By Ben Olson
Anyone who has lived in Sandpoint has a story to tell about Dub’s Drive-In. The small town diner has been serving ice cream, shakes, burgers and everything between for generations in Sandpoint.
When longtime owner Marty Mire decided this year that he was ready to enter “semi-retirement,” Dub’s regulars were overjoyed to hear that he would be passing the torch to his daughter Kristi and her husband Austin Terrell.
“After 32 years, I was looking to do something different and semi-retire,” said Mire, who has owned Dub’s since 1988. “We talked about it for the last couple years, but when Kristi and Austin came up here from Boise, we jumped on it. We couldn’t jump on it quick enough.”
Kristi and Austin met while attending University of Idaho in Moscow, but Kristi was born and raised in Sandpoint and can remember working for her dad’s restaurant at an early age.
“I started working here officially in middle school,” Kristi said. “I worked summers and weekends when he needed help. Worked here throughout college, too. I grew up here.”
When Kristi met Austin, who is originally from Boise, she moved there to be with him after he was offered a job right out of college. After working in Boise for a few years, the couple decided they wanted to come home to Sandpoint to raise their family.
Austin, who studied rangeland management in school, never thought he’d own a restaurant — especially in his mid-20s.
“We just couldn’t pass it up,” he said.
The restaurant has been in the same location in Sandpoint since the 1950s, when it started as a Dairy Delite. When longtime Sandpoint local and 18-year veteran of the Sandpoint Police Department Dub Lewis took over the restaurant from Dairy Delite, the name was changed to Dub’s.
Mire moved to Sandpoint from Florida with his brother in 1986, Joe, who started his own burger and shake restaurant, Serv-a-Burger a year later. Mire said it was his father who drew the brothers to Sandpoint after he relocated here from Albuquerque to retire.
When Mire took over Dub’s, he decided to keep the name to honor Lewis’ legacy.
“I tell people I was looking for a job at the time, so I just bought one,” Mire joked.
Kristi and Austin also plan to keep the name — and most everything else about the business — just the same.
Over the years, families have established Dub’s as their gathering place for a quick bite and some quality time with loved ones. My own first memories of Dub’s involve tee-ball games where, win or lose, our coach took us over to Dub’s for Dee Dee Bars and dipped cones. Often we would sit alongside the opposing team, sharing stories of the game and celebrating sportsmanship in those iconic high-backed booths.
Mire said one of the best parts of running Dub’s for 32 years has been serving the local population and watching generations of employees come and go.
“We depend on the locals, the ones that are every day and once or twice a week,” Mire said. “Also, people that come to Sandpoint for the summer and maybe they grew up here, and they bring their own kids. They say, ‘This is where I hung out in high school.’”
Mire said he’s had several multi-generational employees over the years.
“One kid we have in the back right now, his dad worked for me,” Mire said. “When he was in high school, his brothers also worked for me. We also end up hiring a lot of people for their first job.”
One longtime staple personality at Dub’s — even pre-dating Marty’s tenure — is Nina Pinsonneault.
“Nina was actually here before my dad bought it,” Kristi said. “She actually trained my dad. She was his boss.”
“I always told Nina that she comes with the place, so you go with the place, too,” Mire said, “She ended up retiring about five months ago. She’s been a big part of our business over the years.”
Mire said one of the reasons Dub’s has taken such a prominent place in locals’ hearts is because it isn’t fast food, and the restaurant doesn’t cut corners.
“We don’t cook an order until it’s ready to be cooked,” he said. “When that paper comes to the back, the burger goes on the grill.”
Some menu items have endured as favorites over the years, including the bacon cheeseburger, the Bulldog burger, Dee Dee Bars and dipped cones, and the famous chili — the latter made using a secret recipe handed down from Dub Lewis himself.
“Dee Dee Bars, we actually had before Dairy Queen,” Mire said. “Dub’s niece Dee Dee invented them when she worked here and they continue to use them to this day.”
Austin said it’s a bit overwhelming to step into a Sandpoint institution like Dub’s, but he’s ready for the challenge.
“I have some big shoes to fill,” he said. “We’re going to take it really slowly and try to learn everything as much as we can. The biggest part is that Marty has a huge reputation with a ton of customers, and it’s been great because all of our customers have been awesome so far and have been really supportive of the transition.”
“They really seem to like that the restaurant is staying in the family,” Kristi added.
When asked for a piece of advice to hand down to Austin and Kristi, Mire said it’s always important to treat your employees right.
“Work with the kids,” he said. “If you don’t have happy employees and good employees, it can be rough. About 80% of our help is high-school students.”
It was a bit of a rough March and April, as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to be felt locally, but Austin and Kristi said business increased back to the normal summer peak for the past couple of months.
“We had strong community support during that time,” said Marty’s wife, Jeralyn. “Our customers went out of their way to help us. The Sandpoint community really stepped up and supported their local people. We don’t have a drive through, but we did really well with call in orders and curbside pickups. Sandpoint has been good to us. Marty and I feel good to pass this on and keep it in the family.”
“This is a landmark for a lot of people that come through town,” Mire said. “We’ve been to different places out of town and they say, ‘Where are you from?’ When I tell them Sandpoint they say, ‘Oh, do you ever go to that place called Dub’s Drive-In?’ Yeah, I think I’ve been there a few times. No, everyone in Sandpoint has a story about Dub’s. Everyone likes bringing their families from out of town here, and telling them, ‘You gotta get a large ice cream cone,’ just to mess with them.”
For those who haven’t ordered a large ice cream cone from Dub’s, it probably holds a record for being the most tonnage of soft serve ice cream that can be contained on a cone. There’s a reason they often ask if you want a cup with your cone.
For Kristi and Austin, the future is definitely looking bright at Dub’s.
“We’re so excited for this new adventure, excited to be back in Sandpoint,” Kristi said. “We are hopefully going to be starting a family sometime soon. Dad would appreciate that. Austin can coach tee-ball at Dub’s Field. We just really want to support the community we have.”
Dub’s Drive-In’s hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sundays. Check their Facebook page for specials, ice cream flavors of the day and any other news.
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