“It takes a village:” Wimpy’s Sandwich Shoppe opens to Good Crowds

Sapulpa now has a retro sandwich shop with indoor and outdoor dining, reasonable prices, great food, and last but not least, a name and philosophy taken from the iconic Wimpy’s Diner and the subsequent Wimpy’s Junior Restaurant.

The decor of Wimpy’s Sandwich Shoppe, at the southwest corner of Mission and Hobson, is replete with 1950s black and white tile, chrome, nostalgic sayings on the walls, and with memorabilia from local restaurants that no longer exist.

The back wall of Wimpy’s features the famous Popeye characters and a bit of history of Sapulpa’s original Wimpy’s, located in an old trolley car. (Charles Betzler photo)

When asked why he picked Wimpy’s as a theme and why he picked the current location, long-time local entrepreneur Mike Naifeh explained: “When we first started, it was going to be just a hot dog stand, like New York-style sitting on the corner. It kept evolving into more and more stuff then, through the nostalgia of it all, I decided we needed to recreate some of the old memories.”

Naifeh went on to say that City Attorney David Widdoes was his inspiration. Naifeh said that during a conversation between the two, Widdoes lamented the loss of the original Wimpy’s and told Naifeh that the diner held fond childhood memories.

“When we finally decided on Wimpy’s, we were already into the hot dog coney thing, and we just expanded the coneys to pulled pork, pork tenderloin, and roast beef dip. We just kind of started with the coney thing even though Wimpy’s was a hamburger.”

Mike Naifeh takes the order of Sapulpa Economic Development Director Mark Lawson during a soft opening for Wimpy’s Sandwich Shoppe (Charles Betzler photo).

Nafieh said he adopted Whitney Martin’s (Wimpy) business philosophy of “simple food at affordable prices. So that is our philosophy, we are just bringing back nostalgia.”

As far as building and location, Naifieh told the Sapulpa Herald that he originally wanted to find an old dining car, remodel it, and place it on a property that would allow a drive-through facility. However, he never found a location so he began a search for an existing building. “We would go to the city and say what’s available? They were trying to find something but nothing hit.”

However, Naifeh was driving by the former gas station and felt that it was the “right” place. He went in and asked where the owner was. The owner was right there and in the subsequent conversation, according to Naifeh, “We made a deal on the spot.” He told the owner: “This just fits me, it’s on Route 66, it has the old cafe (decor) with the black and white and stuff….This one’s just right and for whatever reason everything fell into place.” Naifeh categorized it as a “God thing.”

Naifeh addresses critics of using a hot dog bun, stating that using the same bun for all of the sandwiches that are offered allows the food to be more affordable. Furthermore, he explained that coney buns are used, not hot dog buns. “ We are using coney buns, there are not many places that will do a coney, they do a hot dog bun, but there is only one place in Northeastern Oklahoma that makes coney buns.” He also said that coney buns must be steamed, giving them a better texture.

Naifeh explained his statement: “it takes a village to start a business.” “To summarize the statement, ‘it takes a village,’ it takes our civic leaders’ vision for the city, it takes a business owner with the courage and ability to open a store, and it takes the community to support that.It is a three-part thing. Without one of those, it all falls apart.”

Naifeh, Manager Mike Hohner, State Representative and Sapulpa Economic Director Mark Lawson, and City Attorney David Widdoes were present during the interview with Mike Naifeh. Nafieh thanked Hohner for his hard work in helping to open the new establishment. “Mike built every counter in here, remodeled everything, it is just amazing what he has done in two months.”

Naifeh praised the efforts of City Manager Joan Riley, Mark Lawson, and David Widdoes for assisting him with the regulatory process. “I want this article not to be about Wimpy’s, I want it to be about the opportunity these guys bring to Sapulpa, and we are just a result of that. I want people to read this article and go, ‘hey, maybe I will move to Sapulpa and I will put my restaurant there, maybe I will open up something.’

When speaking of the help from Lawson, Riley, and Widdoes, Nafieh stated: “There is a gateway to get through, they have inspired us, they have made it, I am not going to say easy, but it is so much easier than the process should be. I have had 29 businesses and I still struggle to open one.” Nafieh said they have helped him “tremendously.”

Mike Naifeh proudly proclaimed that he is a third-generation Sapulpan who “bleeds blue” and has a love of his community and the people in it. He reiterated the philosophy that is succinctly stated on the walls of the restaurant:

“Making Sapulpa a better place to work and live, love God., love others, and serve both, and of course, nobody leaves hungry.”

If you are wanting basic cuisine that is affordable and tasty, and served by friendly people in nostalgic surroundings, then by all means, try Wimpy’s Sandwich Shoppe.

Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are closed on Sunday.