Murdock.
Murdock and her husband Bill run the business that is owned by her and her sister Bing Murphy, who are the daughters of founder Rupert McGinnis. He established the restaurant with his brother Bill Warnock.
Murdock said the approximately 3,000-pound mug hasn’t been off the roof for major repairs since the mid-80’s to early ‘90s.
“We did a little research and we think it was around 1991, but the guy from the repair shop said he thought it was the mid-80s,” Murdock said. “Based on one of our former curb boys and his age now, we really think it was closer to ’91.”
Frostop manager Larry Turner says the mug stopped spinning after the inner workings failed to work properly.
“I think it’s just normal wear and tear over all these years,” Turner said. “The chain stretches, the gear wears and the bearing wears out.”
Bill Murdock said after an inspection, it was determined the mug had to come off the roof to be fixed.
“It sits on a pedestal and rides on a bearing, which were coming out,” he said. “They brought a crane in here to get it off Sunday morning, Nov. 17, and we hope to clean it up and touch up the paint while it’s off as well.”
The mug was taken to Wooten Machine Company, Inc., located in the 3500 block of 16th Street Road.
“We have it in one of our facilities here and we are currently repairing it,” said Merle Wooten. “We had to disassemble the drive mechanism and the electrical contacts. We are in the process of trying to upgrade all of them because they are obsolete.”
Wooten said his father Randal and his two brothers Claude and Roger are the owners of Wooten Machine Company and worked on the iconic mug the last time it was off the building.
“We normally don’t take jobs or projects like this, but since my father and his brothers did it the last time we wanted to be there for them again,” Wooten said.
The company mainly builds equipment for the mining industry.
As far as when the mug repairs will be finished, there is no definite timetable, but Wooten said he is hoping it will be soon.
“I think this will make a good Christmas present for them,” he said.
About three years ago, Frostop was name the most iconic restaurant in the state by Thrillist.com.
“It’s a tradition, and it’s a landmark. We try to keep things very constant, and we try to keep the quality of our products at the highest level,” Marilyn Murdock said. “There are certain things that people come back for, like our hot dogs, like our root beer. We’ve added things over the years, but we don’t take those important things away. My mother and my aunt made up the recipe for our hot dog sauce. My sister and I ate hot dogs night after night until they got it right. It may have been tweaked a little bit over the years because we’ve had different cooks, but it’s made with basically the original recipe right here in our kitchen. Everything is made in our kitchen — our three kinds of pork barbecue, our beef barbecue and our slaw.”
Few restaurants make their own root beer on site, and fewer still can say that they’ve lasted 60 years. First opening its doors in 1959, Frostop Drive-In celebrated its anniversary this year in grand style on Memorial Day weekend, complete with custom T-shirts, mugs and even root beer growlers.
“When my father and uncle opened this business in 1959, it was part of a national chain,” Marilyn Murdock said. “There are only 12 left in the United States and since there is no franchise, the name is still there but the owners can do what they want with them.”
The Murdocks said they visited a Frostop in St. George, Utah.
“It’s was green and red and the menu was very different from ours,” Marilyn Murdock said.
For those looking to commemorate the restaurant’s landmark, anniversary shirts and growlers are still available; mugs are sold out but will be back in stock soon.
Frostop Drive-In is located at 1449 Hal Greer Blvd. It is open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Cash and all major credit cards are accepted. For more information call 304-523-6851 and follow it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Frostop-Drive-In-165888996796186/.